Leave Entitlements Alone?

In The New York Times today, National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru urges Republicans to wait to tackle entitlement reform:

Reforming [Social Security and Medicare] is vital to our nation’s long-term fiscal health — which is why Republicans should resist this advice and leave the issue alone. Reform is impossible this year or next unless President Obama takes the lead on it. What’s more, Republicans have no mandate for reform, and a failed attempt will only set back the cause.

Some Republicans are understandably eager to take on these entitlements. “The third rail is not the third rail anymore,” Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin,said in December.

Maybe he’s right. But Republicans have gotten a painful shock every time they have decided it’s finally safe to take on entitlements. Ronald Reagan suffered a defeat in his first year when he tried cutting Social Security’s early retirement benefits. Newt Gingrich’s 1995 Republican revolution fizzled when President Bill Clinton fought him over Medicare cuts. President George W. Bush’s effort to reform Social Security in 2005 ended any political momentum he brought to his second term.

Would-be reformers should draw two lessons from this history. The first is that reform can’t be sprung on the electorate. Reagan hadn’t campaigned on cutting Social Security in 1980, nor did the Gingrich Republicans promise to reduce the growth of Medicare.
Today is no different: while some Republican candidates in the last election spoke forthrightly about the need to rein in these programs — notably Representative Ryan himself, but also new Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky — most of them didn’t.

Ponnuru makes the case that voters just aren’t ready, noting that most oppose cuts to entitlements and “are likely to be very nervous about any proposals to restrain their growth, especially if opponents portray such cuts as excessive.”

On the major legislative point, I agree: It may be true that the GOP will need to wait to overhaul our entitlement programs. But I would phrase it somewhat differently. It’s not really that they should. It’s that they might have to in order to succeed.

Ponnuru is right that voters tend to be wary of anything portrayed as an entitlement cut. But voter attitudes can change. The more pressing barriers to entitlement reform are the administration, and to a lesser extent, Democratic control of the Senate. Everyone knows the House GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill won’t get beyond the House. Major entitlement reform—a defined-contribution overhaul of Medicare, for example—would be similarly stymied. Ponnuru gets at this later when he notes that “presidential support for [entitlement] reform is a necessary, though not a sufficient, condition for success.”

In the near term, then, Ponnuru says that Republicans should “leave the issue alone” but that they can set the stage for entitlement reform by blaming President Obama for any lack of progress on making the programs sustainable and affordable.

I hope they’ll go further than that. Blame is a political tactic. What the GOP needs is to make a coherent policy case.

Republicans probably won’t be able to make legislative progress before the next election, but they can begin the process of building support and making the argument for reform—through oversight and hearings in Congress, through educating themselves on the issues (as Ponnuru notes, with a few exceptions, many Republicans are not comfortable or adept at talking about the details of either Medicare or Social Security), and by learning to communicate those details in a clear and convincing way to the public.

The Democratic establishment spent years building both the policy case and the political coalition to pass the PPACA. They did their homework. Members of Congress learned to make a policy case in addition to a political case. It paid off  with the passage of major legislation.  Republicans have talked a lot about reducing the deficit in recent months, and a lot about cutting spending and streamlining government. But most Republicans have been loath to even discuss specific cuts or delve into any details of what they want from entitlement reform. I can understand reticence to introduce or support detailed legislation given how low the chances are that it will pass. But the unwillingness to even mention specifics has to change, and soon. If they hope to overhaul our broken entitlement system, and not just use the system’s problems as an easy political cudgel, they will need to make a similarly comprehensive and policy-focused effort to the one Democrats made prior to ObamaCare.

In the meantime, I very much hope the GOP takes up Ponnuru’s final suggestion, which is to begin work on overhauling Medicaid immediately:

Medicaid is wrecking state budgets and is set to expand thanks to the Democrats’ new health care law. It is also more politically vulnerable than Social Security or Medicare, which offer benefits to everyone who reaches old age. As they try to undo the health care law, Republicans might also consider capping Medicaid’s growth and sending the savings back to the states.

He's right, although I hope the GOP will do more than "consider" reform. At the state level, Medicaid is a giant mess. It’s also far more dubious than Medicare in terms of the actual health benefits it provides. As a result, it probably presents the best opportunity for substantial entitlement reform in the near term. But the long-term problems with Medicare and Social Security shouldn't be left alone, even temporarily, either. Reformers in Congress might not be able to win any legislative victories between now and 2012, but they can certainly start process of building a case. 

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  • ||

    Republicans have no mandate for reform

    That's as far as I got.

    Where do these people come from?

  • ||

    Yes, they do. Slash, burn, hack, maim. Get us out from under. Stop spending money we don't have. Reduce the size, scope, and reach of government. Free us. Please.

  • cynical||

    I think the point is that they don't have a broad mandate. Certainly there are a lot of people that support it, but there were a lot of people that supported HCR too, just not enough.

  • ||

    Actually, I think they do have a mandate. What's funny is that the Democrats thought they did when they clearly didn't. The only thing voters agreed on then was that the wars had gone on too long. The wars that are still going on.

  • robc||

    Post Post.

    Its like little caesar's only not.

    And Im guessing within 5 minutes no one will get this.

  • ||

    Be careful! The squirrels may have gone into full rebellion!

  • ||

    You definitely confused the hell out of me.

  • Mo||

    The cynical view is: Old people vote for Republicans, so leave Medicare and Social Security alone. Poor people don't, so go wild cutting Medicaid.

