“The Tea Party and the Entitlement Fight”

by on October 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes:

Not appreciated is the powerful new meme Mr. Obama has handed them, which will transform entitlement politics in our country.  The new “conservative” position will be to defend Social Security and Medicare,those middle-class rewards for a life of hard work and tax-paying, against Mr. Obama’s vast expansion of the means-tested welfare state for working-age Americans.

This will discomfit traditional free marketers.  They know Medicare and Social Security are generous in excess to the taxes that beneficiaries paid into them.

Indeed, good conservatives of a certain feather disapprove of universal entitlements because they are universal, believing government interventions should be need-based and temporary if possible.

But this reformist conservatism (to which your columnist also subscribes) appears to have had its last hurrah…Look for means testing possibly even to evolve into a new pejorative in Republican mouths, suggesting undeserved benefits for groups that mostly vote Democrat.

Here is a (possibly gated) link, in any case there is also news.google.com.

foosion October 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm

The Republicans appear eager to defend Social Security and Medicare by cutting them or privatizing them.

They want it both ways – cutting to facilitate tax cuts for the best off and claiming others are trying to destroy these precious programs.

Odds are someone will notice the inconsistency.

Z October 20, 2013 at 6:09 pm

I just want to note how the moonbat conflates terms like “republicans” and “conservative.” The fact that there is a logical difference between a political party and philosophical disposition is completely lost one him. Inevitably, this fellow will use terms like “tea-bagger” and right-winger” in the same way. These all are just terms for the undifferentiated other that is non-liberal. It is why his posts are always a form of fist shaking at the darkness he see around him.

jacobus October 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Given that the GOP pretty explicitly ran on this plan in 2012 (the Ryan budget) and were pretty convincingly defeated, it seems that a lot of people have already noticed.

I’d bet that the GOP will, however, be the last to notice that people have noticed.

Cliff October 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm

The Ryan budget was part of the GOP platform? I don’t think so.

jacobus October 20, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Whom exactly did they nominated for the second most important position on the ticket?

TMC October 21, 2013 at 11:52 am

Exactly. He was running for top position and got second.

jacobus October 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm

And why did they nominate him? It wasn’t like he was a Medal of Honor winner who just happened to have drawn up an aggressively anti-entitlement pro-rich budget.

It was Ryan budget and nothing else.

Andrew' October 21, 2013 at 8:18 am

They nominated him for the same reason I predicted years prior that he would be president one day based on the first 10 seconds of seeing him on C-SPAN.

I’d provide the link of my prediction here on MR, but I’ve searched for it before and couldn’t find it.

Andrew' October 21, 2013 at 8:20 am

Further, I think people of your opinion are getting the causation backwards. Ryan knew he was a fast-tracker, so he produced a lot of high-visibility stuff.

Andrew' October 21, 2013 at 8:20 am

(this doesn’t take a genius, btw, who else do the Republicans have? Democrats don’t have anyone impressive either, they just don’t cull much)

Dean October 21, 2013 at 9:44 am

Where in the Ryan Budget were Medicare cuts? I see the part where he promised that there would be cuts and no doc fix enacted by Congress in 2023, but I seem to remember that he was focused on ensuring that current seniors wouldn’t see a dime of cuts.

The Original D October 21, 2013 at 10:37 am

That was the problem with his “plan.” It had unspecified cuts that he refused to give specifics about.

Brian Donohue October 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm

The Democrats strategy for defending Social Security and Medicare is built on fantasy math.

mulp October 20, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Modest increases in taxes and modest reduction in Social Security which keep its costs with the same share of GDP plus 1% is fantasy math for Social Security???

The Clinton budgeting that would have reduced Federal debt to just the Social Security trust funds if old the disastrous failed Bush tax cuts after tax cuts had been blocked by the Tea Party anti-deficit wing of the Republican Party. Clinton laid out the boomer retirement as the one of the reasons for the 90s austerity. Adding public debt for three decades to cover the bulge in SS benefits would have been easy, so where is the fantasy math: Democrats or Republicans. When Bush was calling for budget deficits and Greenspan was calling for increasing the US Treasuries to supply the needs of banks for AAA bonds, the boomer retirement was a decade sooner than when Clinton forced austerity.

