Kotlikoff: Real Federal Debt is $239 trillion

Uncle Sam’s fiscal gap (promises minus expected revenues, looking indefinitely into the future) is now $239 trillion. That’s ten times the size of our Gross Domestic Product. Eliminating our current fiscal gap requires either a 50 percent immediate and permanent hike in all federal taxes or a 33 percent immediate and permanent cut in all federal outlays, apart from debt service. The longer we wait, the more painful the solution gets. More.

Henderson in the WSJ: Some Drug Prices Are Too Low

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Goodman Institute Senior Fellows David Henderson and Charles Hooper say unwise federal policies are causing drug prices to be unnaturally low. This is causing shortages, low quality and unreliability of supply. Currently, as many as 260 drugs are unavailable or in short supply in the U.S. shortages are blamed for some patient deaths. More.

Republicans Have a Health Plan – Finally!

Nearly 150 House Republicans have signed on to a health plan that matches very closely the Goodman Institute plan developed for Donald Trump. It includes personal and portable health insurance, 24/7 access to a personal doctor, telemedical care in the patient’s own home, flexible Health Savings Accounts and a real market for the chronically ill. More.

Kotlikoff in the WSJ: Myths of Warrenomics

Elizabeth Warren economic advisers say the rich pay the lowest tax rates of all. Laurence Kotlikoff says they are wrong. Using the most sophisticated tools available to economists, Kotlikoff finds that among 40-year-olds, the top 1% face a lifetime average net tax rate of 34.5 percent. Yet when positive and negative taxes (benefits) are included, the poorest fifth are facing a rate of – 46.6 percent. For every dollar people in the bottom fifth earn, they get 46.6 cents back from the government. More.

Kotlikoff: Family Endures 13 Years of Social Security Abuse

Over the past 13 years, Mrs. Jimmy Rogers and her husband have, been deprived of tens of thousands of dollars in Social Security disability and spousal benefits, thanks to Social Security’s acknowledged mistakes. Jimmy has been forced to pay extra Social Security payroll taxes and extra federal income taxes she didn’t owe. And the government is still, to this day, sending them a bill for over $120,000 for disability and spousal benefits that they rightfully received. More.

Why Not Try Free Market Health Care?

Find a health care sector where there is no Medicare, no Blue Cross and no employer and it is probably a market that works very well. Lasik surgery is one example. Patients get a package price and they know what they are going to pay in advance. Competition works. Over the past decade, the real price of Lasik surgery fell 25%. A similar story can be told about cosmetic surgery. More.

What’s Wrong with Private Health Insurance?

Bernie Sanders wants to get rid of private health insurance. Quite a few Democrats, including a number of presidential candidates, seem to agree. But why? What’s wrong with private health insurance?

A lot of things, it turns out. All too often, private health plans have perverse incentives to underprovide to people who get sick — incentives that are created by unwise government regulation. However, government insurance often faces the same incentives and the results can be even worse. More.

New Environmental Blog

The Liberty, Ecology and Prosperity blog is about appreciating and protecting the environment, using the tools of economics. The blog manager is Jane Shaw Stroup, a former senior fellow of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). John Baden, father of the New Resource Economics, is the lead off blogger.

A Solution for Surprise Medical Bills

More than 4 in 10 patients who visit an emergency room or enter a hospital are confronted with bills for out-of-network services – even though the insurance company and the hospital led the patients to believe that their care would be in-network. In some cases, patients have faced charges that are many thousands of dollars. John Goodman’s solution: insurers and hospitals should not be able to claim the hospital is in the insurer’s network if that isn’t 100% true. Otherwise, its false and misleading advertising. More.