Today, President Obama’s deficit spending commission meets for the first time. So here’s a little exercise for those of you who are serious about reducing government spending: What to do about Social Security and Medicare, which are enormously popular government programs that eat up a large portion of government dollars? (The average beneficiary gets back more than he/she paid in.) If you are a Medicare or Social Security recipient, are you prepared to give up some of your benefits?
Over at FrumForum, the conservative blog by David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, a young writer has noted the hypocrisy of tea party supporters, who say they want smaller government but want to keep entitlement programs:
As Republicans and conservatives have scrambled to rally the support of the Tea Party movement, many have failed to take notice of some of the important inconsistencies implicit in the Tea Party message. A recent New York Times/CBS poll reveals some interesting information about the movement and its fundamental “principles.”
According to this poll, 91% of Tea Partiers want a smaller government with fewer services. Despite this hostility to big government, 62% of Tea Partiers believe that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are worth the cost (apparently no one bothered to tell them that Social Security and Medicare are evil Godless socialist programs). This would suggest that in order to achieve fiscal sanity the Tea Party believes that spending cuts are to be implemented elsewhere within the vast expenditures of the federal apparatus. However when one examines their beliefs on paying down the debt, the result is somewhat troubling. When asked whether they preferred deficit reduction or tax cuts, 49% of Tea Partiers said they would favor tax reduction while 42% would prefer deficit reduction.
So, tax cuts are preferred to debt reduction, and social security and Medicare are well worth the cost. This sounds less like a movement of mature fiscal hawks and more like one of whiny adolescents (who actually happen to be middle-aged) who want their current taxes lower and their future benefits higher. They are only concerned with fighting government spending that benefits other people and are desperately seeking to save their own precious benefits. They think the costs are well worth it and they have no intention of shouldering the burden themselves. These costs will be incurred by future generations whose taxes will be higher and whose benefits will be lower or nonexistent.
The pie chart below shows federal spending for the fiscal year 2007, but the proportions of government spending haven’t changed much since then.