On Medicare, Obama has clearly stated, as did Clinton in the 90s when he proposed health reform, and Democrats broadly, and Democrats say repeatedly, health care costs MUST BE controlled to save, not just Medicare, but the entire US healthcare sector from Medicare to Medicaid to employer health benefits. Universal coverage by some means is the ONLY way to control health care costs for the nation. ….unless conservatives call for laws that authorize doctors and hospitals to euthanize deadbeats to sell off body parts to pay debts so health care can be free market like auto repair.

Every nation that has effectively universal health care policy has significantly lower health care costs without any loss of national health outcomes. There is no European style socialized medicine, just universal coverage under very different health care systems.

Republicans have done nothing to control health care costs other than argue for creating the incentives for health care corporation to do everything possible to take larger and larger shares of the GDP. Apple does everything it can to take larger shares of the GDP. Google does everything it can to take larger shares of the GDP.

BC October 21, 2013 at 1:13 am

Clinton believed that private accounts were an essential part of Social Security reform. The Monica Lewinsky scandal is the only reason that we don’t have private accounts today [http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2008/05/29/the-pact-between-bill-clinton-and-newt-gingrich]. The fact that today many (most?) Dems reject private accounts out of hand shows just how far to the Left the party has moved. (Actually, it’s more like moving back to where they started in the 70s and 80s before Clinton, temporarily it now appears, moved the party towards the center.) Although Obama liked to portray himself as the anti-Bush in 2008, once in office Obama has largely continued Bush’s anti-terrorism policies. Obama’s presidency, it turns out, has not been a rejection of George W. Bush; it’s been a rejection of Bill Clinton.

The Original D October 21, 2013 at 10:38 am

Yeah… the financial crisis might have had something to do with it too.

john personna October 21, 2013 at 11:04 am

Private accounts are a weird religion. We know that given a chance, people save too little and invest badly. The data is overwhelming. So what then, are private accounts pure canard or pure dissonance?

Dana October 21, 2013 at 11:40 am

Only a tiny sliver of (conservative, mostly southern) Democratic lawmakers were ever supportive of private SS accounts. Some larger number of moderates preferred a collective investment scheme a la state pension funds. Even if Clinton had been prepared to support private accounts (and I’m skeptical about how realistic this possibility was), it strains credulity to say that this means the Clinton administration was more conservative than the Obama administration because Clinton was prepared to accept private accounts in order to preserve significantly higher tax rates (from the article: Clinton feared “that Republicans would seize the surplus and use it for tax cuts”).

Dan Weber October 21, 2013 at 11:37 am

What do you mean by “modest” tax increases? Eliminating the cap on SS contributions?

Lee A. Arnold October 20, 2013 at 10:29 pm

What do you think is the Democrats’ strategy for defending Social Security and Medicare?

Brian Donohue October 21, 2013 at 8:45 am

Repudiating the conclusions of Obama’s Simpson-Bowles Commission,

Lee A. Arnold October 21, 2013 at 10:53 am

Simpson-Bowles has no conclusions. It was never agreed upon, nor reported out.

The CBO shows exactly what the long-term budget gap is. The debt really isn’t a big problem. Returning to Clinton-era rates erases a third of it automatically. The problem won’t start for another 15-20 years. At that point, more taxes to cover it, will remain below taxes in other countries for 40 years further.

Nobody wants more taxes, but the problem from our point in time is entirely in the technologies of healthcare — which we either solve, or do not solve. Whining about the debt fears now, is rather useless for that. If we do not solve it, i.e. if healthcare cost reduction remains intractable to technological development (unlike the historical experience in other industries), then we will tax and spend, and employ people in the healthcare sector. It will be what we need, so who cares, really?

