WHO'S DODGING THE ISSUE? Robert Samuelson is furious at the country's think tanks for dodging the great question of the era: How the aging of the Boomers is going to require drastic and painful transformations in the American welfare state. He not only pulls the old trick of grouping "Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid" together when the programs actually face very different respective budget outlooks -- he explicitly complains that Social Security and Medicare "are usually treated separately" in think tank analyses, while "the larger questions of adjusting to an aging society are mostly evaded."

Dean Baker helpfully explains to Samuelson that the major cause of the projected increase in these programs' costs is the rapidly rising cost of health care rather than the aging of the population as such; and thus the intensive discussions we've been seeing in the country regarding health care reform actually do address the country's central budget problem. Maybe Samuelson won't be so mad anymore.

--Sam Rosenfeld