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Former New York Times Editor: Entitlements "arithmetic simply doesn't work"


Math sucks

Last week, former New York Times editor and current columnist Bill Keller did something interesting: He openly blamed Baby Boomers for "entitlement bloat," asserting that "the traditional liberal alternatives — raise taxes on the well-to-do, cut military spending — are not nearly enough by themselves," arguing that "at least the Republicans have a plan" about this mess, and pointing out that "the arithmetic simply doesn't work, unless we face the fact that entitlements are a bargain we can't afford to keep, not in full."

Sounds a lot like our August cover story by Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy, "Generational Warfare: Old-age entitlements vs. the safety net."  

Mostly lost in the inevtiable how-dare-he backlash was this damning, fact-rich chunk in Keller's original piece, as summarized from a new report by Third Way, a "centrist Democratic think tank":


In 1962, we were laying down the foundations of prosperity. About 32 cents of every federal dollar, excluding interest payments, was spent on investments, only 14 percent on entitlements. In the mid-70s the lines crossed. Today we spend less than 15 cents on investment and 46 cents on entitlements. And it gets worse. By 2030, when the last of us boomers have surged onto the Social Security rolls, entitlements will consume 61 cents of every federal dollar, starving our already neglected investment and leaving us, in the words of the study, with "a less-skilled work force, lower rates of job creation, and an infrastructure unfit for a 21st-century economy."

This is why Democrats are always so quick to change the subject to stuff they couldn't even build anymore (and in some cases didn't build in the first place), like the Golden Gate Bridge. Maintaining the illusion of eternal government giveaways has been good for their business, and will continue to be until they (and also-guilty Republicans, meaning most of them) are repudiated, humiliated, and fired.

In related news, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently referred to spending-averse conservatives as "the E. coli club."

NEXT: Pussy Riot Verdict Expected on Aug 17

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  1. No shit.

    1. A retraction of the column is forthcoming, after a meeting with close “associates” who will enlighten him as to the error of his ways.

  2. I suspect that this is the prime reasons liberals have gone barking mad in the last 20 years and turned liberalism from a wrong but consistent political ideology into an impulse driven fashion statement. Reality does not appear to have a liberal bias. And that isn’t going over well.

    1. The “problem” is that responsible leftist governance requires an effective tax rate on the American middle class that Americans are not willing to pay: Germany and the Scandinavian countries can have larger welfare states and relatively balanced budgets because they tax their citizens at a much higher rate than the US. If given a choice between a welfare/entitlement state and no welfare entitlement state, most Americans will choose the former, but not if they have to pay the taxes that fund it.

      The walls are closing in around yet another cherished leftist program, and they know it — but doing the right thing would mean relinquishing power and patronage with certain constituencies, and they’re not going to do that willingly.

  3. Whats the rationale for how this massive drop in spending over the next 5 years is going to occur?

    1. Looks like “other” falls back to normal levels in the projections. Which means that we arent going to do more stimulus or fight wars in the next 5 years, which is nice that they are committing to that now.

    2. Actually, that big drop is supposed to happen after 2010; IOW, most of it is supposed to have already happened.

      I think we need a new chart. The “other” hasn’t fallen since 2010; its been kept going or grown a little with the continuing resolutions.

    3. The coming Greater Depression.

  4. Maintaining the illusion of eternal government giveaways has been good for their business, and will continue to be until they (and also-guilty Republicans, meaning most of them) are repudiated, humiliated, and fired.

    No Matt it will continue until the country finally goes broke.

    1. “No Matt it will continue until the country finally goes broke.”

      -16,000,000,000,000 is broke.

      1. You are not broke until the bank says you are.

        1. You’re not broke until you’re in debtor’s prison, traction, or a grave.

      2. We still have checks.

  5. kinda like the periodic eclipse, one of these NYT folks feels inspired to acknowledge reality. It will pass and, soon enough, Keller and the rest of the media Borg will return to their “someone wants to starve babies and kill grandma” ways.

    They tut-tut about malicious truths as though no one else has pointed out their existence and just as quickly revert to true form. The reality who the left is shows up in the Backlash part.

    1. They will often admit general reality. But then as soon as someone proposes a specific cut to do something about it, it immediately becomes about killing babies again.

    2. and in the Backlash piece, even Keller can’t help himself:

      I think it’s too risky to expect ordinary consumers ? busy, stressed, fearful, unschooled in the vagaries of markets ? to be expert stewards of the investments on which their old-age security depends

      In other words, “most of you (not you NYT readers, of course, the other you) are too damn stupid to do anything without govt. They’ve never heard of 401k’s, investment firms, online tools, or other means of self-help. No, only govt in its infinite wisdom can stand between the elderly and their dying in the streets.”