Meanwhile now, deficits as percentage of GDP have fallen 3 years in a row, and they are headed in the right direction, as was predicted long before the sequester.

So the debt is really not a problem. We have to repeat that, because there is a large amount of money trying to convince you of the opposite. The debt is not a problem. It may be necessary to suppose that it is a big monster, or else Republicans lose another talking point.

Brian Donohue October 21, 2013 at 11:43 am

Well, the first time you said the debt is not a problem, I was not convinced. Just like the last 100 times some liberal assured me that the debt was not a problem. I naively assumed these children really didn’t want any constraints on spending or actually live within a budget like grown ups in the real world do.

But you closed with one more assurance that the debt is not a problem, and suddenly I was like “Yes, I see it now.”

Lee A. Arnold October 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Brian Donohue: “you said the debt is not a problem, I was not convinced.”

Then convince us otherwise using evidence and logic. If debt is a problem for example, please explain why interest rates are so low, despite the impending doom of the debt, and despite the extraordinary quantitative easing to “debase” the currency. Or name a source on the horrors of the debt that is credible enough to stand against the CBO.

Brian Donohue October 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Lee, you want to know why interest rates are low despite QE. You may as we’ll ask why a man is soaking wet despite standing in the rain.

I don’t believe I can convince you of the error of your ways on the grounds that it is impossible to reason someone out of a position that he was not reasoned into in the first place.

Lee A. Arnold October 21, 2013 at 11:04 pm

No, I hoped you you would explain why, if the debt is such a burden, people aren’t fleeing from Treasuries.

Lee A. Arnold October 21, 2013 at 11:52 pm

For anyone who wants to understand the empirics of the deficits and the debt, here is an animation of the CBO’s 2012 Long-Term Budget Outlook:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wd4HDautaUw

Andrew' October 21, 2013 at 9:16 am

“What do you think is the Democrats’ strategy for defending Social Security and Medicare?”

The only strategy they’ve ever had. Take money from people who have it, extract some for the government, and dole out the rest to voters.

Lee A. Arnold October 21, 2013 at 11:14 am

I wish that were the Democrats’ plan! The people who have gotten richer over the last 30 years appear to have done so mostly through (1) tax cuts and (2) financialization of the economy aided by (a) deregulation and (b) a string of bailouts culminating in the big recent one. Yet curiously, letting all the “job-creators” keep that additional money has NOT led to additional economic growth as was advertised. Indeed most people would probably say the reverse: it has made things worse, and it has begun to look unfair.

Andrew' October 21, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Stop bailing out banks.

Didn’t I say that already?

Lee A. Arnold October 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Andrew: “Stop bailing out banks. Didn’t I say that already?”

And simply because you “said this already”, it becomes (1) possible to do, and (2) validates the rest of your argument? So your argument has a combination basis: “fantasy, from authority”?

Steve Sailer October 20, 2013 at 4:54 pm

The general pattern has been visible for some time: globalist elites’ exploiting the symbolism of minorities to stick it to the middle class. Just read, say, the speeches of George W. Bush, Angelo Mozilo, Kerry Killinger and the like demanding zero downpayment mortgages in the name of racial justice.

What’s remarkable is how few have noticed.

dirk October 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Perhaps the “elites” have attempted to transfer money to low income citizens with end runs around conservative talking points because more transparent transfers weren’t politically viable, because of conservative talking points.

MikeDC October 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm

In the case of the US Republican party (and probably all the others, I just don’t know them as well), the simplest answer is that they (wrongly) thought these policies (widespread tax reduction and credit) might win them some votes. As I said, turns out it didn’t work out so well for them.

From a purely political perspective, the Republicans would probably have done well to just let the entire Bush ear tax cut package expire. They got no credit from the majority of folks whose taxes they lowered, and since it would have happened under Obama’s watch, he would inevitably have taken a lot of the blame.

Obviously, that’s not to say this was the right thing to do, just that it’s sensible from a political perspective.