  • PIRS||

    You may have a point actually. This is why many republicans support farm subsidies.

  • ||

    It's more along the lines of "everybody gets older" but "few people spend their lifetimes poor."

    Combined with "evidence suggests medical outcomes do not improve when Medicaid takes over funding." That last may sound astonishing, but that's because few people can get their heads around the notion that people actually can and do save up and pay for really important medical care themselves. The choices are not, apparently, between having government pay for medical care and having poor people die from infected rat bites acquired in their cardboard shacks after leaving half the New Year's celebratory extra ration of shoe leather uneaten.

  • Mo||

    More people spend their lifetime poor than spend their lifetime old.

  • Mo||

    That last may sound astonishing, but that's because few people can get their heads around the notion that people actually can and do save up and pay for really important medical care themselves. The choices are not, apparently, between having government pay for medical care and having poor people die from infected rat bites acquired in their cardboard shacks after leaving half the New Year's celebratory extra ration of shoe leather uneaten.

    Why does this apply for Medicaid and not Medicare? Especially since the 55+ demo is the wealthiest age demographic.

  • ||

    I'd have to say that isn't a cynical view, but a realistic one. Fact is, the old folks will throw you out in a minute if you threaten their benefits.

    They showed up big just this November and sent a clear message that they didn't like that $500 billion in Medicare cuts in the health reform act.

    Let's not kid ourselves. The politicians, including Republicans, are terrified of the old folks. They always show up and they always vote in favor of Medicare and Social Security. The poor folks, not so much.

  • Peter Suderman||

    I used to love Pizza! Pizza! when I was a kid. But it's not around anymore, as far as I know, and neither is the second copy of this post.

  • robc||

    Like I said, within 5 minutes it wont make any sense.

  • ||

    They are still around, Suder-Man. But it's not really "pizza".

    LET THE PIZZA WARS BEGIN...AGAIN

  • ||

    Little Caesars is still around... the original Hot'n'ready pizzas. But the slogan "Pizza! Pizza" with the Jewish Roman is not here anymore.

  • ||

    I miss the old formulation of Crazy Bread. It's just a bag of greasy bread dildos at this point.

  • Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc||

    "Pre-lubed" is the preferred term you pancreasless moron.

  • ||

    And Crazy Sauce now tastes worse than your sister.

  • Peter Suderman||

    Caesar's is still around, sure, but they don't do Pizza! Pizza! anymore do they? I seem to recall a time when it was at least difficult to order just one pizza from the place.

  • Peter Suderman||

    Caesar's is still around, sure, but they don't do Pizza! Pizza! anymore do they? I seem to recall a time when it was at least difficult to order just one pizza from the place.

  • Sudden||

    Intentional second post? Intentional second post?

  • Devil Inchoate||

    I see what u did there

  • BakedPenguin||

    Their new deal is a $5 pizza - cheese or pepperoni only, and you have to pick it up.

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    There is Little Caesar's in town right next to this pizza shop run by an old Italian (as in actually from Italy, not an older version of someone from The Jersey Shore) guy. It's literally 50 feet from Little Caesar's to the best pizza place in town. I'm not sure how they manage to stay in business.

  • Ska||

    Not everyone is swayed by free greasy bread dildos.

  • ||

    Let me take a swing at refining MSL's point, if I may:

    "I'm not sure how Little Caesar manages to stay in business."

  • Betty Swollocks||

    Yeah, I just wanted a chance to use the phrase greasy bread dildos.

    Like I wanted a chance to use the handle Betty Swollocks.

  • ||

    I too can understand the desire to use "greasy bread dildos." (dildoes? -DM) Use the phrase that is....anyway....

    However, you could have used the phrase AND made more sense in your reply:

    "....I'm not sure how they manage to stay in business."

    "The greasy dildos must sway more people than you'd expect."

    ta-da, and more cogent conversation was formed, and all was right with the world.

  • Ska||

    The easy misinterpretation was intended, but point taken.

  • Hugh Akston||

    There's one in Highland Park out here in LA. Maybe you should spend a little more time at the Sepulveda office.

  • PIRS||

    Speaking of Pizza, a former CEO of Godfather's Pizza is thinking of running for President of the United States

    http://www.hermancain.com/

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I'd seriously consider voting for him.

  • ||

    America's New Economic Plan:

    Chapter 11.

  • ||

    Good article.

    The real question about entitlement reform is if Americans are really willing to give up their free stuff. How often do you see someone refuse to collect Social Security? How often do you hear people say "I paid in" which amounts to "two wrongs (taxing people for other's retirement) make a right!"

    It really doesn't matter what the Republicans do, or want to do. We are a nation of parasites. Like all parasites, we do not care if we kill the host.

  • Restoras||

    There is no real political will to do anything about our fiscal mess and there won't be any until the whole thing implodes. Then, of course, it will be much worse to deal with.

    Certainly people of all stripes have become accustomed to the notion of "free stuff" from the government. This is a problem, obviously, because there is no such thing as "free stuff". It just doesn't seem that way to a wide swath of the public that doesn't pay income tax. They've no skin in the game so what do they care - sure I'll vote for doucebag-this and dickhead-that because they promised me something I wouldn't have to pay for! Brilliant! Sign me up!

    Throw into the mix that politicians only really care about 1)staying in power, and 2)grabbing more power, and voila, here we stand on the precipice with the entitled classes (handouters and handoutees) pushing the rest of us off the cliff.

