Where Is Our Columbo? – Peter Falk, the award-winning actor best known for playing the rumpled, yet wily, Lt. Columbo, died on Thursday. Falk, who was an analyst with the Connecticut State Budget Bureau before embarking on a professional acting career, created an endearing and enduring character who used unique techniques to get the job done. Detective Columbo always got the bad guy using a brilliant mind and obsessive desire to tie up loose ends, all hidden behind a disheveled facade to lull the guilty party into a false sense of complacency.
As we explained in our recent analysis of CBO's Long-Term Budget Outlook, the debt is on an unsustainable path. Only a decade from now, under their Alternative Fiscal Scenario, debt will surpass 100 percent of GDP. And by 2037, it will exceed 200 percent.
Driving this is the increasing cost of entitlement spending -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and (to a lesser extent) other health spending. But what drives the growth of these programs?
The Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), the formula which sets provider payments for physcians under Medicare and which was originally enacted in 1997, calls for an unrealistic 30 percent cut in provider payments in 2012 if Congress does not act. Of course, it has acted frequently in the past decade to override the payment cuts that SGR has mandated. POLITICO has an article today talking about the difficult but necessary task of "weaning" Congress off of the SGR formula for Medicare.
Time ‘Fore’ Action – Golf, that favorite pastime of power players, was even more popular than usual in Washington last week. Not only did the U.S. Open bring the best professional golfers in the world to the D.C. area, but a powerful foursome also hit the links, perhaps linking fiscal policy matters to their conversation as they played their round. Yet, while the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland saw a dominating U.S.
Update: As it turns out, increasing the Medicare age actually improves benefits for low-income seniors, thus helping to most disadvantaged.
Today, CNN Money featured a piece from the Concord Coalition's Josh Gordon, who argued against repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) established in the health reform legislation. As Gordon explains:
Update: Estimates updated
Clay Masterpiece – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer played yet another classic tennis match yesterday, with Nadal once again emerging victorious for his sixth French Open title. The distinctive red clay of Roland Garros produces slow-moving tennis characterized by long rallies and lots of spin on the ball.
Today's edition of USA Today features an editorial advocating increasing premiums for military retirees enrolled in TRICARE.
Feeling the Heat – As most of us return to work this week nursing sunburns and swapping stories of grilling glory, the heat is on in Washington, at least on one side of Capitol Hill. Senators are out of town this week, but Representatives are working on appropriations. Meanwhile, the debt limit deadline continues to draw closer.