Z October 20, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I’ve wondered about this as well. It seems that the smart move was to let make sure the other guys own the policy. If you can’t win and get credit for winning from the public, there’s no point spending political capital on the fight. But, they are not called The Stupid Party for nothin’. It is why I don’t consider them a political party. The Republican Party is just a collection of people who don’t fit into the Democrat party. That seems to be the only thing most of them have in common.

Brian Donohue October 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm

But taxation of the middle class is pretty low by historical standards.

Dismalist October 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Is the premise even useful?

-Food stamps, classical liberals’ welfare program tied for best, has been expanded. Yes, and a good thing.
-EITC, the classical liberals’ other welfare program tied for best, has hopefully been expanded.
-More or less compulsory health insurance gets means tested only because of the perverse existing system, to which ACA is an appendage, at best.
-Social Security is unsustainable as it is. Therefore, it will not be sustained.
-Ditto for Medicare.

The welfare stat as insurance: Read your Hayek! But then, classical liberals can hardly be Republicans nowadays. Perhaps Republicans can become classical liberals. They do need a program.

Brian Donohue October 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Lumping together Social Security and Medicare (‘Ditto’) indicates a lack of understanding. Fixing Social Security, and making it sustainable, is child’s play in comparison to Medicare (or health care generally.)

Dismalist October 20, 2013 at 7:05 pm

They’re both insurance: But yes, Old Age Insurance is child’s play in comparison with Health Insurance. We all get old, but we don’t all get sick!

mulp October 20, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Not everyone gets old, but Social Security covers that situation, as Paul Ryan can attest – he received Social Security benefits when his dad failed to get old while Ryan was a teen.

And while some people do get old eventually, they become unable to work long before then, and Social Security helps them and their dependent children and the children’s caretaker.

Social Security is not a retirement or pension system, but is in fact, insurance.

Cliff October 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm

SSI and SSDI are insurance

Andrew' October 21, 2013 at 9:19 am

It is not really the fault of Conservatives that moderates and liberals spent the insurance reserve on non-performing investments.

So, if Ryan’s family participated in the program in the right way, they are certainly free to criticize the people who destroyed the program.

Someone is going to have to break this to voters. Republicans are at least trying while Democrats throw tomatoes in hopes of winning a few elections in the short-term before the music finally stops.

Finch October 21, 2013 at 10:51 am

> Democrats throw tomatoes in hopes of winning a few elections in the short-term before the music finally stops.

My impression is few Democrats are so callous. Most are either blissfully unaware that there’s even a problem with entitlements, or if they’ve thought about it, are convinced that the rich are not paying enough and modest tax increases on them would solve the problem. The most sophisticated claim we could reduce the cost of the Medicare benefit by socializing the remaining part of medicine that isn’t yet socialized.

Andrew' October 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm

You may be right. That would explain why democrats can’t understand why the Republicans seem to be self-destructing.

I’ve learned to never underestimate the potential of people to not recognize a change until they make it (e.g. means testing) and then to never even recognize they made a change.

benford October 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm

… ‘new conservatives’, ‘traditional free marketers’, ‘conservatives of a certain feather’, ‘reformist conservatism’.

Such sloppy use & creation of political labels is an obvious sign of empty rhetoric.

BC October 20, 2013 at 6:00 pm

This path would not seem particularly wise to me. There is a reason that (many) progressives adamantly oppose means-testing Medicare and Social Security. The means-testing or redistribution occurs anyways implicitly in the non-uniform taxes used to fund these programs and the way in which benefits have no relationship to the taxes contributed. Universal entitlements with complex funding and benefits are the progressive dream since complexity hides the amount of redistribution and universality creates the illusion that contributors get back what they paid in “as rewards for a life of hard work and tax-paying”, which makes it almost impossible to reduce benefits or reform the system. (“My benefits shouldn’t be cut; I’ve already paid for them.”) Indeed, the progressive utopia is one in which 100% of our income is taxed to fund “entitlements”, and the government decides who gets what entitlements, placing the political class as the arbiter whose favor every citizen must seek just to reclaim the fruits of their own labor. It would hardly seem a wise strategy for conservatives to become champions of universal over means-tested entitlements just to allow progressives to “give in” by converting all means-tested entitlements into universal ones.

mulp October 20, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Social Security and Medicare ARE MEANS TESTED.