  • ||

    I agree, and those of us who understand how serious the problem is are definitely in the minority. Most people just want to be fed, clothed, housed, and entertained, and it will take a Greek style crisis to change things.

  • Bucky||

    freedom, free stuff...
    what's the difference...
    (add your own sarcastic tone)

  • JoshINHB||

    Certainly people of all stripes have become accustomed to the notion of "free stuff" from the government.

    The fortunate flaw in your thinking is that most government spending results in crap that no one wants.

  • ||

    I don't think people who collect social security are parasites. They paid into the system and were robbed by the government for their entire lives.

  • MNG||

    +1

  • ||

    No, no they didn't John. SS isn't a pension system or any other kind of savings mechanism.

    They paid into nothing. Their money was taken from them and given to someone else. Any surplus was spent by the Congress on their toys. Nothing more.

  • MNG||

    Yes, but the point is they paid and were promised something in return.

  • ||

    No, they were mugged and instead of getting their money back, they are just given the "right" to mug someone else.

  • Tony||

    Welcome to the world of social insurance. Still wildly popular after 76 years... yet somehow always on the brink of collapse.

  • ||

    No food for you, trolly.

  • Restoras||

    D-

  • Sudden||

    Except an insurer doesn't use the premiums paid that year to pay out the claimants in said year. Premiums are generally invested and money is made on the premiums so that there will be money to pay a claim from that policy using primarily the premiums and accrued interest paid by that claimant.

  • ||

    Welcome to the world of social insurance. Still wildly popular after 76 years... yet somehow always on the brink of collapse.

    Hey Tony I'd like to introduce you to my friend Bernie Madoff. He has been getting amazing investment returns since he formed his company in 1960. He's wildly popular!

    Also, apparently you and I have different definitions for the expression "wildly popular".

  • ||

    Also, apparently you and I have different definitions for the expression "wildly popular".

    So, it doesn't mean "popular with wild creatures?" And has nothing to do with poplars? Well damn, learn something new everyday.

  • ||

    Still wildly popular after 76 years... yet somehow always on the brink of collapse.

    76 years isn't exactly an eternity. It's kinda like me saying "I haven't brushed my teeth in 5 years, but they haven't fallen out yet."

  • CatoTheElder||

    There's a BIG difference between Bernie Madoff and Uncle Sam.

    The US government can print all the money it wants when it can't collect enough its scam victims. Bernie couldn't do that.

    The US government routinely compels victims to participate in its scams. Bernie couldn't do that either.

    Finally, the US government can seize victims' property if they don't "contribute" as instructed, and can resort to violence if need be.

    Bernie was a two-bit con man by comparison.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Welcome to the world of social insurance.

    SS is not insurance. It does not work as insurance, it does not follow any process that normal insurance follows, and it was not even DEFENDED in court as insurance - it was defended as a TAX, and was deemed constitutional as a tax. So don't fool yourself.

    (Or fool yourself, I don't give a shit.)

  • CatoTheElder||

    "SS is not insurance."

    The Supreme Court has ruled on this issue, and agrees.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Yes, but the way the system is supposed to work is that SS taxes paid in are put in a fund or trust or whatever and account for SS paid out. Obviously that's not the way it actually happens. But that isn't the fault of those collecting SS.

  • ||

    But that isn't the fault of those collecting SS.

    Oh, so since it isn't their fault, the money they take, which will destroy our nation, is really theirs?

    If I steal from you, I am a thief. If you steal from your neighbor because I stole from you, we are BOTH THIEVES. If I promised you that you could steal from your neighbor and you do, you are still a thief.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Let me break this down for you. First off, note that I am in no way defending Social Security. I don't think it should exist, period.

    However.

    People work their whole lives under the assumption that Social security will be there to at least subsidize their retirement (which, yes, is a luxury, although for some people it's a necessity--it's not uncommon when you get old to eventually be literally unable to work). They pay into it their whole working lives.

    The lawmakers don't do with the Social Security money what they're supposed to do. This isn't the fault of those paying into or receiving SS. Yes, we're supposed to vote crooked politicians out, etc. It'd be real nice if the system worked that well, but it doesn't. Just about any politician elected to office will treat SS the way all the others do. The ones that would manage it responsibly, or get rid of it, get a teeny fraction of the votes necessary to win office. It's a pretty hopeless battle.

    So anyway. If I've been paying into SS all my life, and I reach retirement age and decide to retire, I don't think I can really be faulted for collecting (unless, I suppose, I'm so wealthy that I don't need it). I've paid in thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over the 40-50 years I've worked, yes? So because some politicians, through no fault of mine, whom maybe I didn't even vote for, mismanage the system I can't have what's mine? They've stolen my quite considerable amount of money and that's that? You're going to call ME a thief if I take what I paid in, regardless of what people wholly out of my control did with the money?

    (FYI, I'm 27 and nowhere near retirement and also not counting on SS being there whenever (if ever) I do retire.)

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Oh yeah, and remember to keep in mind that I didn't voluntarily pay into SS. No one is given a choice in the matter.

  • X||

    the guys they elected lied. it was all very democratic. it's no different than the public employee unions electing people who don't adequately fund pensions. your guy ripped you off. he said I'd make good on it? he lied, again. fuck you very much.

  • ||

    he said I'd make good on it? he lied, again. fuck you very much.

    "Hey, I lent this dude money and he said you'd pay me back."

    "What part of 'No Solicitors' don't you understand?"

