Posts tagged ‘Social Security’

August 27, 2011

Obsessing Over Entitlements

by Vince

For those who are obsessed over cutting entitlement spending (strictly speaking – Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare, et al) and believe that alone will solve our entire budget mess, Byron York has an interesting piece that looks at where our budgetary woes have come from lately:

Was there a steep rise in entitlement spending? Did everyone suddenly turn 65 and begin collecting Social Security and using Medicare? No: The deficits are largely the result not of entitlements but of an explosion in spending related to the economic downturn and the rise of Democrats to power in Washington. While entitlements must be controlled in the long run, Washington’s current spending problem lies elsewhere.

A lot of the higher spending has stemmed directly from the downturn. There is, for example, spending on what is called “income security” — that is, for unemployment compensation, food stamps and related programs. In 2007, the government spent $365 billion on income security. In 2011, it’s estimated to spend $622 billion. That’s an increase of $257 billion.

Then there is Medicaid, the health care program for lower-income Americans. A lot of people had lower incomes due to the economic downturn, and federal expenditures on Medicaid — its costs are shared with the states — went from $190 billion in 2007 to an estimated $276 billion in 2011, an increase of $86 billion. Put that together with the $257 billion increase in income security spending, and you have $343 billion.

Add to that the $338 billion in decreased revenues, and you get $681 billion — which means nearly half of the current deficit can be clearly attributed to the downturn.

That’s a deficit increase that would have happened in an economic crisis whether Republicans or Democrats controlled Washington. But it was the specific spending excesses of President Obama and the Democrats that shot the deficit into the stratosphere.

There is no line in the federal budget that says “stimulus,” but Obama’s massive $814 billion stimulus increased spending in virtually every part of the federal government. “It’s spread all through the budget,” says former Congressional Budget Office chief Douglas Holtz-Eakin. “It was essentially a down payment on the Obama domestic agenda.” Green jobs, infrastructure, health information technology, aid to states — it’s all in there, billions in increased spending.

As for the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP — it has no specific line in the budget, either, but that is because it was anticipated to pay nearly all of its own cost, which it has.

Spending for Social Security and Medicare did go up in this period — $162 billion and $119 billion, respectively — but by incremental and predictable amounts that weren’t big problems in previous years. “We’re getting older one year at a time, and health care costs grow at 7 or 8 percent a year,” says Holtz-Eakin. If Social Security and Medicare were the sole source of the current deficit, it would be a lot smaller than it is.

The bottom line is that with baby boomers aging, entitlements will one day be a major budget problem. But today’s deficit crisis is not one of entitlements. It was created by out-of-control spending on everything other than entitlements. The recent debt-ceiling agreement is supposed to put the brakes on that kind of spending, but leaders have so far been maddeningly vague on how they’ll do it.

More debate on this here.

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November 19, 2010

YouCut

by Vince

Rep. Eric Cantor has put together the YouCut program. It is a website through his Congress site that allows Americans to email in suggestions for what should be cut from the government budget. I already emailed in and asked for cuts to be made in the military.

I love how the video by Cantor emphasizes that the “crazy spending” is all being done on the other side. What about the two unfunded wars? Or the unfunded trillion dollar Medicare prescription drug benefit? What also of the ballooning security state after 9/11? In general, why has the military, social security, and Medicare been excluded by Republicans from cuts?

October 27, 2010

The Elite Tea Party: Poll Commentary

by Vince

As one has said, the Tea Party is not the proletariat. A new CBS poll shapes up the Tea Party quite well. Here are a few eye poppers and my thoughts below them in bold type:

  • More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.
    How in the world does this connect with their avowed religiosity and caring for the poor, the marginalized, and the cast aways?
  • “…despite their push for smaller government, they think thatSocial Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers.
    I have to chuckle and roll my eyes at this double standard.
  • They are far more pessimistic than Americans in general about the economy.
    Pessimism isn’t too far from it’s good old pal fear.
  • “He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says. He’s been in office over a year and can’t find a church to go to. That doesn’t say much for him.”
    Hmm. If Barack Obama and his family “got a church”, would she believe that? Would she care about that? Would she even listen, or just discredit it? You’ve got to love the irrational approach of not even giving the other side a chance.
  • Tea Party supporters over all are more likely than the general public to say their personal financial situation is fairly good or very good.
    Hmm…
  • They do not want a third party and say they usually or almost always vote Republican.
    Out the window goes the diversity make up card of the Tea Party.
  • When talking about the Tea Party movement, the largest number of respondents said that the movement’s goal should be reducing the size of government, more than cutting the budget deficit or lowering taxes.
    This is an interesting note. Could this explain why defense, Social Security, and Medicare are openly excluded by Republicans from being reformed?
  • But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

    Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

    Others could not explain the contradiction.

    “That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”
    Ah! I am so glad they actually asked people about this! Taxpayers have paid into numerous other programs but maybe they do not feel they directly and promptly benefit from them as they do with Medicare. Think of taxes paid for police or firemen versus prescriptions or emergency care. Segregation in our country, especially into the middle of the states, is alarming, hence the feeling of many that they are in their safe (white) neighborhoods (when in reality, ask the white Columbine residents how safe they feel). Take that mindset of possible danger out of mind, as it is a privilege, really, to not have that mindset, and look to their ages (middle aged and up) and what they bodies will need: health care.

October 6, 2010

The Warfare State

by Vince

WW at The Economist responds to the “bomber boy” mentality:

The folks of the tea-party movement are clearly upset at what they see as out-of-control spending, and frequently express a desire to slash the size of government. A quick glance at the federal budget is enough to see that military spending is far and away the largest expense after Medicare and Social Security. That fact combined with the observation that America’s titanic military budget is larger than the military budgets of China, Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Saudia Arabia, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, and Australia combined is more than enough to suggest to common sense that there’s room here to cut a bit of fat.

The meat within each article centers on the thought of America’s military defending freedom abroad (free trade routes, being prepared for nuclear Iran or the army of China if they put up a fight, etc). While WW entertains hypothetical numbers relating to the military budget and how much we could drop it and still have others capable of keeping order, it is questionable whether the WSJ op-ed supports maintaining the status quo out of a “world wide cop” mentality. In the end, I do not believe that either side makes an overwhelming case for point. One last question for the small government loving Tea Party:

Will it follow the example of the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Weekly Standard and fight, fight, fight for big government, just as long as it’s big government bristling with the tools of conquest and mass death?

September 28, 2010

Marco Rubio on the Tea Party

by Vince

Rubio had me with the Tea Party blaming both parties – which he elaborates on decently – but lost me when he dropped the word exceptional and America in the same sentence. Look for my piece on Sarah Palin and her dominion theology for more elaboration on this topic. But Rubio’s views on Social Security and Post-Arizona Immigration laws are intriguing to me. I may not totally oppose Rubio as a candidate after all.

September 28, 2010

The GOP’s “Pledge to America” Cont.

by Vince

Above is some decent commentary on the Pledge to America with Rep. Boehner and McCarthy. It seems that if you want to go unscathed in an interview on Fox, go on Hannity. Boehner, from the party that loathes earmarks, couldn’t give a clear answer as to if they would cease under GOP control of the House. Also, why Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will go unreformed is still unanswered as well as no clear and concise answers when probed for what the reforms would look like beyond merely stating “take it back to pre-stimulus and bailouts.”

I wonder if they would comply to an accountable government if its security state, torture record, and ballooning defense budget were kept in check for the public to see.

July 25, 2010

DOMA in Real Life Ctd.

by Vince

A reader writes:

I think I have to agree with the first commenter on the video, John Parmater. SS Benefits are for the person that they belong, not someone else. The system is banked on the hope that the person dies before they collect much of it, simply because there’s not that much money to go around. I think a better solution than allowing gay partners to collect would be to either not allow straight partners to collect, or allow the owner of the SS benefits to will their benefits to any person of their choosing.

July 24, 2010

DOMA in Real Life

by Vince

Shawn Nee talks about the inequality of Social Security in relation to DOMA.

July 14, 2010

Reforming Social Security, Ctd.

by Vince

Some analyses from the Daily Dish rebutting against the proposed idea of raising the retirement age to receive SS.