The SS taxes are based on means because no tax is paid for capital income. The benefits are based on taxes paid so no benefit is provided to anyone who never works and pays labor taxes. The benefits have a floor benefit and a cap.

SS benefits are insufficient to support the lifestyle of the worker, which often means insufficient to survive. Thus many other means tested programs come into play.

Medicare Part A is funded by taxes that now includes all income, on a means tested basis. Warren Buffett is paying a whole lot for his Medicare Part A coverage.

Medicare Part B is based on premiums which are currently 25% to 75% of cost based on taxable income, with the rest coming from general funds.

Part D is premium funded, with reinsurance funded from the general fund.

Supplemental is premium funded.

Means tested subsidies are available to pay all or part of those premiums, but the majority of the subsidies come by way of draconian means tested Medicaid. To be dual eligible, Medicare plus Medicaid, you generally can’t have anything totalling more than a few thousand dollars in assets.

What more in means testing do you think is needed?

Dan Weber October 21, 2013 at 11:39 am

I tend to think means-testing of SS benefits is bad (just another marginal tax), but describing the current SS regime as means tested because people who don’t work don’t get any SS benefits is not the way the rest of the universe defines “means tested.”

Joe Smith October 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm

And the Tea Party will be surprised when they realize (four years after everyone else) that Paul Ryan intends to cut social security and medicare for the middle class. It does not matter what label Mr. Jenkins attaches to this new proposed sub-group of the right – their math won’t add up and an informed electorate won’t vote for them.

Jay October 20, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Can you please cite the line in the Paul Ryan budget where he cuts SS and Medicare for the middle class.

Finch October 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

Isn’t the whole point that we have to cut SS and Medicare for the middle class? Maybe not eliminate, but cut. Certainly more so Medicare than SS, but there are big problems with both.

Now, if they were means tested so that 90% of the population were ineligible for them, they’d make a lot more sense and be much less of a problem. But they probably wouldn’t survive that transformation either. It’s easier to vote for something you think you’re going to get.

Chip October 21, 2013 at 5:14 am

According to a recent Yale study, Tea Party supports are more scientifically literate than both Cons and Dems. Presumably they know how to make the math add up better than most – probably the reason they became TPers to begin with.

As for this informed electorate you mention, do let us know where it can be found.

Z October 20, 2013 at 6:27 pm

When you campaign on a platform of robbing Peter to pay Paul, you always get Paul’s vote. When Peter is a never to be born child it gets even easier to run some version of this age old con on the voters. Republicans very well may latch onto entitlements as a last gasp to remain in business (defending Paul from Peter), but I don’t think they are that bright. Conservatives, on the other hand, will find a new way to play their historic role as conscience of the welfare state. Maybe that means ritualized hand-wringing on TV about throwing granny off the dole.

That said, the social compact the Left has imposed makes means testing very difficult for them. Their deal is simple. They propose the upper-middle and ruling classes enlist the more trainable members of the lower classes to push around the middle. The Tea Party is the current vehicle for middle America to resist the current assault. Means testing breaks the deal because now the upper middle class is not getting their goodies. Of course, any attempt to clean up the wholesale abuse of the welfare programs for the poor is disaster. That’s why the Left is clinging to their program, despite the mathematical impossibilities.

I think there’s no stopping out ride over the cliff.

mulp October 20, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Given Social Security and Medicare are means tested, and have been from the beginning, clearly the Democrats are not the Left.

Who is the Left these days?

Reagan and Democrats hiked taxes and cut Social Security benefits three decades plus six months ago, cuts in benefits still being phased in. Obama has proposed a similar deal on Social Security along with Democrats, so does that make President Reagan one of the Left?

