Government Spending

Does Public Support for Entitlements Make Tax Hikes Inevitable?

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Citing Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf's warning that American cannot repeat its budgeting history because "the aging of our population and the rising cost of health care have changed the backdrop for federal budget policy in a fundamental way," David Leonhardt of The New York Times declares that at some point, taxes will have to go up. And if they don't? "For taxes to remain where they are," he writes, "Washington would need to end Medicare as we know it, end Social Security as we know it, severely shrink the military — or do some combination of the above." That probably sounds pretty good to folks around these parts, but it won't happen, Leonhardt says, because "national polls show huge majorities favor keeping Medicare and Social Security in something approaching their current form."

Leonhardt is correct about this. But it's also true that few people know how much America spends on Medicare, or how much of the budget — and the long-term debt problem — is tied up in health programs and Social Security, a fact that may color their preferences. And even still, raising taxes alone doesn't actually solve the problem of mandatory health spending. Leonhardt notes that there is broad public support for raising taxes on high earners. But while a tax hike on those with high incomes might make an entitlement reform deal more politically palatable, it won't keep up with the projected growth in Medicare spending, which means there's no easy, poll-tested way to deal with the long-term debt. Somehow, some way, Medicare and Medicaid, at least, will have to be transform from thier current incarnations into fiscally sustainable programs. In the long run, it may be that taxes are part of a deal to make that happen. But by itself, simply raising taxes on the wealthy won't fix the problem.  

Now, as Leonhardt also suggests, it may be that a long-term debt deal comes packaged with new revenue raised by closing off the myriad targeted tax breaks that distort the system; coupled with a substantial entitlement overhaul, that could be quite appealing. But a deal of that sort might be even less popular amongst the general public. "Closing loopholes has much stronger support among economists and columnists than it does among voters," Leonhardt writes. But then, it's hardly news that public preference makes dealing with the federal debt exceedingly difficult. If there were an easy solution that majorities agreed upon, it probably would have passed by now. In the end, though, the long-term debt will have to be dealt with, even if there's no combo of choices from the deficit reduction menu that a majority of the public actually supports.  

NEXT: "Professional Pols" or "The Public" — Who's Smarter? Tim Cavanaugh Talks With Jerry Doyle, 1:30PM Pacific

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  1. In short, yes.

    Medicare/caid needs a rational, independent advisory board that will curtail superfluous meaningless procedures.

    Oh wait – Reason was just bashing that idea.

    1. Shrike,

      I’m obviously no great fan of IPAB, but I’ve actually written several times that, in the context of a single-payer system (which, in the case of Medicare, we seem to be stuck with), a single-payer system with an independent spending control requirement is probably better than one without. I’ll probably have more on this later today or tomorrow.

      1. shriek is a sockpuppet, Suder-Man. I wouldn’t waste your time responding to it as if it were an actual person and not an act.

      2. Very well.

        Medicare/caid is a disaster looming – on that we can agree.

        Something must be done well before 2022 (Ryan) – so I do read you and the IPAB and the doc fix nullification are the only realistic offers.

        I cite again the Tea Party survey from Slate where 70% of the TP want no cuts to MediXXX.

        Its a huge problem and a stealth independent panel is a solution because a frontal attack will fail.

        1. Re: shriek,

          Something must be done well before 2022 (Ryan) – so I do read you and the IPAB and the doc fix nullification are the only realistic offers.

          No, there’s also default.

          What’s that you said? That would leave thousands with no benefits?

          Should serve them right for thinking they can get something for nothing.

          1. Default?

            That is what you assholes really want, isn’t it?

            Its the only route back to 1840.

            1. Re: shriek,

              That is what you assholes really want, isn’t it?

              Its the only route back to 1840.

              No, 1835.

              http://www.nashuatelegraph.com…..-hits.html

            2. A “technical” default now is preferable to a real one later.

            3. How about simply means testing both fucking programs?!!

              Instead of taxing the rich more, how about we just stop giving wealth transfers to rich people simply because they are over a certain age?!

              Why is this so difficult? If people with assets over $1M were not receiving old people welfare would these programs even be in the red?

              1. Admittedly, I think means testing should be based more on average annual income throughout working life than it should be on net assets. We already have enough public policy that discourages savings. A fair amount of the people with assets in excessive of $1M when they retire were never particularly exorbitant earners, but rather were savvy savers. They shouldn’t be punished for having the foresight to spot a demonstrably fiscal fuckhole while the $250k/year doctor blew his entire wad every year like a schmuck.

                1. “Admittedly, I think means testing should be based more on average annual income throughout working life than it should be on net assets.[…]”
                  All of which is a good argument to dispense with the entire mess.

              2. How about we just stop giving wealth transfers to anybody?

                What with such things being unconstitutional and all.

            4. I’d rather go back to 1776. The Constitution is a failure, and the British aren’t a threat anymore, so let’s go back to the lesser evil for national organization.

      3. an independent spending control requirement

        Bull. Shit.

        Most likely independent of transparency. Can’t have those bribes traced now, can we?

      4. Single-payer law.

        No lawyer does anything worth more than minimum wage, anyhow.

    2. The anti-entitlement right opposes every single attempt to control costs in entitlements, especially if it’s found in Obamacare. No big mystery why.

      1. …but it’s not like MY party wants to control costs in entitlements, because if we don’t have a steady influx of new entitlement recipients, we run the risk of losing political power.

        Which is ALL we care about.

      2. Shithead offers this collection of lies:
        “The anti-entitlement right opposes every single attempt to control costs in entitlements, especially if it’s found in Obamacare.”
        Thanks, shithead.

    3. Re: shriek,

      Medicare/caid needs a rational, independent advisory board that will curtail superfluous meaningless procedures.

      Your economics illiterate non-sequiturs are surprisingly fascinating, shriek. Like watching a flaming airplane fall to the ground.

