Michael J. Petrilli lays out the options for choosing between healthcare or education spending. The choices are easier if economic growth is robust.
You can either “ration” health care or you can “ration” education (and all other social spending). Take your pick.
The basic challenge—this is hardly news—is that America is aging and, as a result, is spending a lot of money on healthcare and retirement expenses. These expenses will go up and up in coming decades; they’re built into our demography. Unless economic growth can outpace the cost increase, however, that means less money for everything else—education included.
So let’s say you want to protect the education budget and other investments in the young—in the future. The first thing you need to do is constrain public outlays for the old—which mostly means holding the line on healthcare spending. And the second thing you need to do is encourage maximum economic growth. Get both of these things right and you avoid Armageddon.
Now hold on, you say, there are other options. You can go after the defense budget. You can raise taxes on the rich. That’s true, and these might help at the margins, at least for a while. But as the chart below shows, defense spending is hardly putting pressure on education spending—healthcare is. And as many economists will tell you, if you tax the rich too aggressively, you’ll drive down economic growth. You might slice the pie more evenly but a smaller pie means less for everyone. (And taxing the rich won’t raise nearly enough revenue, anyway.)
“The two biggest items of every state budget are Medicaid and education,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told IBD recently. “As the Medicaid mandate rises, the educational funding declines. That is passed on to universities and they raise tuition in order to make up for it.”
A report from the State Budget Crisis Task Force found that even before ObamaCare kicks in, Medicaid costs have been growing “faster than the economy” and “faster than state revenue.” As a result, Medicaid now consumes 24% of state funds, and its ongoing growth “can no longer be absorbed without significant cuts to other essential state programs like education.”
Think College Is Expensive Now? Wait Until ObamaCare (Investors.com)