      1. I first read that as “infantile wisdom.”

      2. “If your investments have grown, you didn’t earn that.”

    3. Sigh, you didn’t read the article. Babies and grandma are out. E. coli is in.

  6. He keeps talking about “investments” by the feds. What are those?

    That chart shows a big drop in spending after 2010. I haven’t noticed any such thing.

    1. The graph is in percentage of GDP so spending could increase but still show as a drop on that graph.

      The other reason of the projected decline is the currently on the books sequestration cuts (which probably won’t happen) and the drawdown in war spending based on the assumption that we withdrew from Iraq in 2011 and will withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014.

      I’m sure it also is based on the mythical savings present in Obamacare going into effect.

    2. They’re the same kind of investments Bernie Madoff offered.

  7. entitlements are a bargain we can’t afford to keep, not in full

    How about we stop lifetime and even generation spanning welfare for people who are perfectly able to work, and get the government the hell out of the way so that jobs get created in the private sector? Oh, and cut the size of the federal government by about 75%. Then the people who actually need government assistance can get it and it won’t break us. And then a fair tax law where everyone pays something, so that everyone has a stake in the game.

    Democrats are never going to willingly let go of their locked in voters who are fully dependant on the government. They will just keep promising more, more, and the percentage of those full dependent on government will continue to swell until the bubble bursts… actually it will be more like a nuclear implosion. And then the system will collapse and we have to start over again.

    The political battle is lost for now. The progressives have won, but that victory will be short lived. All us Libertarians can do is keep spreading the message and hopefully wake up enough people that after the collapse, enough people will see, finally, that socialism really does not work and we will finally get some liberty and a thriving economy again.

    1. Democrats are never going to willingly let go of their locked in voters who are fully dependant on the government.

      Republicans are almost as bad, except when they are worse, than Democrats. Remember Medicare Part D?

      1. Republicans can be worse than Dems, especially on civil liberties/WoD, but Medicare Part D is a bad example to use. As a percentage, more Democrats than Republicans voted for Medicare Part D in both the House and the Senate, and the Democrats’ proposed version was 1) more costly, and 2) more government controlled.

  8. Sounds a lot like our August cover story by Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy

    It sounds like the Goldwater in 1964. The arithmetic problem and its social consequences were understood 50 years ago. The NYT and most politicians studiously ignored it. Several demographic shifts and the 1983 tax increase delayed the inevitable, but when something is apodictically inevitable, it will happens.

    1. At the suggestion of my father when I was in college I dug out the Congressional Record and read the floor debates about medicare and medicaide. It makes for appalling reading. Goldwater and a few others said these programs would never be contained once started and would bankrupt the country. No said the supporters. These were just small programs to help the truly needy and would never balloon to the size and scope scaremongers like Goldwater predicted.

      1. dig up the hearings a few years into implementation. particularly the Medicaid side. HEW staffers reporting about the number of “too prouds” declining. they basically when door-to-door and browbeat people into enrolling.

    2. It sounds like the Goldwater in 1964.

      “But in your guts, you know he’s nuts!”

  9. This, is why I’ve nearly given up hope on a political solution. We’re spending more than we can conceivably ever pay, and what we’re spending on is primarily stuff people will simply not allow elimination and cuts for. Even when we’re told there are cuts, that almost exclusively means that we increased spending less than we increased it last year. The whole system is broken, and is going down in flames.

    1. There is no greater addiction than to free money. Once the government starts giving away money, there is no stopping it.

    2. You’re right, of course, but Rome didn’t fall in a day.

      1. We won’t fall so much as the current model of government will. And that will be a good thing. There will still be a United States. And it will be damaged but on its way to recovery after this bout of insanity fades.

        1. And it will be damaged but on its way to recovery after this bout of insanity fades.

          I doubt it. I have very little hope on anything even remotely resembling a limited “libertarian” government forming after the dust settles. My money’s on full on unbridled socialism, if not full communism. We’ll have to wait after that inevitably fails to maybe have a chance. By then we’ll all be dead either from old age or from the result of the “purges”.

          1. Nah. You can’t have socialism. There is no money for it. And we won’t get full on communism because the current Marxists are too retarded to even understand their own theory. What we have is a bunch of children screaming for their treat. And that will fade. Reality will make it so.

            1. I’m just worried that there will be a hard push for world government. If it is timed with a US crash, I’m willing to bet that a large portion of the US would be willing to go along with it.

      2. Technology will speed that up in our case. Look how quickly Weimar Germany fell. Our will be quicker once it finally takes hold.

  10. The comments on the NYT piece are predictably nauseating. Not sure why I bothered this time.

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