      1. Dumbass.

        Its exactly what we need. Something with long terms (14 yr) like the Fed or maybe lifetime like the SCOTUS that is outside political pressure to tell terminally ill people that a $200,000 procedure will only line a surgeon’s pocket.

        1. Re: Shriek,

          Its exactly what we need.

          What’s with this “we” business, Kemo Sabe? “We” don’t need a group of notables to decide on my life or yours. If you want to have your life dictated by someone else, then try having children.

          1. If the day ever comes when you are not free to spend large amounts of money on snake oil, I will join your cause. Information is not oppression.

            1. “Information is not oppression.”

              Double-plus good!

          2. It only applies if you are reliant on public Medicare.

            You may buy (or your insurer) as many useless procedures as you like.

            Its MY TAX DOLLARS I care about.

            1. Gievn that you’re clearly thrilled about Obamacare and a whole mess of other expensive, unaffordable entitlements, I don’t think you actually “care” about your tax dollars.

              At least not in any way understood by people who don’t purposely huff gasoline.

              1. Obamacare is not an entitlement program. It may be unConstitutional to make me buy AetnaCare but it is no new entitlement.

                You have to look at Bushy-Boy and the GOP for the last entitlement (2003) the Medicare Welfare Act.

                And it was unfunded to boot.

                Once again proof the GOP is the Big Gov party.

            2. Re: shriek,

              It only applies if you are reliant on public Medicare.

              You keep missing the point. It is not Medicare the problem, it’s the fact that the government is pushing all of us into it.

            3. It’s not your money, shrike.

              It belongs to Me.

            4. You may buy (or your insurer) as many useless procedures as you like.

              You mean like in Canada, where people are forbidden to purchase private procedures, because it wouldn’t be fair?

        2. “Dumbass.”
          Dipshit.

  2. It’s a moot question. The bond market will enforce the answer long before our political leaders grow spines and deal with the budget problems.

    1. Yep, and Mitch, Barry, John, Eric and the rest of them hope they’re not the sorry bastard that’s still standing when the music stops.

  3. “Washington would need to end Medicare as we know it, end Social Security as we know it, severely shrink the military ? or do some combination of the above.”

    All kept just as they are with a “few tweaks”….yep just a “few tweaks” and we’re good to go!

  4. Is public support for entitlements inevitable if they require tax hikes?

    1. Yes. See my comment below. As long as tax hikes don’t impact on the recipients of entitlements, those tax hikes will be quite popular with the recipients of these government programs.

      1. Hellfire James! I am a dumbass of the first order and that even makes sense to me.

    2. When robbing Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on the support of Paul.

      1. Until Peter quits his job, leaves the country, or starts shooting Pauls.

  5. If anyone in this country thinks that our politicians have the intestinal fortitude to do what is right, to demand frugality, accountability and wise budgeting, and plain Constitutional limitation upon the budgeting process, just take a look at Senator Mitch McConnell. And remember that this type of establishment tool is always going to be leader of the supposedly fiscally conservative party in America – not Rand Paul.
    I think I’ve given up on believing that 2012, the Tea Party or even the scant few responsible congressmen in Washington are capable of reversing the train-wreck.
    I honestly think the only alternative would be a massive, well-coordinated Free State type of experiment, followed by succession.

    1. Wait it out a bit longer without secession, then start a Libertarian Liberation Army?

      1. how u gonna have a proper war if ur libtoid army cannot be commanded?

        1. A bunch of retards standing around arguing about uniforms, rules, pay, lawfullness of orders, etc…

          1. Sounds like a Tuesday night at my place.

        2. Who said anything about a proper war?

  6. These fucking substantive posts are starting to give me a headache and are becoming depressing.

    Therefore, I bid you good day, Reasonoids.

    1. You’ll be back…..

      1. Like Max.

  7. When it comes down to it, most people don’t care about the costs of programs that they want to continue for their own benefit. As the Boomers retire, they are going to want someone to pick up the tab, and they have spent too little time and effort saving for retirement to expect to pay for it themselves. Most will look to the government to fulfill its perceived promises to provide for a healthy, active retirement. That means that a huge voting block will vote for whoever supports continuing these programs, a phenomenon that will only grow over the next few decades.

    Faced with the choice of what to cut, we may see support to shrink the military, cut overseas spending, shrink subsidies, dial back federal regulations, and even close parts of the government, all to maintain and feed the retirement benefits of seniors. Like a body in hemodynamic shock shunts blood to the heart, brain, and kidneys to survive, so too will the voters channel what funds are available to support their own interests. Other government functions may wither, all to feed the growing needs of the older segment of the population.

    All American politics will adust to accomodate this new reality. Those who try to stop the entitlement programs will be swiftly crushed by the weight of the voters protecting their interests.

    1. they have spent too little time and effort saving for retirement to expect to pay for it themselves

      Even those that actually have saved and will be fine throughout the duration of their retirement refuse to coalesce to meaningful reforms (i.e. means testing, targeted benefit reductions, etc.) because “goddamnit I paid into it.” Its the kindergarten equivalent of “but he started it,” but its sadly ubiquitous. That said, some of those people are in favor of across the board reductions, ones that affect all equally, but refuse to have their benny slashed while those with less foresight and savings remain largely unaffected.

      1. People get paid out a good deal more than they paid in. I would be okay with people demanding the amount they paid back out, but everyone seems silent.

      2. Even those that actually have saved will be fucked as inflation sets in.

        FIFY

    2. Your prediction rings true; as Doug Stanhope says, “Old fucks vote.”

      1. And as I heard the other day from a wiser elder: “There are two types of people in this country: Those who work for a living and those who vote for a living.” I think the voting side even rolls up government workers, employees of the Military Industrial complex, public unions, etc.