  • Yeah||

    I'm sure Madoff's investors feel the exact same way

  • ||

    ""They paid into nothing. Their money was taken from them and given to someone else. Any surplus was spent by the Congress on their toys. Nothing more.""

    They did pay into something. Albeit not an insurance progam that provides some economic insurance when you are older.

    But if getting back more than you pay is being a parasite, then most people who use health insurance for catastrophic care are parasites too.

    Insurance in general could be considered parasitic in that it uses other peoples money to pay your claim. It's not a savings account.

    When people pay money, they want something in return, being nationalized medicine or fixing up a military base in their area. The more money the feds take, the more most people want in return.

  • ||

    I can't blame people for wanting more services when they pay more taxes. My answer to that is to reduce taxes and spending.

  • Tango Mike||

    It has been a number of years since I've seen the study, but it claimed (and substantiated) that the average SS recipient received back all their money with interest in 2 or 3 years. From then on it's welfare.

  • ||

    Well, that sounds like it would be a good compromise. You would be able to convince more people to accept cutbacks if they were able to get back what they paid, plus interest.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    In the early days that was certainly true. However, I think it has evened out and is fairly close on average in payments vs. benefits (if you don't count people who never collect, of course).

  • Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc||

    It's welfare pure and simple when the first check arrives

  • ||

    ""It's welfare pure and simple when the first check arrives""

    So I take it you are going to send you SS checks back when you start receiving them?

  • ||

    That is simply not true. I've run the numbers and you pretty much have to live to your late 80s to realize profit unless you in the bottom income bracket for your entire life.

  • ||

    it claimed (and substantiated) that the average SS recipient received back all their money with interest in 2 or 3 years.

    That is only if you are in the habit of loaning institutions money for 40 years without expecting any interest in return. And you do not believe that your employer's contribution is your money too. Feel free to use some critical thinking skills next time you play.

  • Hugh Akston||

    People were forced to pay in their entire lives, so they were parisitized.

    But a parasite with a parasite is still a parasite.

  • ||

    America; we went from "Don't Tread on Me", to "I Paid In!" in a couple centuries.

    Is there a 'shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations' corollary for countries?

  • LifeStrategies||

    Yes indeed. Such countries are typified by Argentina which was economically as successful as the USA a hundred years ago, yet now they're apparently broke. It's taking America a bit longer.

    The PIIGS group of countries are also following this path. You can't help but love this internationally accepted abbreviation for: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: John,

    I don't think people who collect social security are parasites. They paid into the system and were robbed by the government for their entire lives.

    Yes, they are. Whatever people suffered before has no bearing on current events - if they stole from you before, does not mean you have a right to new loot from someone else. Ergo, current SS recipients ARE parasitic.

    Just because they participated unwillingly in a Ponzi scheme does not excuse them from keeping participating in it WILLINGLY.

  • Tony||

    OM I don't expect you with your pathological absolutism to grasp this concept, but here goes... SS is one of the least progressive, most fair, simplest social safety nets that exists. The ONLY harm done is that people are forced to pay in when they're working. What is gained? Retirees and the disabled have a baseline income so they don't die of poverty. Good tradeoff! Simple transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, with the expectation that it will be returned in kind by the following generation. Nothing could be simpler, nothing is lost, and plenty is gained.

  • ||

    That is weapons grade stupid right there. Do you also believe in perpetual motion devices?

  • Or||

    if Americans are really willing to give up their free stuff

    It's only "free" if you have never paid any taxes of any kind (sales, income, excise), fees or surcharges. A tiny minority of Americans would qualify for such a designation. As for "parasite," please speak for yourself, if you really see yourself that way. All Americans are not parasites.

  • marlok||

    So if I paid the sales tax on a pack of skittles, I can consider my lifetime of government goodies free?

  • marlok||

    meant to say, "consider my lifetime of government goodies PAID FOR."

    Sorry, talking to someone while typing.

  • Or||

    marlok|1.14.11 @ 1:53PM|#
    So if I paid the sales tax on a pack of skittles, I can consider my lifetime of government goodies free?

    If you are a retard, yes.

  • ||

    It's only "free" if you have never paid any taxes of any kind (sales, income, excise), fees or surcharges.

    So if I paid the sales tax on a pack of skittles, I can consider my lifetime of government goodies free?

    If you are a retard, yes.

    You are calling yourself a retard, appropriately so. You said that if you paid any taxes of any kind, you deserved to feed at the public trough.

    He repeated you words, and then you called him retard!

    Thinking is hard!

  • Or||

    Evidently.

  • Gray Ghost||

    "All Americans are not parasites."

    Most are, if we're considering a parasite someone who takes away much more than they contribute. Refer to the later chapters of Parliament of Whores, where O'Rourke rather convincingly demonstrates that, in the late 80's, the value of government services was much higher than the taxes that lower and middle-income people paid. It's probably much more so these days.

    Aside, I wonder what percentage of both Big-L and small-l libertarians were inspired by P.J. O'Rourke to become such? Or at least, to take a look at the philosophy in greater detail? His books and occasional Rolling Stone articles brought me here, and I still haven't read any of Ayn Rand's stuff, especially since all of your descriptions of same make me really not want to. (45 page monologued speeches? Really? In what purports to be a novel?)

  • robc||

    Read Anthem. Short.

    I "blame" CS Lewis for me being a libertarian. I read O'Rourke about same time I read Rand, both after I already was one.

