Social Security

All This Talk About Deficits Is Getting In the Way Of Preserving and Expanding Our Entitlement Spending

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Why didn't the bicycle want to get up? It was TOO TIRED.

Is it surprising to find a long-term liberal congressman who argues that Democrats should give a hoot about the budget deficit? Matt Bai's New York Times piece on Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer, the founder of the House Bicycle Caucus, which is apparently an Actual Real Thing, is framed as a contrarian whodathunkit about a precocious liberal who claims to care about sound budgeting and doesn't reflexively oppose all changes to Social Security:

Mr. Blumenauer argued that if Democrats really want to protect a vast array of federal programs from repeated Republican onslaughts, then they need to bring the costs of the programs in line with reality.       

Otherwise, he said, liberals only make it easier for conservative critics of social spending to undermine the entire premise of liberal government. And they make it that much harder to propose new and much-needed investments in, say, infrastructure and education.       

In other words, the debate over budget deficits is getting in the way of government spending. And we can't have that!

As Democratic arguments go, though, this isn't terribly novel. Newly minted White House budget director Jacob Lew said essentially the same thing a decade ago when he told Congress that "fiscal discipline is essential to protect Social Security and strengthen Medicare, so that both will be there in the years ahead." In this view, fiscal responsibility is useful insofar as it allows for the expansion of government.

Bai deserves credit, though, for his succinct breakdown of the Social Security trust fund scam, which a recently formed coalition of progressive activists—including the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and MoveOn.org—has sworn to defend:

The coalition bases its case on the idea that Social Security is actually in fine fiscal shape, since it has amassed a pile of Treasury Bills—often referred to as i.o.u.'s—in a dedicated trust fund. This is true enough, except that the only way for the government to actually make good on these i.o.u.'s is to issue mountains of new debt or to take the money from elsewhere in the federal budget, or perhaps impose significant tax increases—none of which seem like especially practical options for the long term. So this is sort of like saying that you're rich because your friend has promised to give you 10 million bucks just as soon as he wins the lottery.       

On this point, I suppose I largely agree with Blumenauer: If progressive activists are determined to defend this sort of budgeting B.S., it does make it awfully easy to criticize.

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  1. It just burns a hole in their collective pocket, no?

  2. Good luck with that, Earl. You should go down South and stop into visit Jimmy Carter to see how that whole thing worked out for him.

    1. Isn’t Jimmy in North Korea right now?

      Yep, he is.

      1. Any chance they’ll keep him?

        1. Well, Kim Jong is ronrey…

          1. Is he a dick, an asshole or a pussy?

            1. Worst. Comedic. Monologue. Ever.

  3. Just to get this straight… the problem isn’t what they are doing, it’s that they are doing it too conspicuously. Nice.

  4. In this view, fiscal responsibility is useful insofar as it allows for the expansion of government.

    I think this is a poor interpretation of the argument. The existing leviathan is satisfactory to a good number of do-gooder liberals. Many aren’t seeking major expansion and would be happy with preservation of the social welfare state they’ve built. I think it’s good to see some of them own up to the need to shore up the foundation if they wish to preserve the state as they know it. Better than being willfully ignorant.

  5. “So this is sort of like saying that you’re rich because your friend has promised to give you 10 million bucks just as soon as he wins the lottery.”
    Not quite, its like saying that you will pay yourself 10 million bucks when you win the lotto. In the first case you are relying on someone else to pay you, in the second, you are borrowing from yourself in hopes that you will be able to pay it off in the future, which is exactly what SS does.

  6. alt text joke FAIL
    should read: “two tired”

    Reason needs to follow Cato’s example and bring on the PURGE

  7. To be fair, the deficits should be getting in the way of tax cuts for the Republicans too… but they think its ok to run deficits for them.

  8. You should go down South and stop into visit Jimmy Carter to see how that whole thing worked out for him.

  9. Not quite, its like saying that you will pay yourself 10 million bucks when you win the lotto. In the first case you are relying on someone else to pay you, in the second, you are borrowing from yourself in hopes that you will be able to pay it off in the future, which is exactly what SS does.

  10. “This is true enough, except that the only way for the government to actually make good on these i.o.u.’s is to issue mountains of new debt or to take the money from elsewhere in the federal budget, or perhaps impose significant tax increases?none of which seem like especially practical options for the long term.”

    the old IOU zombie argument.
    educate yourself:

    http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh080609.shtml

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