  8. I want everything, but I don’t wanna have to pay for anything.

    1. And as a result, you’re going to end up with nothing.

  9. Everytime I read something like this, I’m reminded of the America alluded to in the first part of Accelerando. It basically becomes dependent on sending out IRS agents to expats and ex-citizens to shake them down for “taxes owed” to support what is essentially the world’s largest nursing home.

    1. If the scenario I outlined above should ever come to pass, and the IRS comes after me, I would hope the state that I then called home – which would be thoroughly libertarian but hopefully have a wicked defense system – would apprehend and/or shoot said agents. I’ll be damned if I going to leave this mess just to have it never leave me.

      1. Nukes, dude. Your nation is full of people with their whole lives ahead of them, the old shits have nothing to lose.

  10. But while a tax hike on those with high incomes might make an entitlement reform deal more politically palatable, it won’t keep up with the projected growth in Medicare spending[.]

    That’s because they are two entirely separate things. Spending is A CHOICE, income is NOT. One is under one’s control, the other is NOT.

    Even if you raise taxes, you won’t have a guarantee that the expected revenue will be there, as you have to deal with millions of individual brains. Instead, only ONE factor is involved in spending: YOUR choice.

    1. Waaait a minute. Income isn’t under one’s control? I thought a free market meant people could succeed based on how hard they tried.

      Not saying I have any idea what you’re talking about.

      1. Re: Tony,

        Waaait a minute. Income isn’t under one’s control?

        No, it’s under the control of the person that chooses your wares.

        I thought a free market meant people could succeed based on how hard they tried.

        How does that translate to total control of your income? What happens if your customers all die?

        Not saying I have any idea what you’re talking about.

        You never did; never even tried to know.

        1. Oh I understand. You seem physically incapable of thinking about human beings except in an atomistic way. While I find that fascinating, it is your limitation. A table can be a table while also a collection of wood molecules. So describing and discussing the needs of a society is a perfectly valid thing to do.

          1. Re: Tony,

            You seem physically incapable of thinking about human beings except in an atomistic way.

            You mean you don’t? Because otherwise you are committing a perfunctory contradiction just by your statement alone: “You seem physically incapable of thinking about human beings[…]”

            So which one is it? Beings, or a single, unified being [I assume “society”]?

            A table can be a table while also a collection of wood molecules.

            There are no wood molecules, you ignorant fool.

            So describing and discussing the needs of a society is a perfectly valid thing to do.

            No, it is not. It is confusing the map for the territory. Humans are no more a lump of fleshy particles conforming a “society” than trees are woody particles forming a “forest.” Both “society” and “forest” are concepts that serve to facilitate the exchange of ideas without having to be too specific, the same way a map serves to help you navigate without having to have a 1:1 model of the terrain in your pocket.

            1. So which one is it? Beings, or a single, unified being [I assume “society”]?

              It’s both, as I’m pretty sure I explained.

              Both “society” and “forest” are concepts that serve to facilitate the exchange of ideas without having to be too specific

              Uh, yeah. Sometimes it makes sense to talk about a tree, sometimes it makes sense to talk about a forest. A forest is no less a thing than a tree is, and a tree is no less a thing than a tree molecule is.

              1. Re: Tony,

                It’s both, as I’m pretty sure I explained.

                It can’t be both. You can’t be both a “being” and “part of a being.” That would mean you don’t even know what “being” means.

                A forest is no less a thing than a tree is, and a tree is no less a thing than a tree molecule is.

                No, a forest is not a thing – a tree is a thing. And there are NO tree molecules, you ignorant fool. Trees are made of aminoacids, sugars, proteins and other organic compounds, not “tree molecules.”

                1. I am aware that there aren’t tree molecules. Okay, now that we have that out of the way… Jesus.

                  So a tree is a thing, but a forest isn’t and a protein isn’t? Are things only things because you say so? This problem goes deeper even than I thought.

                  Is a hair a thing, or is a head of hair a thing? Is an ocean a thing we can usefully discuss, or is only a teacup full of water the correct form of the thing?

                  This is pretty amazing shit OM.

                  1. This may be the first literal case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

                    1. Tree molecules?

                      Remember, leftists are smarter then you, because they know about tree molecules.

                    2. Tree molecules?

                      Remember, leftists are smarter then you, because they know about tree molecules.

                      Man, whoever Tony really is must not have had a science-heavy education. Obviously he/she/it is correct that molecules are the building blocks of living cells which make up trees, but the term “tree molecule” sounds absolutely ridiculous.

                      I’ve given up categorizing adults as smarter than one another, because it’s rarely cut & dried, but even otherwise intelligent leftists seem to rely on emotion for the basis of their arguments rather than logic.

                  2. A forest is no less a thing than a tree is, and a tree is no less a thing than a tree molecule is.

                    Very next post:

                    I am aware that there aren’t tree molecules.

          2. “A table can be a table while also a collection of wood molecules.”

            Both of which are mental constructs used for constraining the question of their reality to something comprehensible to the limited human mind.

            Their physical existence is the same regardless of how you choose to think of them. Since both options are imperfect, you risk making errors of judgment either way, moreso if you confuse your working model of reality for reality itself.

            Philosophically speaking, of course.

  11. Fix (at least some of) medicare’s cost problems–extend it to everyone.

    What we can’t get around is the fact that the only way to reduce healthcare costs without changing anything at the provider end or intelligent “rationing” schemes is to simply reduce the availability of care. That’s certainly all you guys have to offer, right?

    So a good first step would be to remove profit from the healthcare equation.

    1. Re: Tony,

      Fix (at least some of) medicare’s cost problems–extend it to everyone.

      Translation: Make everyone pay for it whether they want it or not.

      What we can’t get around is the fact that the only way to reduce healthcare costs without changing anything at the provider end or intelligent “rationing” schemes is to simply reduce the availability of care.

