Almost everyone seems to agree that some combination of Social Security reform, Medicare reform and Medicaid reform is essential to any long-term fix of the federal government’s fiscal woes. But few in Washington are prepared to face the political challenges of such reform. Perhaps it would help if we stopped calling these federally financed benefits “entitlements.”
In any legal sense of the term, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not entitlements. Unlike public employee pensions, which are contractual obligations now threatening to bankrupt state and local governments, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits can be modified, or even eliminated, by a majority vote of both houses of Congress along with the president’s signature. They are benefits, not entitlements.
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