  • CatoTheElder||

    Anthem was on the Tucson shooter's list of favorite books. You're now on Homeland Security's list. Sorry.

  • ||

    No. You're not a parasite if your contribution is taken from you by force and only given back in benefits by the benevolence of the thief. We're not parasites because we get something back. We've been robbed at gun point and tied up only to have our chains loosened. And just because I get 1/300000000th of a say doesn't make it less than robbery. My opinion on how it should be spent is never used.

  • JoshINHB||

    Most are, if we're considering a parasite someone who takes away much more than they contribute.

    I pay a lot of taxes and the main thing that I get is a bunch of assholes telling me how to live, run my businesses, use my property.

    The only thing that is in anyway valuable is teh roads and they are about 1% of government spending.

  • ||

    George Bush Sr. made me a libertarian in a way.

    He broke his no new taxes pledge, and it made me so mad, when I first registered to vote, I registered as a libertarian in protest.

    I'd vaguely heard that Milton Friedman was a libertarian, so I knew it couldn't be all bad. ; )

    Once I'd registered, I figured I'd better find out more about it--what it was.

    So, I guess it was really Ronald Reagan--I was a big believer in '80s Go Go Capitalism, Laffer Curve, deep cuts in marginal tax rates and all that... And the more I found out about libertarianism, the more I realized that was me.

  • Yum||

    Just because you are forced to be a parasite, doesn't mean you aren't one. I am sure a tick would rather be a butterfly, but hey those are cards dealt.

    Better to just suck blood and smile.

  • CatoTheElder||

    CatoTheElder will get Social Security soon. He will use the net proceeds that SS deposits in his bank account to pay income taxes and property taxes and to comply with PPACA. Because money is fungible and the sum of government-mandated payments will exceed government receipts, CatoTheElder won't be a parasite. At least that's how I rationalize it.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Well there ARE people (especially on the upper end of the income scale) who won't be getting back benefit payments in excess of what they paid in to SS, so they won't be getting any "free stuff".

  • ||

    Social Security is hardly "free stuff". Check the statement they send every once in a while.

    I damn sure have "paid in". A lot.

  • ||

    Free us. Please.

    Throw aside the shackles of profit-and-loss accounting, Pro Lib!

    Embrace the irrational number!

  • ||

    I have an idea. I'm going to pay my taxes with my own hyper-inflated currency, all while playing the old Soviet trick of claiming that the ruble is absolutely equivalent to the dollar.

  • ||

    If Pro L makes a new currency, then a new currency will be created.

    Pro L makes a new currency, a new currency is created.

    Thus the national debt is infinite.

  • ||

    heller's got a gun! Look out!

  • ||

    "What’s more, Republicans have no mandate for reform, and a failed attempt will only set back the cause."

    That's what they told Barack Obama about ObamaCare too, I'm sure...

    ...and ObamaCare may yet do Obama in come 2012--but the purpose of making public policy isn't to win any particular election cycle.

    It's to make good public policy.

    I remember when people used to run on competent government--we've had so much incompetence out of the White House over the past ten years, that people are starting to forget what competent governance looks like.

    I think people might respond favorably at the polls to an outbreak of competent governance--and entitlement reform is practically the definition of competent governance right now.

    And what better way is there to address ObamaCare?

    ...use ObamaCare as an excuse to reform Medicaid and Medicare! They're the the cause of most of the healthcare problems in our country anyway--so what if we can't repeal ObamaCare? ...if we can reform Medicaid and Medicare, that's even better!

  • ||

    I remember when people used to run on competent government

    You do? How old are you, anyway? People have run on bread 'n' circuses as long as I can remember, and I remember Nixon beating McGovern.

  • CatoTheElder||

    "We're all Keynesians now."

  • Old Mexican||

    At the state level, Medicaid is a giant mess. It’s also far more dubious than Medicare in terms of the actual health benefits it provides.




    Why the violent rhetoric, Suderman?

  • ||

    Every time they run that picture of Warty, it freaks me out.

  • ||

    And that was back when he wasn't 300 lbs.

  • ||

  • ||

    "Holy crap, Uhura Warty is black?!?"

  • Warty||

    My beard is way thicker now, you guys. Geez.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That's just because you spend more time with the Sharpie in the morning.

  • Ska||

    Wait, that's Warty? I think "Hobie Hanson" whenever they use that pic.

    That little bitch just looks like a Hobie.

  • Warty||

    A GIS for Dan T. finds this gem. It seems about right.

  • Ska||

    Dan T. is an Italian rapper? I'm even more fucking disgusted now.

  • ||

    10% across the board (removes partisan politics) including defense, until the budget is balanced & the deficit is gone.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    The Republicans will attack TANF ("welfare"), food stamps, and Medicaid (and any benefits going to immigrants) because the recipients seldom vote Republican, if at all. This, very likely, will be good politics, because the Democratic Senate will block action on the cuts, thus branding the Democrats the "welfare" party. Shit, I should be charging the Republicans for this. I just wrote their campaign book for the next two years.

  • MNG||

    Social security, Medicare and defense contracts is good spending! The other stuff is bad spending...

    I've always said the stimulus should have been done like this: spending on repairing and revamping the infrastructure of our domestic military bases. It should have been named the Keep Our Military Strong Act. Veto proof passage guaranteed.

  • ||

    They did not call it that and the stimulus passed anyway.

  • ||

    The problem with "across the board" cuts is it allows these gutless vermin to continue hiding from their duty to make real qualitative judgments.