      Translation: The only way to reduce costs is not by reducing care but by reducing care under fancy names.

      That’s certainly all you guys have to offer, right?

      Translation: My head is empty, need brain.

      So a good first step would be to remove profit from the healthcare equation.

      Translation: So the first step is to remove the efficiency mechanism to make it totally unavailable, for good.

      1. Make everyone pay for it whether they want it or not.

        What if I allow for an exemption based on religious objections? Other than that, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want insurance against medical eventualities.

        As usual you ignored the important question. What is your solution to delivering healthcare more widely and cheaply?

        I know it’s because you don’t have one because that’s not something you care about. Freedom means the freedom to die from preventable ailments because you don’t have enough money–and as you said above, your income isn’t a choice. Freeeedom!

        Translation: So the first step is to remove the efficiency mechanism to make it totally unavailable, for good.

        I think you’re confusing your own premises. Profit motive may increase efficiency overall by rewarding efficiency specifically, but in a special market like healthcare it does the opposite. It’s a guaranteed customer base of everyone for eternity, after all. You know what’s another factor in driving down costs in such markets? Increasing the size of the risk pool. Hence my original suggestion.

        1. You truly are the Bianca Jagger of politics.

        2. Re: Tony,

          What if I allow for an exemption based on religious objections?

          Translation: I’m just being silly.

          Other than that, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want insurance against medical eventualities.

          Translation: I confuse “insurance” with “government-given goodies.”

          What is your solution to delivering healthcare more widely and cheaply?

          The same system that delivers plastic surgery and Lasik widely and cheaply.

          I know it’s because you don’t have one because that’s not something you care about.

          Translation: I resort to Ad Hominems whenever my intellectual acumen is lacking.

          Freedom means the freedom to die from preventable ailments because you don’t have enough money[…]

          Translation: Slaves also die at least just as easily, but I don’t care, I am still an eleuterophobe.

        3. Shithead offers this admission of ignorance:
          “…I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want insurance against medical eventualities.”
          Way to go, shithead!

        4. “Other than that, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want insurance against medical eventualities.”

          Can you think of people that don’t want insurance against certain medical eventualities? Like, dudes don’t need to cover OB-GYN shit, chicks don’t need testicle cancer coverage, post-menopausal women don’t need pregnancy coverage, and people who buy major medical policies don’t want insurance for cheap shit that they can pay out of pocket without risking bankruptcy. Choosing to lump all medical eventualities together is missing a good chunk of the point.

    2. Why, just yesterday I was demanding that a liberal just come out and say what they really mean, without beating around the bush: that they want to eliminate profit. Thanks for making my dream happen.

      Now you get to argue why healthcare is a right. I think we’ve been over this ground before…endlessly. But give it another shot if you feel especially plucky.

      1. Profit motive has its uses but it’s not a deity. All I’m saying is that healthcare is a special service because it’s an essential one. Everyone needs it, and unless we’re a truly barbaric society everyone’s gonna get it in emergencies. We use the insurance model for healthcare, generally, which makes sense. But private health insurance does not (and should not) have as its goal the delivery of quality affordable healthcare to all. Its goal is profit. That’s fine, that’s the job of a private business. That doesn’t mean it’s adequate to take care of needs we can identify as civilized human beings, such as the need people have for healthcare. That’s why civilized places take the insurance model of supplying healthcare and simply apply it universally on a single-payer basis.

        Healthcare isn’t a right in this country (unless you’re above a certain age or below a certain income level). In every other advanced country, it is a right. My position is that it should be a right, not that there is a stone tablet from the sky declaring it thus.

        1. We don’t deilver food through a single payer system or declare it a right. You can live a long damn time without health care, and less than 2 weeks with out food. Seems to me food is more essential. Why is health care deserving of special legislation and an entire system set up to deliver it when food isn’t?

          1. Food of course is a different animal considering its costs are predictable and regular, which is to say people don’t go bankrupt because of unexpected food needs. We do, however, subsidize it directly for the poor (food stamps) and its production in some cases.

            1. Re: Tony,

              Food of course is a different animal considering its costs are predictable and regular

              You don’t seem to wonder why.

              1. Because I know I’m going to need food tomorrow. I probably won’t know if I am going to have an attack of pancreatitis.

                1. Re: Tony,

                  Because I know I’m going to need food tomorrow.

                  Who are you replying to? Your reply makes no sense. The reason the cost of food is more or less predictable is because you have myriads of suppliers, buyers and speculators, not because you need food tomorrow.

                  I probably won’t know if I am going to have an attack of pancreatitis.

                  You don’t know if your house will catch fire tomorrow, either, but that does NOT mean you have a right to “fire insurance.”

                  1. You don’t know if your house will catch fire tomorrow, either, but that does NOT mean you have a right to “fire insurance.”

                    Um, almost everyone in the developed world has collectivized firefighting. It exists precisely because of the unforeseen nature of the problem, and it is exactly analogous to healthcare.

                    Over a lifetime it’s quite possible to pay more for food than healthcare or fire insurance. Why it works in a more free market is because that cost is spread out regularly and predictably. It’s a basic need that is not best served by the insurance model. Yet we STILL subsidize it in this country. I don’t get why you think this is such a good comparison.

                    1. There’s a difference between “collectivized firefighting” and getting your dwelling replaced even if you don’t have FIRE INSURANCE.

              2. In his defense, most people never have a sudden, sharp increase in demand for food, on the order of several thousand dollars worth each day.

                That can happen in medicine.

                1. Re: James,

                  That can happen in medicine.

                  That can happen in almost anything that is provided by an expert, including having your cesspool pumped. That does not make cesspool service a “right” any more than “healthcare.”

