While most in the media would rather focus their limited attentions on Rick Perry’s Ponzi claims and parrot statistics provided by billion dollar campaigns designed to convince us that our nation can’t afford vital safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare, every once in awhile someone just reports the facts.  Here is one of those instances.  Suzy Khimm at Wonkblog uses 5 graphs from the latest (and most depressing in memory) Census report on poverty.  Please take the time to read her entire post. But here are some key points usually just glossed over in Washington’s race to cut deficits:
“Poverty for Americans age 18 to 64 is at a record high: at 13.7 percent. It’s highest poverty rate for this age group that the Census has on record since 1959. (The next highest rates for this group happened in 2009, then 1983.) By contrast, the poverty rate for seniors is at a record low: in 2009, it was at 8.9 percent, and it’s remained essentially flat since then. Why? It seems that Social Security has provided a safety net that’s weathered the recession: without this income, the poverty rate for Americans over 65 would have risen by 13.8 million, the Census says. And as bad as things look for other age groups, the safety net has also prevented even more younger Americans from falling into poverty: without unemployment insurance benefits, the poverty rate for other adults would have risen by 2.3 million and children by 900,000.”
So when someone tells you “we just can’t afford America’s safety net programs” you must then ask them …”Can this nation afford to have another 17 million Americans in poverty?”  It's  incredible that now Congress’ Super Committee and the White House both appear willing to support cuts to many of these programs which have served us so well.  No surprise here, but the health care industry would rather raise the Medicare eligibility age, forcing 5 million seniors into the private market where they can pay more for less.  They figure pushing costs to seniors is a better option that facing other reforms that might actually hurt their bottom line.
“There’s a pretty simple explanation for why hospitals and some insurers would favor raising the eligibility age: Hospitals receive higher payments from private insurance than they do from Medicare. The payments that hospitals receive from private insurers are 28 percent above the break-even point for providing treatment, according to a recent report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Medicare pays only 91 percent of what it costs a hospital to provide care. Heath insurers, too, could stand to benefit if 5 million seniors in that age bracket move into the private market.”
So while the Super Committee meets behind closed doors and the White House prepares it’s deficit cutting proposal for release next week, you have to wonder.  Did they read this Census Report?