Z October 20, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Not in a way that 99% of people notice. Your pettifoggery may go over well somewhere, but it does not change the facts on the ground. When the folks living in Belmont, Greenwich and other upper middle class towns stop getting their checks, they stop supporting these programs. It is why liberals have fought against means testing since either of us have been alive.

mulp October 21, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Ah, you define means testing as being mean.

I define means tests as paying according to means and getting benefits disproportion to means.

War is paid for greatly disproportionate to the benefit; roads are paid for disproportionate to the benefits. That is mean.

And trying to not pay benefits to the top 1% or 10% has no benefit to the costs of SS and Medicare – high income beneficiaries pay taxes to SS and Medicare and pay more for Medicare and pay taxes on SS benefits.

But we also have those rich getting richer Madoff top 10% investors who now survive on SS plus Medicare.

Gareth Wilson October 20, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Arguing for universal benefits seems a bit odd when technology is making targeting easier and easier. It’ll soon be practical not to give poor people any money at all, just track every purchase and calculate an appropriate subsidy. You could also update their income and eligibility with every paycheque.

Cliff October 20, 2013 at 10:19 pm

We could also track everything they do and intervene as necessary to guide them onto the correct path. When they conceive we can make an appropriate change to the genes of their unborn child. It’ll be great.

Gareth Wilson October 20, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I recognise the sarcasm, but we really do know a lot about the “correct path”. Most public health effort goes into endlessly trying to persuade people to do things there’s a broad consensus on. So it’d be easy to decide not to subside cigarettes, but to give people all the fresh vegetables they can eat for free. Once you make that decision, it’s just a matter of technology – have them scan everything with their free smartphone and have the government pay whatever the the subsidy is.

byomtov October 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I hope Mr. Jenkins has enjoyed his visit, and has a safe journey back to his home planet.

liberalarts October 20, 2013 at 7:42 pm

“They know Medicare and Social Security are generous in excess to the taxes that beneficiaries paid into them.”

Am I the only person who remembers that as recently as the late 1990s, the conservative position was that people were not getting as much benefit as they had paid into social security. Only people born before 1930 were winning. Then the interest rates fell, the present value of social security payments increased and the narrative switched to the quoted clip above. If interest rates rise, then the payoff to people will fall again.

mulp October 20, 2013 at 10:18 pm

That was also the time when public pensions like Calpers and Detroit were a much better deal for workers and government because it cost the taxpayers less and workers got so much more because Wall Street returns of 10% were totally guaranteed.

TMC October 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm

The math works better when you realize half the people collecting did not contribute.

mulp October 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm

But that is to argue that the traditional family is bad for society and women must work and earn just like men to make it in society and should not be dependent on men.

Lord October 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm

This is an easier position for Republicans who find actual problems like deficits and healthcare too difficult to understand, much less propose solutions for. Just say no and ignoring them in favor of spending cuts against those who don’t support them and tax cuts for those who do, doesn’t require much thinking.

Jay October 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Umm….what?

save_the_rustbelt October 20, 2013 at 10:02 pm

The establishment Republicans exist primarily to make rich white people richer.

The Tea Party / extreme right wing wants to return to the 19th century (some to the time before the Emancipation Proclamation).

The Democrats want to fix every problem by expanding government and raising taxes.

Wow, are we in trouble now. Gridlock may be our salvation.

TYPICAL WHITE POWER REPUBLICAN October 21, 2013 at 6:05 am

WHITE POWER!!

bring_back_the_steelbelt October 20, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Maybe the Tea Party should team up with the Greens to build a big ol time machine.