                  1. That does not make cesspool service a “right” any more than “healthcare.”

                    You’re correct. What makes it a right is a government codifying it as such. The reason it should be a right is because it’s a basic human need and we are human beings living in the 21st century.

                    1. Stop jockeying Tony…..you’ve qualified for that government position….I’ll have my people call you.

                      Jeez I’m on his side and I’m even getting tired of his silliness.

                    2. Drink!

                      Also, good circular logic. Healthcare is a right because we are human beings, and human beings deserve human rights.

                    3. Welcome to applied ethics.

        2. Re: Tony,

          Profit motive has its uses but it’s not a deity.

          Nobody claimed it was a deity. You made that one up. It is the search for psychic gain.

          All I’m saying is that healthcare is a special service because it’s an essential one.

          You’re going in circles, Tony. What is “essencial” depends on the circumstances. A healthy person does not need healthcare.

          That’s why civilized places take the insurance model of supplying healthcare and simply apply it universally on a single-payer basis.

          The reasons these “civilized” places do this have nothing to do with your beliefs.

          In every other advanced country, it is a right. My position is that it should be a right, not that there is a stone tablet from the sky declaring it thus.

          Having something by right would mean that it cannot be refused, for it is the person’s. Which posits an interesting question that you may be able to answer:

          If doctors stopped working, would they be violating people’s “right to healthcare”? Should they be compelled to provide their services? Would that look like slavery to you?

          Give it some thought, and maybe you will start to realize just what a “right” is.

          1. A healthy person does not need healthcare.

            No, a healthy person needs health insurance. We all have bodies–like children, a reality of being human that libertopia doesn’t seem account for.

            The reasons these “civilized” places do this have nothing to do with your beliefs.

            Sure they do. One of the many innovations in human liberty made in the 20th century was the recognition of the need for universal healthcare as a right. It just didn’t make it to the US for various reasons.

            If doctors stopped working, would they be violating people’s “right to healthcare”? Should they be compelled to provide their services? Would that look like slavery to you?

            Doctors are compelled to provide services in certain circumstances because of medical ethics alone. Yet another illustration of how this industry is not quite the same as all the others. It does not look like slavery in the slightest, in the same way that forcing a fry cook to cook the fries you ordered isn’t slavery. Nobody forced anyone to go to medical school. If all doctors went Galt, I’m sure there would be people willing to take their place.

            1. Re: Tony,

              No, a healthy person needs health insurance.

              Why?

              Sure they do. One of the many innovations in human liberty made in the 20th century was the recognition of the need for universal healthcare as a right.

              You look so cute when you’re being naive. Healthcare is not a right for the simple reason that you cannot have as a matter of right someone else’s services. You can only have as right what you already HAVE.

              These “civilized” places provide care sorely by government mandate in order to receive the tacit acquiescence of their populations. It’s simple and crass CROWD CONTROL.

              Doctors are compelled to provide services in certain circumstances because of medical ethics alone.

              That’s not true, they are not compelled to do anything. The most they can suffer is a suspended license to practice; that only creates an opportunity cost for the doctor, but not an obligation by force.

              You are avoiding the question.

              It does not look like slavery in the slightest, in the same way that forcing a fry cook to cook the fries you ordered isn’t slavery.

              I can’t force a cook to cook fries, Tony. Asking the cook to fulfil his agreement is NOT forcing; I simply do not pay him, but I cannot force him. Nor can I force a doctor to serve me. MAKING someone to do something against his or her will, by FORCE, is called “slavery.”

              Nobody forced anyone to go to medical school.

              And?

              If all doctors went Galt, I’m sure there would be people willing to take their place.

              So much for healthcare being a right, then. It is CLEAR by your statement above that healthcare is contingent to a doctor’s will to serve.

              1. Why?

                Because of unforeseen medical needs. We’re not going to make emergency care wealth-dependent. It’s just not something civilized people do, so everyone needs to contribute to a universal system. It’s only fair.

                Healthcare is not a right for the simple reason that you cannot have as a matter of right someone else’s services.

                So armed defense isn’t a right either. Neither is education. Neither is property. All of these require the services of someone to realize.

                that only creates an opportunity cost for the doctor, but not an obligation by force.

                So how is that different from your example (flawed though it is)? Doctors can always resign. No one is being forced to do anything. You’re inventing a scenario out of thin air in which doctors are forced to do something and then you are calling it force. Well how about that.

            2. My healthcare usage *knock on wood* has been minimal – even at age 40+.

              Same with my dad at age 70.

              He will eventually need surgery, hospice care, etc etc – or maybe he’ll just die in his sleep. I don’t know.

              But to force someone to buy insurance via a mandate as part of the “collective good” is slavery. Where does this slippery slope end? And that’s my big problem with the Left – there is no end to the nannyism.

              1. Where does this slippery slope end?

                Well it didn’t begin with healthcare. Your argument is that having the armed forces is equivalent to slavery–or left nannyism, which are apparently the same thing.

                1. Your armed forces analogy is really weak.

                  We currently don’t have a draft.

                  1. And we won’t be conscripting doctors to do anything. What do you think this is? Our system will remain largely supplied by the private sector, government just has to act as a buyer. I’m sure the doctors don’t care who’s writing the checks.

          2. Take it a step farther, even. What if a bright, motivated student decides to pursue a profession other than medicine? Maybe he even considered then rejected medicine as a career based on a desire for personal gain. Should he be compelled to complete 8 years of medical training against his will? Followed by his being required to work as a doctor for 35 years? If not, what happens to the quality of doctors and thus of medical care?

            Don’t worry, we’ll never see it – it’s the magic of having your “unintended” consequences always among the unseen impacts. The “seen” is that we all have medical insurance (not guaranteed care mind you), so, yea!

    3. “So a good first step would be to remove profit from the healthcare equation.”

