Okay, So We Don’t Touch Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. . .

The other day, I was reading this post at HotAir about BO’s numbers plummeting (that part was fun), and as I was reading along, I came across these rather interesting (not in a good way) paragraphs:

On policy, though, American voters are a little … confusedThe highest priority by far in the poll is to reduce the deficit, which 57% of respondents selected.  How do they want to accomplish it?  Not through cuts in services.  Eighty percent oppose Medicare/Medicaid cuts, including a whopping 68% of self-described conservatives.  At the same time, more than two-thirds oppose raising the debt ceiling (24/69), including 50% of self-described liberals.  Military spending cuts are opposed by a small majority, 44/54.

So how should we cut the deficit?  Soak the rich, of course.  Tax hikes on incomes above $250,000 are broadly popular, 64/33 overall and a majority among all demographics except Republicans, Tea Party supporters, and conservatives.  Even among those, opposition isn’t exactly overwhelming; it’s 43/54, 45/53, and 45/53, respectively. [my emphasis]

Say what?  Conservatives want the deficit reduced (no mention of the $14 trillion dollar debt we’d still be saddled with even if the deficit were zero), but we don’t want anything cut?  Um, sure, that makes sense.  I’m not an economist, and I don’t even play one on my blog, but how on earth can we possibly reduce the deficit, pay down our debt (let alone balance our budget) without touching the Medi programs or Social Security?   

First, let’s swoop into our time machines back to when the first debates about the Medi programs were held.  This was a time in American history when we did not have either, of course.  Both are huge government-run entitlements.  Conservatives, both dems and reps, who opposed the passage of the Medi programs did so on the grounds that they were socialist in nature, that they would lead to the American people becoming dependent on them, feeling that they were (you know it’s coming . . .) entitled to them.  They warned of a slippery slope, of the eventual expansion of one or both to cover all Americans in something that can only be called “universal” or “single-payer” or “socialized” health care.  The poor covered by Medicaid, the elderly by Medicare, yay! but all those neglected people who didn’t fit in either program would need to be given their fair share of health care.  They, obviously, lost the battle on that one.

But they were right. That’s exactly what happened.  Last year.  Remember?

Through the decades, both the Medi programs and Social Security have expanded to cover more and more health care needs, more and more people, more and more.  And more.  The healthcare monstrosity was going to “fix” part of that by essentially and eventually putting everyone in the nation on Medicaid.  Or Medicare.  Whichever, doesn’t matter, because to pay for ObamaCare, the plan was always to eliminate both Medi programs and put us all (except the pols and other favored elites, of course) on the same crappy, substandard government-run program (that’s why there were massive cuts to Medicare in the bill that became law).  We objected to that.  And for the same reason that those principled conservatives of yore objected to the Medi programs.  It’s a bad friggin idea and undermines the very premises on which our great nation was founded.  It will lead to more government control, a more needy populace, an American people who have a sense that they have a right to health care provided them by the government.

If we’ve learned nothing in the last two years, surely, we’ve learned that there is an ongoing assault on America and on Americans.  We are being conditioned to accept entitlements, and we all do . . . as long as the government takes out extra-special deductions, separately so it’s all official, and claim to put them in a “lock box,” and we can pretend that these monies are any different than the rest of the money we pay the government to spend on food stamps or welfare or unemployment or any of a number of other “programs.”  As long as we can rationalize it, we’re fine with it (including when the rationalization is irrational: they told/promised/said that. . . . . Newsflash: they lied. You can’t demand something that isn’t there on the basis that someone told you it was.  Well, you can demand it.  But it’s not there, you’re not getting it.).  People, including conservatives and TEA Party patriots apparently, are even willing to watch our country become an impoverished third world banana republic cesspool . . . as long as no one touches our Medi programs (or Social Security). 

And this has been going for decades.  Every president, every (sane) member of congress, every aspiring president has known how to reduce our spending (including deficit spending) and get started on our now (truly) historic debt.  Every. Single. One.  There have been fixes along the way that have staved off disaster, and these have usually either been rolled back later or other expansions have been added to nullify the half-hearted attempts to address the problem.  