Rich Berger October 21, 2013 at 7:39 am

The criticism of the Republicans is like taking to task someone who made a few intemperate remarks at a dinner party and ignoring party crashers who broke your windows, burned your furniture and killed your dog. Ever since they took over Congress in 2007 and blew up the 2009 budget (they delayed the budget until Bush was out and rammed through the failed stimulus for starters) the Democrats have devastated the country. Exploding debt, failed foreign policy, murdered ambassadors, the nascent destruction of healthcare; is there anything the Obama administration hasn’t failed at? I don’t think a party and a president could cause more damage if it had been intentional.

Andrew' October 21, 2013 at 8:24 am

And Republicans are trying to save the party crashers! Republicans are trying to save the Democrats’ government from itself. So, they have a hard job.

Anyone who doesn’t like “insurance company leeching” off medical, where the *^(& do you think the SS and Medicare trust funds went? Government leeching.

This is why the Tea Party is, and why you’ll continue to see the party crashers retiring from Congress and The Senate.

Andrew' October 21, 2013 at 8:39 am

Btw, why isn’t it more obvious to some of you folks that all the democrat party is doing is playing both sides of the issue as a wedge.

For example:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/26/the-falling-deficit-has-been-a-disaster-for-the-gop/

Every time the Republicans do something that helps the government, the Democrats start telling Conservatives to be mad. Whenever conservatives demand more the Democrats start haranguing the Beltway denizens.

mulp October 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm

“where the *^(& do you think the SS and Medicare trust funds went? Government leeching.”

The many Bush tax cuts are “Government leeching”?

The only year with a real budget surplus was CY2000 with a $5B reduction in Federal debt; the other “surplus years” was conversion of public held debt into SS trust fund debt.

However, if the only Federal debt today were the SS trust fund debt at 40% of GDP, borrowing from the public over two decades the amount currently held by the public would be of minor consequence as the internal debt was converted to public debt less than the current public debt.

The Tea Party somehow formed 8 years too late in reaction to the wrong president and wrong congressional majority. They have rushed out screaming about the barn door being opened after the horses have gone wild and bred two generations, demanding the doors be closed to keep the horses in the barn, while refusing to go round up the horses long gone.

mulp October 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm

“rammed through the failed stimulus for starters”

Did the 2009 tax cut stimulus fail worse than the 2008 tax cut stimulus Bush demanded? You know, the 2008 tax cut stimulus that was supposed to prevent the recession that was feared but not yet declared?

By the way, how did the 2001 tax cut stimulus work? Or the 2002 tax cut stimulus, or 2003 tax cut stimulus,…

The economy did seem to show life after the pork laden transportation bill was passed along with the Katrina spending, bot paid for by borrowing. Transportation spending is way down because general revenue is not being used at the Federal level plus gas tax revenue is down for Federal and State.

Three decades ago, Reagan said this:

“Overall, we have 4,000 miles of Interstate Highway that needs resurfacing and 23,000 bridges that need replacement or repair. Our cities need new buses, new or rebuilt railcars, and track improvements that will cost $50 billion during the next 10 years. Common sense tells us that it will cost a lot less to keep the system we have in good repair than to let it disintegrate and have to start over from scratch. Clearly this program is an investment in tomorrow that we must make today. It will allow us to complete the interstate system, make most — the interstate repairs and strengthen and improve our bridges, make all of us safer, and help our cities meet their public transit needs.

“When we first built our highways, we paid for them with a gas tax, a highway user fee that charged those of us who benefited most from the system. It was a fair concept then, and it is today. But that levy has not been increased in more than 23 years. And it no longer covers expenses. The money for today’s improvements will come from increasing the gas tax, or the highway user fee, by the equivalent of a nickel a gallon — about $30 a year for most motorists.”

That’s Reagan minimizing a 125% tax hike when the unemployment rate is 10.8% while extolling the job creation of more government spending.

Rich Berger October 21, 2013 at 1:56 pm

The disaster that is the Obama administration is a little too painful for you to recognize, eh? It’s painful for Obama, too; that’s why he pretends not to be president. Can’t say I blame him.

AD October 21, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Americans’ aversion to means testing and anything appearing as redistributive is not a new phenomenon nor some sort of Republican innovation in how Americans think about the welfare state.