      Let’s try that in food production, and see how that works. Airplane manufacture. Computer production.

      1. Re: Doktor Kapitalism,

        Let’s try that in food production, and see how that works. Airplane manufacture. Computer production.

        Oh, it’s been tried and tested many times. Tony simply wishes it weren’t true.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korean_famine

        http://libcom.org/history/labo…..on-filtzer

        1. MiniTel in France is an example of government “advances” in computer production. When it was clear that it belonged in the toilet, their competitive instincts led to it being offered in six colors.

          Proud of you, French politicians. Proud.

    4. Twaek, Tweak, Tweak TweaK………..Yay Tony!

    5. So a good first step would be to remove profit from the healthcare equation.

      We just need a five year plan.

    6. …force everyone to buy homeowners’ and auto/motorcycle/RV/renters/pianos falling from the sky in the desert insurance policies.

      1. Tony’s biggest problem is he doesn’t know what insurance is. He doesn’t understand that you can’t insure a common event like child birth.

  12. Tony, do you understand one damn thing about anything you talk about? I have thus far restrained myself from commentary, this after about a year of your mendacious commentary. You are like our very own Paul Krugman – always there to remind us how truly vacuous and flat-earthy the Left has become.

    1. I assume by “understand” you mean “buy into bullshit libertarian platitudes”?

      1. Ok Tony, bullshit libertarian platitudes . . . as opposed to what exactly? Keynesianism? Krugmanism? Modern liberalism, which is solely based upon flimsy bullshit platitudes? (Hope and Change). Which is it? All of them? I really would like to know what you think the solutions are, and which discredited philosophy you are adhering to.

      2. Bullshit platitudes?

        Tony|7.11.11 @ 12:48PM|#

        It’s perfectly viable with a few adjustments, including increasing revenues. What you fail to mention is that a private alternative is more costly for individuals than the taxes to pay for Medicare.

        reply to this

        1. A private scheme would be more costly for individuals, probably pricing most Medicare recipients out of the market altogether.

          I’m not saying the adjustments aren’t difficult, politically or otherwise, but I do know that the solution to a healthcare cost problem isn’t to make it more costly.

          1. When does the government ever make something less costly?

            I don’t mean shifting the burden from one of your favored groups to not-favored groups. I mean less costly.

            You can’t can you?

            1. When does the government ever make something less costly?

              Yes, that’s the type of platitude I’m referring to. All evidence suggests, based on cost-per-capita, that government makes healthcare less costly than the private sector. But I’m just going by evidence.

              1. Really?

                So the medicare that I pay for but don’t use is a less costly way to deliver medical care?

                Well you got me. Your complete glossing over of burden shifting issue is indeed a formidable argument.

                I stand corrected.

                1. So the medicare that I pay for but don’t use is a less costly way to deliver medical care?

                  I’m saying that countries with single-payer systems pay about half per capita what the US does with its quasi-private system. That’s just the facts, and you can look them up. I don’t see how you can explain it away.

                  By favored groups I assume you mean the poor and elderly, and by non-favored I assume you mean the non-poor and non-elderly. If you say so. It really has nothing to do with favoratism, just economic sense. We all grow old, and we could all potentially be poor. It’s just another facet of the risk management operation we call government.

                  1. Tony, may I ask which single payer countries you are referring too? The most completely single payer nation I am familiar with is Taiwan and their system is quickly going broke last time I checked.

                  2. It’s just another facet of the risk management operation we call government.

                    There are times I’m almost embarrassed for you.

                  3. I’m saying that countries with single-payer systems pay about half per capita what the US does with its quasi-private system.

                    You can’t use per capita cost when the things you are comparing are not equivalent. If I lived in Canada (which is 20 miles away) my wife would be dead so say her Canadian colleagues. I have lost 2 Canadian friends due to their lower cost single-payer systems.

                  4. Favored groups also includes the lazy and the fraudulent. Again, if you are so concerned about the poor why don’t you strive to end the fraud and abuse of the programs you cherish instead of coming looking for another handout?

              2. This is not a platitude, Tony.

                The US is fairly middling in cost growth compared to other OECD states (see Exhibit 3). Making the claim that governments actually make things cheaper is false on its face; prices grow in state-run systems, too.

              3. The stupid hurts. Are you just ignoring the qualifiers in the question, or do you really not understand?

    2. Koan, everything you need to know about Tony was in this post:

      Tony|7.12.11 @ 1:18PM|#
      Much appreciated. What I often fail to acknowledge is that often I’m merely playing devil’s advocate. I try not to have too many deeply held beliefs, if I can help it.

      I think this explaines why he’s so tedious and boring.

      1. Not everyone can be as big a spectacle as the person who shows up mostly to call me boring.

  13. There are some good comments here. James at 3:50pm is particularly accurate in my opinion. I have absolutely no hope that the U.S. will ever return to financial solvency. Until an overwhelming majority of voters become educated, wise, and honest with themselves it isn’t going to change. I believe the only solution is the complete failure of the economy worldwide. The question is will the remaining population do any better in the future?

    1. Not unless the real causes of the problems are defined and understood. For that, I have little hope. Ludwig von Mises summarized it all quite well almost a century ago but nobody in power has ever listened. The seductive call of central command and control wins out as de Tocqueville’s predictions on the end of the democratic experiment come true.

    2. Preach it, brother. I see no prospect at all of avoiding a major fiscal and financial collapse. Its a question of when and how bad, not whether.

      Just project out our current debt service at a blended 5% interest rate to get an idea how bad it is right now, today. I forget the specifics but the debt service at that rate is somewhere north of $400BB, I believe.

      The only real questions I have at this point are (a) how do I avoid being financially ruined when it happens, and (b) how can I make some money on it.