    Some programs really *are* more worthy of protection than others. Start with NPR and the NEA. When the Republic somehow manages to not collapse into chaos and anarchy, the Dept of Eddicaturz can be axed.

  • ||

    "Across the board" cuts are not a long-term solution to our budget problems, as they leave in existence every program that got us here, just waiting to metastasize again.

    The only long-term solution involves the termination of programs in their entirety, together with the reduction of programs that survive.

    "Across the board" is synonymous with saying that there is nothing wrong in principle with a massive bureaucratic state and huge transfer programs. Unless and until we say, yes, there is something wrong with that, we will be in a state of fiscal crisis.

  • ||

    So, across-the-board cuts are like fighting cancer by amputating all your fingers?

  • Tony||

    Yes now that the GOP insisted on their big fat unfunded welfare check for the rich, it's time to start cutting back on aid to poor people.

  • marlok||

    Lower taxes equals welfare. Refusing to take something equals giving something.

    You think like a thief.

  • Tony||

    And you are a dishonest pedant. What's the fundamental difference between a welfare check and a tax break of equal dollar amounts? Nothing. If we can't afford one, we can't afford the other. It's just that the GOP wants to pretend otherwise. My framing might not be the most honest way of putting it, but it's a hell of a lot more so than theirs.

  • ||

    That you can't or refuse to see the difference between not stealing someone's money and giving stolen money to someone else is why you are either an evil bastard or a troll.

  • ||

    Taxes are not stealing. They are authorized by the Constituion. Like it or not.

  • Goobs||

    I'll rephrase then on BladeDoc's behalf:

    "That you can't or refuse to see the difference between not taking someone's money and given taken money to someone else is why you are either an evil bastard or a troll"

    It doesn't really lose anything there. Welfare = giving someone money they did not earn.

    Tax Break = Letting someone keep money they earned.

    Tax breaks may have (generally) the same effect on the Government's revenue bottom line, but that doesn't make them the same thing.

  • Tony||

    Yes, they're not exactly the same. Checks to poor people are more economically stimulative than tax breaks to rich people.

  • marlok||

    Your inability to distinguish welfare payments from tax cuts stems from your belief that private property is not a human right. Like I said, you think like a thief.

    And regarding your faith in the stimulative effects of unemployment benefits, where do you think this money comes from? I know it delights you to stick it to the job-creators, but don't expect private sector employment to increase while you're jacking up the present and future tax burdens on businesses.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Tony gets moist at the thought of taxing the evil rich people, marlok. It's part of the circle of life.

  • Mike M.||

    Wow Reason, how did you guys get a picture of Tony?

  • ||

    Yes, but the point is they paid and were promised something in return.

    P T Barnum should have gotten a Nobel Prize in Economics.

  • Restoras||

    When is it socially acceptable to start baiting the troll?

  • ||

    If you are a Democratic Senator from a red state, you have to think long and hard about voting against repeal of Obamacare. After all, an Obama veto is guaranteed. I think passage in the Senate is around fifty fifty.

  • ||

    The Democratic establishment spent years building both the policy case and the political coalition to pass the PPACA. They did their homework. Members of Congress learned to make a policy case in addition to a political case. It paid off with the passage of major legislation.

    Really? I don't think the Dems succeeded in making either a policy or political case for ObamaCare, which was forced through with the most brutal arm-twisting and procedural shenanigans over the very vocal opposition of a very large chunk of the electorate, which promptly punished them savagely.

    I don't think that's what "making a policy and political case" looks like, Peter.

  • Peter Suderman||

    The procedural stuff gave them the last mile. But liberals spent years, and a ton of money, building a policy infrastructure around a health care overhaul.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Did they forget about that when it came time to actually write the bill?

  • Yeah||

    No time to write the bill itself when you hae to spend all your time building a "policy infrastructure" whatever that is. I was thinking something like A Road to Serfdom.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    I'm happy to admit my ignorance here: I do not know what "building a policy infrastructure around a health care overhaul" means.

    Let's start with the obvious: the reason that we have Obamacare is that the Democrats did very well in 2006 and 2008. Their success at the polls in those years had virtually nothing to do with promises to enact a universal health insurance law.

    I don't doubt for a second that the left has spent the better part of a century figuring out what should go into a universal health insurance law, nor do I doubt that the left has spent money and effort agitating for such a law. But I'm having a bit of a cause-and-effect problem here. Obamacare didn't come about because the left managed to convince the country that the time was right; it came about because it's been on the Democrats' wish list for 60 years and they finally had enough votes - for unrelated reasons - to pass it.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    Furthermore, if "building a policy infrastructure around a health care overhaul" means that the Democrats spent decades figuring out all the nuts and bolts of what should go in to the best possible universal health insurance bill, well then that ain't Obamacare. Oh, it's a statist abomination all right, but it's only as bad as they could get away with making it. The real national healthcare zealots - the kind of people I would expect to be gung-ho for laying out this "policy infrastructure" - aren't happy with Obamacare because it's not enough.

  • ||

    The sad fact is they won't cut the big four (SS, Mcare & Maid, WAR) until they absolutely have to. It's just that for everyday they don't cut the big four, signals to the bond market they aren't even going to get the deficits to non-nightmarish levels, and makes their and our downfall more likely.

    I live and work in the DC area - these people don't get their is no more money. I get blank stares from really smart people when I ask "How many trillion more debt do you think we can sell?"

    You know who knows we're out of money - city and county councilmen - they've looked into the abyss.