Although the common assumption is that the U.S. has always been a laggard when it came to creating a welfare state, it’s actually not true. We were on the forefront in the late 1800’s in the government benefits provided to Civil War veterans and women. But it came with a catch–the benefits were only for “the deserving” poor (e.g., widows because in those days they were considered unable to provide for their family, and the customs of this day made this a somewhat self-fulfilling prophecy) or those who had earned them (e.g. union veterans had paid their dues by saving the union). See Theda Skocpol’s Protecting Soldiers and Mothers for more.

This idea has since been a central characteristic of the American welfare state. Some have argued that had the U.S. not been so early in creating state-provided benefits, it may have followed the path of the European welfare-state. But policies are path-dependent.

And lastly, this new conservative meme wasn’t just provided by Obama, it goes back to FDR. How do you think he got Americans to embrace social security? Because people were just getting the benefits they had paid for when they themselves were working. Same is true with LBJ and medicare. It should be no surprise to anyone that old people think they paid for the benefits when that’s what government has been telling them all along. Take a look at the most recent letter you got from the Social Security Office (they go out once a year, at least) about the benefits you’ve “earned”.

Lord October 21, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Quite right. As means testing is only a path towards abolishment, this is something both parties can agree on. So what we really have is some that want more universal benefits and some that want lower taxes.

Rockerbabe October 21, 2013 at 5:40 pm

I have been working since I was 14 years old and I plan to retire when I am 66 . If you do the math, I will have paid into the Social Security System for 52 years, by the time I retire. I do not have a private pension; I know very few people who do. No, Social Security will be the main stay of my retirement years. I haven’t have a decent raise in over 5 years, so making ends meet is difficult. All of this talk about social security is only going to get the backs of retirement age citizens up in arms. I know the history of what life was like for the elderly before Social Security and no one wants to go back to that era. I will never agree to any changes in the Social Security system as long as there are no changes to the CEO pay and benefits, Congress’s benefit package, or the military benefit package. Why should I live in dire poverty after a lifetime of work and sacrifce?

Rich Berger October 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Because you didn’t provide for it.

john October 22, 2013 at 10:27 am

I do wish that ‘entitlements’ were defined, to include all of the transfers to the wealthy, through outright subsidies, to the moats that are created around their businesses. Please.

jorod October 22, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Politicians buy votes with taxpayers money to stay in office. That’s why we need term limits.

REN October 23, 2013 at 1:10 am

Chinese economists have noticed that savings rate remain high despite taxing. In other words, the savings have demurrage, and yet Chinese continue to save. Why? Because they have no real safety net. High savings rate distorts the money supply by making M go off and hide, and hence it is not demand.

So, China is considering adding social nets to allow the economy to function properly.

Inelastic markets by definition, are to be regulated or government run. Government is the lowest cost producer in these sectors. When they are privatized, that adds layers of costs to the economy. The economy then becomes burdened with inefficient overhead. We can see the privatization that is enabling finance to take every more of the economy as perpetual rents.

So, absent social security, what are the knock on effects. Perhaps there is excessive savings, disturbing the supply, causing overall inefficiency.. Maybe the savings go to into the stock market, and then money managers churn it, taking fees for every high speed churned transaction. Or the savings go into business, and corporate elites use it to boost their stock options with financial games, rather than building the company. At the end of a life of savings, the saver had their money siphoned out of their hands by financial predators?

REN October 23, 2013 at 1:16 am

In the case of China, they have State Banks, who forgive loans. This puts non debt money in the supply. The debt association is removed when the debt instrument is ripped up. This means that floating money can become savings. Yes, China has a greenback economy, a form of debt free money.

The China dynamic is different due to this mechanism. Hence their savings can build up with penalty, unless they are taxed away.

In the case of the West, high savings mean a debt on the other side of the ledger. High savings are more necessary in the West, so that the debts can be serviced. If not, then bankruptcy is the only way to release the debt bondage.

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