      1. We can all invest in directional Bear shares, but in the end they will still be worthless.

        It really frightens me to see the stock market jump up when the whisper of QE3 begins – to me it means that the market isn’t trading on fundamentals, but on the dream of more funny money being pumped into the system.

        If anything, it should drop since QE3 is basically admitting that the whole shebang is on weak legs.

        Anyways, I’ll be hiding out in the woods if things go bad. I’ve got a hidey-hole where I can chop wood and hunt for a living.

  14. Is The Answer To All Rhetorical Question-Asking Headlines Always, “Duh’?

  15. Sooo… if we’re going to end up having to pay huge amounts to keep Medicare and SS solvent, I guess we’ll have to get rid of almost everything else the federal government does (and a good chunk of state & local as well). Why wait? Let’s start today.

    1. Agreed. What the gubmint doesn’t realize is the repeated threats to shut down entitlement systems may cause the populace to ask what other systems are expendable.

      The answer? All of them.

  16. Well of course voters support raising taxes on the rich- most people don’t consider themselves rich, and believe others should pony up the money for them.

    I think James’ prediction above is right, with one caveat: According to the CBO, Medicare/Social Security will grow from 10% of GDP to 16% with the Boomers retiring. Given that, historically, we’ve only collected about 18% of GDP as tax revenue. This would leave us with about a 2% surplus, but then you have to factor in discretionary spending, military spending, and other entitlement spending.

    I think James is right that, in their ideal world, the boomers would have the military cut, the poor screwed, and everyone who is not above 65 shafted to pay for their retirement. Luckily, we got Obama. He’s increased the debt so damn fast that by the time the boomers realize their pet programs are at threat, our debt should be around 100% of our GDP. Then, it will take some time for the US to eliminate military and entitlement spending, jacking the debt up more.

    By the time we get around to shuttering non-retirement programs, it’s going to be through, full, Greek-style austerity measures.

    Also, just as a note: Even with the wave of boomers retiring, they will still make up only 25% of the population. While they are the most active voting group, if you were to say, start cutting money off of education and piss parents of children off, I could see people turning the pitchforks on their parents (parents in this case are the boomers).

    1. What percentage of the voting public would that be? I suspect that a motivated, organized 25% would be a substantial voting block.

      1. Those over 65 are currently 17% of the voting population, and will increase to 25% of the voting population with the boomers. While highly motivated, and with some in other age cohorts betraying immediate interests on the idea that they will eventually get the sweet deal over-65s do, I still can’t see that population surpassing, say, 35-40 percent.

        Now, that would be a much more highly motivated population, but long term it would be difficult for a group that is 25% to rule over the rest of the population. The British were eventually kicked out of India, after all.

  17. The Krugmonster tells us Medicare is sustainable in its current form, provided

    So Medicare will have to start saying no; it will have to provide incentives to move away from fee for service, and so on and so forth. But such changes would not mean a fundamental change in the way Medicare works.

    That is, the lefty way to “fix” Medicare is … exactly the sort of thing the Republicans are demanding.

    1. … with the exception that the government bureaucrats get to say “no” rather than insurers. This has a signal disadvantage for politicians, who don’t like to worry their constituents about things like accounting, and so pushing it onto the insurers is a logical step.

    2. But but but….Tony said tweaks…just a few tweaks…….!

    3. Shit Paul….if anyone but you propose scaling back services they’re a heartless monster.

      I guess that prize from the bank does imbue you with magical powers. Maybe you can let Tony borrow it when he posts here.

  18. “In the end, though, the long-term debt will have to be dealt with, even if there’s no combo of choices from the deficit reduction menu that a majority of the public actually supports.”

    That would seem to be a “no-brainer,” to use David Brooks’ term. I’m just afraid that the economy will improve enough to take the pressure off, so that we struggle along even longer in this dysfunctional state.

  19. The most likely outcome is a massive currency devaluation. The dollar amounts on all this crap won’t change, but it will be transacted in Monopoly money.

  20. Chris Matthews was just blubbering on TV about how he wouldn’t mind paying more taxes–I’m sure he’ll be gifting the Treasury any moment now–and that if you raise the tax rates, people will just work harder, contrary to what those evil RepubliKKKans are saying.

    The reductio of 99.9% tax rates–or even the concept of there being some sort of overly high rate–was, of course, not mentioned at all.

    It sickens me that this idiot has such a high viewership. Culture in decline.

  21. So if we all packed up and left the country what happen then? Wouldn’t be pretty.

    1. Where would you go? (Serious question, I’d like a Go Galt desination.)

      1. Good luck finding a place without a government, crybabies.

        1. Pot… kettle.

  22. Guess what? The “Rich” didn’t get that way because they let others decide how much money they make.

    It’s contradictory to suggest taxing the ‘rich’ while simultaneously claiming that said ‘rich’ have unfairly influenced government.

    Does anyone with any education at all believe that the same group of people who find ways to circumvent political donation limits and tax brackets, and who maximize deductions and investment loopholes will somehow ever fail to avoid paying money to the government?

    Are these people so stupid that they actually think that the closing of ‘loopholes’ will ever actually have an effect on politically favored donors, regardless of party affiliation?

    Do these true redistribution fetishists ever keep track of political donations by party?

    Get the rich? Hardly.

    Talk about living in a fantasy world.

    1. The “Rich” didn’t get that way because they let others decide how much money they make.

      So they can go out and make more money to replace any tax hike. Dear god the endless bullshit apologetics for never raising taxes. Clinton tax levels–those poor people, will they ever hire–or smile–again?

      It’s contradictory to suggest taxing the ‘rich’ while simultaneously claiming that said ‘rich’ have unfairly influenced government.

      It’s the opposite of contradictory. They have disproportionate influence on government. That’s only increased as their wealth has ballooned. Given that obvious trivial truth, the assumption now should always be that their taxes are too low.

