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 … confused. The 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.