These entitlements are the third rail because–and only because–we, the people, have refused to support, or even hear about, any reform to these unsustainable entitlements.  Let alone the massive overhaul that is needed.  Politicians won’t get elected if they dare mention reform (and I don’t think anyone other than Paul Ryan, and before him President Bush, ever proposed significant changes, and frankly, Ryan’s plan doesn’t go far enough, either . . . and he knows it).

They all know the quickest way to lose their job is to “threaten” the Medi programs (or Social Security).  Listen to Marco Rubio talk about how bad the left is for leaving “90%” of the budget off the table, what he can’t say (and knows very well) is that it’s not just the left–if it were, we could fix it.  But it’s everyone, including supposed fiscal conservatives.  Indeed, that’s the new Democrat attack plan: “hands off our Medicare.”  And Americans, including conservatives, cheer. And pols on both sides say the same thing because we’ve blocked any attempt at serious reform of these programs for decades.

And what do we, the people, do?  We get angry at the politicians . .  . for not going against our wishes and doing what needs to be done.  Or, perhaps, for not magically making it feasible to give so many handouts and benefits (with more added all the time to appease and pander to the voters) to so many people (with more added all the time as people slip out of the middle class, age, are born, emigrate here–legally or illegally, etc.).  No matter how many people pay taxes or how much they pay, we cannot afford to give everyone everything.  We just can’t.  It’s absurd to be angry only at Washington about the current deficit and debt crisis–as if we had nothing to do with it.  We were standing in the way, and apparently, according to all polls and not a few conservative blogs/articles/interviews I’ve seen, we’re still standing in the way.

Don’t get me wrong, I do support a safety net for Americans who hit hard times or who literally cannot afford health care (and are citizens), but what’s happened is that the entitlement culture has created a huge underclass that is sucking up resources that should be used as a safety net but becomes instead generational dependence.  As people sink into this ever-growing underclass from the middle class and/or as the entitlements expand to cover more and more Americans, quite a few things happen, but immediately relevant is that they go on the Medi programs and/or Social Security, when they would not if we still had a booming middle class.  But we don’t, it’s disappearing (yet another sign that we’re becoming a socialist/communist nation).

Fewer people are working and paying into the programs and more and more people are using them. Because of these two factors, there is no money left (it’s not rocket science, you take in less than you spend on something–as we do with each of the “big three” because they are essentially nothing more than Ponzi schemes–and it’s unsustainable over time), so we borrow more than we take in to make up for it (and other crap we don’t need, of course, but entitlements are a massive chunk of our budget), and then we spend that borrowed money (deficit spending).  And every single deficit dime adds that dime, plus interest, to our national debt.  The debt explodes, the deficit rises steadily, and with no end in sight.

The economy is stifled by any number of factors, but the unemployment rate doesn’t help our budget problems.  People who don’t work aren’t paying into the system.  People who are on welfare or make too little money to contribute to the programs (pay income taxes) aren’t paying into the system.  We’re up to, as of 2009, 47% of all Americans not paying one dime in income tax, with many of those actually getting money back, money we have to borrow.  I’m sort of getting off topic here, but it’s all interrelated.  The more nanny state we get, the more entitlements we have, the more dependent people get on them, the less productive they are, the less they contribute, and the whole thing grinds to a halt and crashes down (sound familiar?).

Meanwhile, what’s left of the middle and working classes are resisting any attempts to fix the problems by tackling the Medi programs (and Social Security), but are strangely demanding a reduced deficit and instant, massive cuts.  How? From what?  Are we really asking for Skittle-pooping unicorns and marshmallow rainbows that lead to overflowing pots of gold?  I’m not one of those to say oh a few million for this or a couple billion for that doesn’t matter, it does, we need to cut a lot of things across the board (I’ve been saying this for ages).  But the board is all but obscured by the “big three”: the Medi programs and Social Security.  The Heritage Foundation explains:

If future taxes are held at the historical average, spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will consume all revenues by 2052. Because entitlement spending is funded on autopilot, no revenue will be left to pay for other government spending, including constitutional functions such as defense.

