This was a speech that will be in the history textbooks in 50 years' time. Their verdict on its importance may be uncertain as yet, but Obama showed on Wednesday the essential role of the Chief Executive in framing the context of debate in the United States. Now the budget battles over the future of the entitlement programs in America can begin in earnest.
Entries in Deficit Reduction Commission (3)
The starting point for the health care debate is that the US spent nearly $2.2 trillion, or $7,400 per person, on health care in 2007. To put that in context, $2.2 trillion is double the total of discretionary spending, which includes defense, in 2010, and itrepresents 16% of America's annual GDP.
Those numbers and percentages have been been rapidly rising in real terms over the last 40 years. The US spent $714 billion on health care in 1990 and $253 billion in 1980; as a share of GDP, health care has increased from 7.2% in 1970 to a projected 20.3% in 2018.
Social Security and reform. Mention the two together, throw in references to "looming fiscal crisis" or deficit reduction, and just sit back and watch the hackles rise on various concerned parties. And understandably so; Social Security is the bedrock principle of a society that does not abandon the disadvantaged, the unlucky, and, yes, the profligate or irresponsible to an old age of absolute deprivation. Reform, especially when uttered by Republicans, conjures visions of soup kitchens for the retired, a fate that should await no citizen of a civilised society.