  • Restoras||

    "I live and work in the DC area - these people don't get their is no more money. I get blank stares from really smart people when I ask "How many trillion more debt do you think we can sell?""

    When the bond market hits them in the forehead with the 2x4 of supply/demand, do you think they'll wise up, or will they just do something only an Ivy-educated moron could think up, like outlaw 2x4's?

  • ||

    Sell to whom? We're already "selling" to ourselves by printing the money. Plus, there is a vast untapped market for US Debt: your 401(k). Expect it to be tapped by Congress when it becomes necessary.

  • ||

    This is why I feel smugly superior every time people talk about their retirement investments....yeah, thanks but no thanks, I'll take that money now while it's still worth something.

  • ||

    Yeah, I agree with you, even though I have yet to totally wean myself off the 401(k) due to an employer match. But it's always been a lousy deal short of the free employer money. Defer your taxes, they say. I respond: great, tell me what my tax rate will be in 2035. Response: crickets.

  • ||

    I'm hoping we don't have a government by then. No taxes!

  • ||

    Even if US government bonds become junk bonds, every benefit program is slashed to the bone, and tax rates go through the roof, the Beltway elites will not suffer.

    They will do a lot of posturing and blaming and spinning and they will claim to be 'working for the good of all', but they won't suffer.

  • JoshINHB||

    When the bond market hits them in the forehead with the 2x4 of supply/demand, do you think they'll wise up

    If only.

    The benbernank is there to make sure that never happens.

  • ||

    I live and work in the DC area - these people don't get their is no more money.

    _________________

    What else would you expect? Most people in DC are there precisely because they don't understand finance or math.

  • ||

    Shorter Ponnuru: people love getting "free" shit, so do not suggest taking it away. Crass politics must triumph over sane policy. Nothing is more important than re-election.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    Nothing is more important than re-election.

    There's no sense in the GOP jeopardizing its House majority by passing unpopular bills that have zero chance of getting through the Senate or getting the president's signature.

  • JoshINHB||

    How bout they cut the 65% of spending that isn't giving free shit to voters?

  • JoshINHB||

    How bout they cut the 65% of spending that isn't giving free shit to voters?

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Oh this reminds me: if they are "employing" people in some way, the voters are getting free shit (ie Jobs and money/benefits most them do not objectively deserve) . That's the real undercurrent of this nightmare. Sure, say we cut everything 50%, what the hell are we going to do with all the unemployed Soldiers, worthless Bureaucrats, destructive lawyers, moronic teachers, etc? Those people would lead a violent socialist take-over fueled by the fact they were accustomed to a certain standard of living wrested from the rest of us at the end of a gun. The only way out is collapse at this point. Set the clock back to 0, start over, cry, punch cinder block walls in frustration, pray for an asteroid to wipe us out, repeat as needed.

  • ||

    When life expectancy was around 70 years, the average family had 3+ kids and just about everybody got married and had kids, then Social Security looked affordable as the ratio of payers to recipients would be stable.

    However, the baby boom went bust in the late 60s and life expectancy went up by 10% (thus more than doubling the average time someone would be a recipient).

    So long as the baby boomers were still in the workforce, there was not a problem. Now that they are moving from payor to recipient, there is a problem.

  • Sudden||

    A major problem.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The very first Social Security recepient was a woman who paid about a total of about $25 in SS taxes and collected $34,000 in benefits over her lifetime.

  • Helicopter Ben||

    So?

  • ||

    or will they just do something only an Ivy-educated moron could think up, like outlaw 2x4's pretend the Federal Reserve Bank can prop up the bond market forever?

  • Richard||

    I think people may be more willing to accept cuts to entitlements AFTER the discretionary budget has been cut to the bone. Let's get rid of ag subsidies, alternative energy boondoggles, and, say, the Department of Education and see what happens.

  • ||

    Any politician who wants to run for President (and almost all Congresscritters harbor that secret ambition) doesn't dare touch ag subsidies because they'd be annihilated in the Iowa caucuses, thus probably dooming their campaign.

  • Sudden||

    Interestingly enough, John McCain was the only presidential primary candidate that spoke about eliminating ag subsidies and ended up securing his party's nomination.

  • ||

    And then underperformed in Midwest states in the general election.

  • Obama||

    I'm not Bush, so that's all it took.

  • Goobs||

    This isn't true. He flipped prior to the Iowa caucus.

  • Yeah||

    Could this be mitigated by all the other states moving up their primaries as was done in the last election?

  • ||

    All the primaries should be on the same day. We don't stagger the final vote for Presidential over a three month period.

  • ||

    You weren't paying attention in 2000, were you?

    The Presidential election isn't over until the SCOTUS says it is.

  • Mr Whipple||

    The Presidential election isn't over until the SCOTUS says it is.

    Oh, so that's what they mean by "Separation of Powers".

  • robc||

    Primaries should be ENTIRELY (both in scheduling and in expenses) within the bailiwick of the parties.

  • Punk||

    Idea: Tell everyone that if you are born after 2014, you don't get social security. All those born before then, can collect. Those after 2014, buy your own retirement insurance.

    Result:

    No more theft/pyramid scheme and an increase in private jobs in the insurance industry.

    Oh, but the insurance industry is bad and they are evil unlike the putrid government bureaucracy who are honest and benevolent. Plus, why make people do shit for themselves.

    Oh, fuck it. Why bother.

  • ||

    And, once they get old enough to realize what is going on, those born after 2014 will all become nice little Sandmen.