Entitlements Will Exceed Revenue

Spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Will Consume. All. Revenues.  Anything and everything else–defense, military, etc.–will have to be paid for by borrowing.  But of course, by then, we’ll have not only our brand-new “negative” rating from S & P but we’ll also be a major credit risk and won’t be able to get any countries to loan us money even at loan shark rates, so we’ll print some.  And it’ll be worthless.  You know how this ends.  It always ends the same way. 

Conservatives and the TEA Party need to wake up about the budget, deficit, debt, and entitlements–all of which are directly related to the role of government.  We need a new tax system (flat or fair tax perhaps), major reform to (I’d say complete overhauls of) the Medi programs and Social Security, massive cuts across the federal government (including entire departments and agencies), cuts to defense spending (too much money goes to non-defense defense spending), lower unemployment (i.e. more people working = more revenue), and using our own resources (oil, natural gas, coal, etc.).  All of that, together, no single thing will fix this horror show.

Look at it this way, even if we cut everything, including the military and defense, from the budget–all of it, every dime, except the Medi programs and Social Security–we’d still go broke.  It wouldn’t be by 2052 because we’d extend the life of the programs by not spending so much as a penny on anything else, but just think about that.  No military.  No national defense.  No nothing.  And we’d still go broke.

Let’s see a show of hands for that plan.
.[Update: Never mind waiting until 2052, turns out we are already paying out more in government handouts than we get in tax revenue (this includes the stimulus and unemployment, etc. But it. is. not. good.)]

14 thoughts on “Okay, So We Don’t Touch Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. . .

  1. When you deal with this issue you have to confront the bad guy. The AARP a major driver of this entitlement mentality.

    I've made a promise to myself, when I'm out of the Navy in a few months, I will never again take money from the government, this includes Social Security. If I become destitute I will find other ways to survive or die. People may think I am exaggerating but I'm not. I see how the government has used social security to make seniors jump through hoops, I'm not trading my freedom for security.

  2. @Trestin, I don't really fault anyone for taking social security, Medicare/aid, unemployment, etc. The system is set up to not only encourage that but to ensure there's no option for most people. We need total reform, but until that happens, people will still need these programs. That's why Ryan's plan is so important, it recognizes that. I do admire your conviction and principles, however, and I for one have no doubt that you are sincere. 🙂

  3. Oops forgot one. The interest on the debt is growing at a faster rate I believe. I think we should be looking at a much earlier year than 2052. The country (Washington) has to be looking at cutting everything. The biggest problem is the people that put us here are the ones people are looking to to fix it … ain't gonna happen!

    I think we need to tax that 47% and show them what it's like to have a stake in Washington's spending habits. That's right, you read it right … TAX the poor!

  4. @Opie, agreed. Part of the point of my post is that WE are a part of the problem, part of the reason we are here. No one in Washington can or will fix it without the support of voters. They know this, that's why they keep kicking the can down the road. We need to get our act together fast and demand that massive overhauls and cuts take place, or there literally won't be an America left. And I agree, I'm in favor of a flat or fair tax system, but I do not think that it's good to have a bazillion deductions and credits and exemptions. It's not good for anyone.

  5. Fuzzy The system is set up to not only encourage that but to ensure there's no option for most people.

    Most “seniors” (I hate that term) that I know are not pleased with Medicare, but you are correct when you say there is no choice. Unless you are very, very wealthy, you are forced into Medicare. And when I say wealthy, I mean the people with multiple millions stashed away.

    The other difference is Medicaid is “free” and the abuse is rampant. I've worked in the medical field and the abuse by the recipients is awful.

    Medicare on the other hand was supposed to be “funded”, which it never was because they stole the money. Plus Medicare recipients pay premiums each month of anywhere from $250.00 to $600.00 or $700.00 depending on what plan they choose.

    Paul Ryan has proposed a way to start reforming the system and I for one am cheering him on.

  6. @Adrienne, fraud, waste, and abuse are rampant in all three, but even if that were all eliminated, the programs are going to go broke. Social Security was designed to only rarely have to pay out (because the life expectancy was lower then, people didn't live to collect it–that was built into it for a reason). And it really doesn't matter that much that people pay some portion of their coverage; it's broke. And yes, I'm cheering Ryan on, as well. I just wish that people would get over thinking that they are entitled to these programs and resist reforms that are needed. If the American people would just get on board, Ryan could offer an even bolder proposal.