      Does anyone with any education at all believe that the same group of people who find ways to circumvent political donation limits and tax brackets, and who maximize deductions and investment loopholes will somehow ever fail to avoid paying money to the government?

      Tax policy by just giving in. So tax them more until they pay what they owe. If the rich are so elusive of government then that is an argument that government isn’t strong enough. Thank you for making my case.

      This is YOUR conversation–debt reduction. So contribute something to it. You’re doing nothing but lamely parroting Grover Norquist. This is not a policy argument, this is an underhanded, dishonest, and absurd means of achieving ridiculous antigovernment ends.

      1. “Tax policy by just giving in. So tax them more until they pay what they owe. If the rich are so elusive of government then that is an argument that government isn’t strong enough. Thank you for making my case.”

        The government is “not strong enough” BECAUSE it has been, at least partially, entrenched in its current form by many?but not all– of the rich. The rich have always been savvy enough to know that the biggest threat to their bottom line is that lumbering retarded dinosaur armed with bazookas we decided to call the government. As long as it exists, the best place for them to be is on its back whispering Grima Wormtongisms into its ears so it’s ire can be directed elsewhere. Specifically, this comes in the form of campaign donors that virtually own(ed) the souls of Barack Obama, Bush 2: Bush Harder before him, etc. Any attempt at campaign finance reform has failed and will always fail, for when legal loopholes have been extinguished (they never will…the same lawyers that write these things up are the same who work for the donors) there will always be illegal methods to circumvent the dim gaze of the Bazooka dinosaur and currently said dinosaur is too busy binging on pointless war, Unicorn fantasy entitlements, and a miasma of other bullshit to competently police the very people that guide its wrath away from themselves. And why do they take the reins of this beast? Why are they so nefarious and crafty? Because said beast destroys lives without thinking. It is power incarnate, not wielded by angels, but by men too stupid, lazy, and ill-educated (different from poorly educated) to be actually be trusted with such power. In reality, it’s not that the beast is “not strong enough” but rather, it’s that it is TOO strong. It has too much power and influence over everything that to not find loopholes and favored positions is foolhardy if one has the necessary resources. If you want to reduce their influence you need to give them less of reason to given a shit about the lumbering Bazooka Dinosaur. Perhaps, taking away its bazookas and amputating its legs would give them less of a reason not to trust it.

        Of course, what is the real issue here? The real issue is that no matter how hard you try Tony, no matter how hard you squeeze and manipulate, the Rich, as a whole, will escape the trap. Nothing short of full on soviet-style mass murder could get them to pay more and we’ve seen the long term benefits of that policy. So, if our wishy-washy soft-tyranny style government can’t simply take from the rich, who can they take from? Well, the middle class of fucking course. The middle class who think they can get all these goodies for nothing, will end up over-paying for them including all the administrative bullshit overhead, union dues, unnecessary lawsuits, etc. that will result. They will be duped into another ponzi scheme as they were duped before, and even once they realize this, they will still demand their party bag simply because they got fucked, so they don’t care who else gets fucked after them. They will be trapped. We’re looking at the reality of the situation Tony. Because this system is far from the ideal, and because the prospect of necessary enforcement is laughable on its face (They can’t stop drugs?how the hell will they stop the saving and preserving of wealth?), they will only have the middle class and eventually the poor to fleece.

        1. I am less interested in “goodies” than I am in having an economy that rewards more than the top 2%, like it has been for 30 years. Maybe if more people made a decent wage, there wouldn’t need to be so many goodies given out. You act like the middle class has been getting too much. No, the wealthy have been getting too much. Whether it’s the form of a welfare check or an unjustified tax break or just policy that rewards wealth over work, they have been getting the bulk of the goodies.

          And I still don’t buy the argument that we have to give in because they’re too slippery. No one should be above the law. Again, this is only an argument that government–its most basic form, police power–isn’t strong enough. I do not accept a society that caves in to an unelected elite because they’re too powerful. Reduce their power.

    2. For christ’s sake if some junkie rapist were eluding government so masterfully, would you be applauding his ingenuity and saying government should just give in to the inevitable?

      1. Being a rapist is a violent crime… one of the worst.

        Not paying taxes =/= rape.

        1. For Tony there is no greater crime rape is no threat to his system, not paying taxes most certainly is.

        2. That is totally beside the point.

    3. Guess what? The “Rich” didn’t get that way because they let others decide how much money they make.

      It’s contradictory to suggest taxing the ‘rich’ while simultaneously claiming that said ‘rich’ have unfairly influenced government.

      You got that right. The vast majority of my monies will never, not in a thousand some years, mix with y’allz.

      There is not enough liquid assets in the entire system to pay for your entitlements. What are you going to do then when the monetized debt can’t be serviced and the interest rates skyrocket as a result? Force businesses to sell off capital assets so you can fund Medicare for a few years more?

      Saw it coming years ago, and got my ass out of the crosshairs.

      1. What are you going to do then when the monetized debt can’t be serviced and the interest rates skyrocket as a result?

        We can help with that! We are the most patriotic Americans ever! Burn it down!

        1. Indeed. People who loan money to the federal government are aiding and abetting terrorism, tyranny, and war crimes, and at a minimum should be taken for everything they put in.

          1. Also, patriots are those who support their nation, the word for those who support their government when is so adamantly opposed to the well-being of the nation is “lickspittle”.

            1. Busy doing yoga when I was around?

  23. All of this could have been avoided if the government could just have abided by the Constitution – as it was supposed to do.

  24. “Does Public Support for Entitlements Make Tax Hikes Inevitable?”

    If support for entitlements makes tax hikes inevitable–then support for tax cuts must make entitlement cuts inevitable.

    Support tax cuts now!

    P.S. Nothing is truly inevitable.

    By death we can escape taxes, and in time, we may yet learn to escape death.

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