SOCIAL SECURITY vs. MEDICARE….Why is President Bush spending so much time on Social Security when Medicare is actually a far bigger problem? The Washington Post graphic on the right illustrates the fiscal reality nicely, and this post from last December lays out the basic numbers.

On Wednesday, it turned out that the two independent trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare were wondering the same thing:

“The financial outlook for Social Security has improved marginally since 2000,” wrote [Thomas] Saving and [John] Palmer. “In sharp contrast, Medicare’s financial outlook has deteriorated dramatically over the past five years and is now much worse that Social Security’s.”

You can guess the result: the Bush administration blackballed them from the unveiling of yesterday’s trustees report. “They didn’t particularly invite us,” Saving said blandly. “They’re doing it differently, I guess.”

In a sense, though, I suppose we’re lucky. Republican mucking around with Social Security is bad enough, but on Medicare they’re completely hopeless. They have no new ideas on offer, and what ideas they do have are so obviously bad that their constituents would ride them out of town on a rail if they ever seriously tried to implement them.

What’s more, I think it’s becoming increasingly obvious even to their conservative corporate backers that ? eventually ? the problem has to be addressed not with piecemeal changes to Medicare, but with sweeping changes to the entire healthcare system. And that leads straight in only one direction: national healthcare. Unfortunately, that’s a dark and stormy road the Republican party can’t head down without first having a Scrooge-like confrontation with their own shriveled and wealth-obsessed soul. Eventually it will be their Waterloo.

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