  7. I have been saying this for a while. We, as a country, are not ready to deal with our debt. Very difficult choices are ahead and even the tea party is not ready to make them.

    Many are very upset with Michele Bachmann for talking about military benefits. At some point we are going to have to come to the conclusion that we will need to look at these as well. We should have differences from people who have served and people who have served in war. But if you bring this up to conservatives many will go crazy.

    We also have to start means testing for SS and Medicare. For example, many former presidents such as Bush I and II as well as Clinton have plenty of money. They don't need tax payer programs. Give the wealthy a one time buy out and be done with it. We force people into these programs and it needs to stop.

  8. We need a new tax system (flat or fair tax perhaps), major reform to (I'd say complete overhauls of) the Medi programs and Social Security, massive cuts across the federal government (including entire departments and agencies), cuts to defense spending (too much money goes to non-defense defense spending), lower unemployment (i.e. more people working = more revenue), and using our own resources (oil, natural gas, coal, etc.). All of that, together, no single thing will fix this horror show.

    i agree that this is the only way we are going to fix things. it's scary, but we need to be looking at reality. instead of waiting for the second coming of reagan to save us all, we need to say, “i'm responsible for myself and my family. everything needs to be looked at for cuts and if the politicians that are in office right now won't do it, i'm going to vote for someone who will.” and then we need to hold them accountable. enough is enough.

  9. These programs enslave people and they distort normal market signals.

    I give liberals a thought experiment: Imagine no more government money in the health care industry. What would happen? Would it go broke? Of course not. It would figure out how to deliver medical care cheaper and compete for our money.

  10. The government (at all levels) shows no propensity to stop spending. Increasing taxes will only spur them to spend more. The current crop of congresscritters has again disappointed. Society is also a disappointment. Reducing the debt without reducing spending on medicare, Medicaid and SS is impossible. We can cut some parts of the military budget (why are we in Europe?), but Defense is a Constitutional responsibility of the Federal Government. Few other things are. Return to a strict construction reading of the Constitution and the problem goes away; nearly everything else is unconstitutional.

  11. @JACG, I know you've been very vocal about our not being ready to deal with our debt. I think that it's important to point out that it's not just leftists who are resistant to the depth of the problem and to the only solutions. It's not easy, but we have to face it. We have to accept our part in this, or we will never solve our fiscal problems.

    The military makes next to nothing, though, their pay is very much part of their benefits. I do not begrudge any military member their benefits (housing, medical, college, etc.), and I don't think that's the place to start making cuts in the defense budget. How about we quit training and equipping our military to be a disaster response and humanitarian organization. We spend billions treating our fighting men and women like Red Cross volunteers. It's absurd. And wasteful. There are literally hundreds of other things in the defense budget that are useless and not in-line with the purpose of a military (Muslim outreach, for example).

    I definitely agree on means testing; I get so aggravated watching Hannity get pissy because he wants his social security check because he's paid into it his whole life. Say what? SS is flat broke, he doesn't need it, and it's absurd to have taxpayers pay him because he managed to hit a certain age. SS pays out to most people far more than they pay in during the course of their life (obviously), so his taking one dime more than he paid in–he doesn't need it, it's not a safety net for him–is just plain wrong.

    @Kerry, perfectly stated.

    @Silverfiddle, See, this is something people don't get. The very existence of the Medi programs artificially inflates medical costs, massively so. The government dictates how little it will reimburse for services, devices, etc., and it's always next to nothing. That has to be made up somewhere, so everything goes up for everyone. Just getting rid of them both (or having them pay fair market value, as determined by the free and open market) would go a long way to cutting the costs of health care across the board. Add in tort reform, portability, and buying across state lines, and problem solved. But as we're all noting, Americans just aren't ready to deal with this reality. *sigh*

    @Deekaman, missed you, Bud, good to see you. And I couldn't agree more, we need to roll back every damn thing to before the New Deal. That's when things started getting out of hand, and it's just gotten worse until we're where we are now. Dependency on federal programs has become such a part of our culture, even of our identity, that we can't even see it anymore.

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