You Cannot Believe The Fairy Tale Without Looking At The Reality Of The Cost
At the Grand Forks Herald, editor Tom Dennis wants us to know that the national election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is close because conservatives are uncaring jerks who want to ship the elderly off to poor farms.
“State of the race: Advantage, Obama,” the headline at Politico.com states.
Why is this so?
The Minnesota bloggers at the conservative PowerLineBlog.com asked the same question this way: “Why is this election close?
“On paper, given Obama’s record, this election should be a cakewalk for the Republicans,” blogger John Hinderaker wrote. “Why isn’t it?”
Hinderaker thinks it’s because society has reached a tipping point of too many takers and not enough makers — that is, too many people who now depend on or look forward to Social Security and other entitlements, coupled with too few in the private-sector creating wealth.
To the extent that Americans are glad that their country no longer ships old people to “poor farms” or young people away on orphan trains, he’s got a point.
But like many hardline conservatives, Hinderaker’s ideology has left him wearing a set of blinders. They hide the real reason why voters aren’t warming to the Republican ticket: Because of talk like his about takers and makers, which now is echoed in the Republican Party from bottom to top.
Who wants to support a worldview that labels Social Security recipients — almost all of whom now are “entitled” to their small pensions only because of a lifetime of work — as part of the “dependency state”?
Why can’t the GOP accept that huge majorities of voters like the broad outlines of post-World War II America, are proud of the growth and shared prosperity it delivered and simply want prudent leaders who’ll capture that dynamic again?
The problem is that what voters may want, what politicians may want to sell to the electorate, is not always fiscally possible. Compassion, as I wrote a while ago, cannot trump math. Looking at Social Security specifically, there is no doubting that it is a dependency program, whether we want to talk about traditional beneficiaries or the masses of people who collect from the program because if disabilities (some of them quite questionable).
And there’s no question that we can no longer afford Social Security as it is currently formulated. The program is set to deplete its trust fund by 2033, but the fiscal programs the program represents will hit us much sooner given that there is no trust fund. The money has been spent. Right now, as I write this, Social Security’s deficits between revenues collected and benefits paid are being met with deficit spending by the treasury.
Social Security is in deficit right now. It is adding to the national debt right now. We can maybe kick this problem down the road a few decades by raising the retirement age, and raising the amount Americans are forced to pay into this program, but that is a temporary solution which makes the program a worse deal than it already is (and it already has a poor return on investment for money put in). Whatever moral judgments people like Dennis may want to make about the program, the fiscal reality is what it is. If that inspires people like Dennis to accuse us of wanting to send the elderly to poor farms, so be it. Math is math.
By the way, while people like Dennis will talk a lot about elderly Americans, they seem to care little for younger Americans for whom these entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare represent a massive wealth redistribution from young to old. As older generations head off to the golf course, secure in their government benefits (for at least the next couple of decades), younger generations struggle to pay for those benefits and build up enough savings of their own to survive without those programs which probably won’t survive into their retirement.
I, too, would like to believe the fairy tales politicians tell us. I’d like to believe that we could legislative poverty and sickness away. The problem is that my conscious forces me to ask another question: Who will pay for it all?
That’s the question people like Dennis never want to ask. How can we afford it? Where does the money come from?Tags: Barack Obama, election 2012, mitt romney, social security, tom dennis