  • ||

    They can do it now or they can do it later. They will have no choice.

    It's like this: Let's say I promise to pay you $1million per hour to rake my yard, payable when you retire. If it turns out I was lying and don't have it, don't be surprised.

    The entitlements (and public employees too BTW) are in the same situation. The government promised something that could never happen. Those who actually believed it are foolish, and one can even feel slightly sorry for them but in reality, there's nothing anyone can do. The Government simply cannot give what it promised to give. End of story.

  • ||

    Those who actually believed it are foolish, and one can even feel slightly sorry for them

    You're a better person than I.

  • JoshINHB||

    The Government simply cannot give what it promised to give.

  • non||

    Does leaving entitlements alone mean keeping current funding and adjusting payments, or keeping current payment schedules and raising revenue to attempt to meet the obligations?

    I think the answer depends on whether younger people and businesses can unite against the common enemy of the pension-state. Almost everyone I know who is under 30 thinks that social security should be "saved" for them, like the French students rioting to keep the retirement age down.

    Put the kids in charge of looking out for the future and see how long your society remains competitive. If free societies are incapable of self-discipline, they will be overtaken by (or transformed into) authoritarian ones.

  • ||

    Then the resulting authoritarian regime implodes in 10-50years, allowing the cycle to start over.

    It's the cycle, the cyyyyy-cle of poo.

  • PIRS||

    I think that Buckley must be rolling over in his grave.

  • ||

    But liberals spent years, and a ton of money, building a policy infrastructure around a health care overhaul.

    I think you are confusing inputs with outputs, Peter. I know the liberals have spent decades pushing for this. However, when they actually got it, what they got was (a) a policy failure (ObamaCare is an abomination on that front), and (b) a political failure (it was unpopular when passed, is more unpopular now, and cost them dozens and dozens of elections at every level).

    So, I'm having a hard time saying they built a policy case or a political case. Their political coalition was a festival of rent-seeking, and they barely got their own party to pass it. Exactly how can you say that they successfully built any case for this?

    ObamaCare's passage had nothing to do with persuasion (presumably, the purpose of those cases). It was a nakedly political power grab, aided and abetted by mutli-billion dollar payoffs.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    "Policy infrastructure" my ass. We have Obamacare because the Democrats did extraordinarily well in the 2006 and 2008 elections. And their success in those elections had exactly dick to do with "building a policy infrastructure around a health care overhaul." Once they had the votes, they gave us the most statist bill they could pass.

  • ||

    Idea: Tell everyone that if you are born after 2014, you don't get social security.

    Why 2014? Why not 1992 (meaning everyone who hasn't yet entered the workforce)? Nobody 18 or younger can exactly claim to have been relying on social security for their retirement.

    Really, you could make the cutoff age 30, or even older.

  • robc||

    Hell, we can start with 1969. I will fend for myself.

  • robc||

    If you were born after man landing on the moon, fuck off, no social security for you.

    Hey, Ive got a new campaign slogan.

  • ||

    I'll go with anyone under 50.

  • ||

    I'm 36 and my retirement planning assumes zero social security income, so go ahead and zero me out now. Anecdotally, every friend I have in the 35-40 age group also assumes he/she will see little if any social security money. So I think that for many of that age and younger, no expectation will be upset by taking a meat axe to benefits.

  • ||

    I'll give up everything I've paid in to date (I'm 33) as long as nothing is taken out starting tomorrow. I have a lot of ways I'd love to invest that money.

  • Punk||

    I was trying to be reasonable or something. Or maybe 2014 is a nice number that made me feel warm and fuzzy.

  • Punk||

    ...and Sarah Palin told me that 2014 is a good year. I do everything she tells me to do.

  • JCrack||

    Gives would-be parents a chance to start a retirement fund for their newborn rug rats. If it were 1992, you'd get people screaming how 18 years of savings were stolen from them.

  • non||

    Then the resulting authoritarian regime implodes in 10-50years

    I fear China may be developing a more resistant strain. Furthermore, the West may not be an alluring alternative as it was during the fall of the Soviet Union. The Asian Tigers gradually became more Western because of US economic dominance and its higher standard of living. If the US, Europe, and Japan cannot sustain economic growth, the authoritarians have an easier time.

  • ||

    What's the fundamental difference between a welfare check and a tax break of equal dollar amounts? Nothing.

    You are monumentally retarded.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    Members of Congress learned to make a policy case in addition to a political case.

    Wait, what?

    The reason that we have Obamacare is that voters were tired of Bush and his two wars, and the economy melted two months before the 2008 election. The Democrats and Obama didn't make a policy case; they had huge majorities and they rammed the damn thing through.

  • ||

    I remember when Bush Jr. was elected; it was the same thing. He had some interesting ideas about reforming Social Security and replacing welfare programs with private charity--and people were sick of the Clinton Administration's double-talk/lying BS.

    People didn't vote for him because they wanted to invade Iraq--he just rammed the thing through.

    I think there were some people who voted for Obama because they wanted ObamaCare, but those weren't the swing voters. The swing voters were sick of Iraq, torture by some other name, warrentless wiretaps, etc... That's why the guy who voted against Iraq won the primary, and the lady who didn't ended up as Secretary of State.

    I think it's just hard, sometimes, for people to agree with a guy that calls himself "Masturbatin' Pete". I mean, how do even say that?

    "You guys say what you want--I'm with Masturbatin' Pete?"

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