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If you could only know one thing about the US debt problem, you would want it to be this



Kudos to Jackie Calmes of the The New York Times for a piece that highlights a simple but powerful statistic: Medicare beneficiaries, on average, pay about $1 for every $3 in benefits.

To flesh that out, a single male who earned the average wage and turned 65 in 2010 had paid about $61,000 in Medicare taxes and could expect $180,000 in benefits, according to economist Gene Steuerle of the Urban Institute.

Not sure that passes Bill Clinton’s famous “arithmetic test.” OK, I am being cute. Of course the math doesn’t work — unless you a) don’t mind taxing future generations at confiscatory rates, and b) don’t believe those confiscatory rates will hurt economic growth.

Yet we call these benefits “entitlements.” (I do it all the time.) What they are is an unaffordable, unsustainable subsidy. Language will matter as we debate the best way to reform Medicare.

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