To hear government and business leaders talk , you'd think it was self-evident that our two biggest problems in the U.S. are the federal debt and deficit, caused by Out-of-Control-Spending, due (at least partly) to Out-of-Control-Entitlements-That-Must-Be-Reined-In-NOW.
Example: Shortly before his re-election, President Obama declared, "There's no doubt that our first order of business is going to be to get our deficits and debt under control."
Example: In January, U.S. Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) offered this observation: "I think there's a growing urgency among the people in the country to say, You know what, it is high time for the federal government to get control of the unfunded liabilities in the entitlement programs."
The debt, deficit, and so-called "entitlements" are seemingly so worrisome that some of our most influential Job Creators have formed the CEO Fiscal Leadership Council (of Pete Peterson's "Fix the Debt" Campaign); their plan to share fiscal their "thought leadership" and "strategic guidance" with the American people. Accordingly, last November, Honeywell CEO and "Fix the Debt" Steering Committee member David Cote went on "Meet the Press" to warn the nation that "entitlements" are the "ticking time bomb that's going to kill us."
And despite its preference for the term "reform" over "cuts," the Obama Administration has repeatedly signaled its support for Social Security cuts (e.g. Obama's campaign debate statement that he and Romney held similar positions on Social Security, his campaign's cryptic press release offering the unsettling assurance that he would not privatize and not "slash" Social Security benefits; and his support for the Chained CPI, or Consumer Price Index).
So...we all agree that these things pretty much go without saying:
- Our spending is Out of Control.
- We have a Looming Debt Crisis.
- The obvious conclusion here is that Social Security recipients must make do with less in monthly benefits (average per retired worker is $1,237). (Cut back on the cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, Grandma, or we'll have to end school meal programs for poor kids! Start reusing those corn pads, or we'll have to shut down crisis hotlines!)
And many of us can agree to these:
- While most Medicaid recipients are good, hard-working Americans, some of these people get sick, and sick people can be so expensive.
- The best approach to deficit reduction is the one that is bipartisan and immediate.
I, for one, don't agree. And I don't think I'm alone.
Re the deficit: Recently, I surveyed my friends about their most urgent concerns and the Debt Situation. My survey suggests that for many people, there are more urgent concerns than the nation's debt, including the prospect of "clipping my pet's toenails" and the prospect of "finding a spider at home." Perhaps this is because: 1) they know that Social Security and Medicare don't contribute one penny to either the deficit or the debt, and 2) they think that if we can afford multiple wars, tax breaks for the rich, and corporate tax loopholes, then surely we can afford health care for poor people.