Wednesday, June 01, 2011

ABC ties debt ceiling debate to Medicare; also sees HPV virus as a new public health problem

Diane Sawyer, host of ABC Evening News, has a perceptive analysis tonight of how Medicare seems to be shaping up as a wedge issue on extending the debt ceiling, link.

Americans would generally oppose Paul Ryan’s plan. But if the GOP (and the tea-party-like crowd) really does succeed in saying that it’s OK for the US to default on an obligation – then legal consequences could mean immediate cuts in unearned benefits to pay them. That could mean immediate cuts in entitlements, including means testing of Social Security, which is partially but not completely funded by the FICA tax. This is turning into a possible war between generations, and on the concept of “generativity” itself, as a component of sustainability.

There’s no question that there can be a tradeoff between spending on the previous generations and future ones. Let's hope that Vice President Biden gets somewhere with the negotiations before the Aug. 2 "drop dead" date.

Sawyer also made a report about a quasi-new public health problem – HPV virus causing throat cancer in men, when supposedly it had only caused cervical cancer in women. The moralists will oppose public funding for vaccines making non-procreative behavior “safer”, but we’ve seen that debate with HIV. A vaccine for men (they don’t have to be gay to need it) is definitely feasible. 

At the same time, the reporting on the "public health" implications of cell phone use is calming down. Cell phone use while driving will cause a lot more grief than rare brain tumors. 

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