US spends too much on elderly, too little on kids

“We are eating our seed corn.”

Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama started the adult conversation over debt and taxes last week — if only barely. In a forthright and feisty speech, Obama defended the traditional social safety net while also acknowledging the need to curb the growth of spending, especially on health care.

But he riled many Republicans by re-introducing an inconvenient truth: Taxes must be raised. The nation simply cannot pay its debts and sustain worthwhile federal programs without more revenue.

While that’s a generally accepted bit of grade-school math in much of the political realm, it has become heresy in the GOP, which has taken up residence in a parallel universe of fairy godmothers, unicorns and Easter bunnies.  In that universe, lowering taxes for the rich magically creates jobs, fills government coffers and spreads prosperity for all.

That’s bunk, of course. George H.W. Bush famously called it “voodoo economics.” Still, that notion — proved wrong as recently as the presidency of George W. Bush — has gained a certain power through frequent repetition.

So it fell to Obama to remind Americans of the Clinton years — when taxes were higher, the budget was balanced, the deficit falling and prosperity widespread. The balanced federal budget was squandered by Obama’s predecessor, who slashed taxes, spent recklessly and presided over a period of tepid economic growth.

Obama will need to repeat the facts that link higher taxes with increased prosperity time and again. And even he didn’t go far enough; the president ought propose raising taxes on the merely affluent, not just the rich.

Moreover, Obama has only started to nibble at health care spending in Medicare, a voracious federal program. He ought to be frank with the nation’s elderly: they are draining an exorbitant amount of the national treasury, taking up resources that ought to be going to the young.

Somehow, we’ve managed to create an upside-down social safety net that maroons far too many children while swaddling the elderly in a cocoon. How can the nation “Win the Future” if we spend 2.5 times as much on its old as the young? (If you count federal spending alone, the ratio is more like 7 to 1.)

I don’t mean to sound cavalier about the needs of the elderly, who tend to be sicker and have higher medical expenses. Obama was right to pledge to protect Medicare against the predations of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-), who wants to end it.

But an adult conversation — a truly adult conversation — would engage seniors and help them to understand the consequences of our current spending curve. In nations that suffer famine, we hear wrenching stories of starving parents who give the last scraps of food to their children. We’ve taken a starve-the-kids, feed-the-old approach, instead.

While too many children are stuck in bad schools and poor housing, while community clinics that deliver vaccinations and asthma medicine beg for money, while young adults skip college because they can’t afford it, the elderly were given a budget-busting prescription drug plan during the Bush administration. That makes little sense.

If resources are limited (and they are), the nation needs to make choices – some more painful than others. My brother, Kevin, a Boston physician who treats kidney disease, talks about the Medicare program that pays for dialysis for anyone with failing kidneys — including the terminally ill. Started in the 1970s to help adults still in the workforce, its fastest-growing population is now over 65, he said.  And it costs tens of billions a year.

“It may not be the best use of resources for the frail and infirm elderly, and it also forces many elderly patients to spend their last days in the hospital, rather than at home,” a more comfortable setting, Kevin told me.

Yet, many patients, even octogenarians who don’t expect to recover, find it difficult to turn down the treatment. “And physicians resist having a conversation with patients that recommends they forego dialysis because it’s an uncomfortable conversation to have. It’s easier just to recommend the treatment,” he said.

But those are exactly the adult conversations we ought to be having.

218 comments Add your comment

JD

April 15th, 2011
10:07 am

Yup, we used up all the old people to our advantage and now that they have no worth to the younger generations you red necks want to just throw them on a pile to rot like compost!!!!

Really last word

April 15th, 2011
10:07 am

If you combined what we pay for children (education, after school programs, lunch/breakfast programs, healthcare, parks for them to play in, on and on) to what the elderly get . . children aren’t that lacking (one must consider the parents of the children . . do they take care of them!!!). Children are generally more healthy than elderly . . . that’s like comparing a freshly picked apple with one that has been sitting on the kitchen counter for weeks!!!

Tryanon

April 15th, 2011
10:08 am

Cynthia Tucker – a Socialist’s attempt to be Ann Coulter. But at least a partial failure. Lots of Bite, but NO humor!

Martin the Calvinist

April 15th, 2011
10:08 am

Cynthia didn’t you say that Republicans were using scare tactics and lies when the term death panels was used during the Obama Care health care debate. Now you you advocating that we tell seniors that their health care is too expensive and that they ought to consider going ahead and dying as supposed to continue their life. If and when a person decides it’s time to go, it should be a personal decision, not some government mandated decree. Sounds to me you do think there ought to be rationing of care, especially to those who have lived a long time.

Dawg Gone

April 15th, 2011
10:08 am

Really lets let one “poor” elderly person get 1 cent less than they think they are “entitled” to and well there is Tucker’s next column..

Cynthia Tucker

April 15th, 2011
10:09 am

de-segregation was the beginning of the end.just speking the obvious

Contractor

April 15th, 2011
10:09 am

Red,

Thank you very much for voicing the best post I have read all day. My grandpa died this week, and he is exactly everything you posted there. He fought for this country in WWII and Korea. He never accepted or took a handout from anyone, except the paycheck he earned every week. He saved and lived frugally so he could afford his own medical problems when times got bad, and that’s exactly what he did, used his own money. Half these idiots on here only take and never give like his generation, and yet they think they have room to speak. If it wasn’t for these elderly people, these entitlement programs wouldn’t be as funded as they are that these suckasses are taking from.

I'm Wit Ya

April 15th, 2011
10:09 am

So – we should take better care of the children than the elderly because they will have more to contribute throughout their lives. I agree. We should also take better care of the rich than the poor because they have more to contribute in the way of creating jobs, etc. And – we should take better care of the smart than the dumbasses for the same reasons. I’m glad we agree.

dee

April 15th, 2011
10:10 am

I have no problem with elederly spending. Those elderly living now paid their dues and served their country. I do have a problem providing for able bodied people who won’t work and do nothing but have children to get more welfare.

keaton

April 15th, 2011
10:11 am

Apparently the AJC will hire any libtard right off the street if Tucker and Bookman have blogs.

Only requirements must be an IQ in the double digits and a burning hatred of America

Some People are stupid

April 15th, 2011
10:11 am

Trisha-

Actually I do. Look up the projections around the time the bubble burst. And compare them to actuals.

Paddy O

April 15th, 2011
10:12 am

the blubbering love affair with Obozo never ends. You can terminate 100% of fed grants, cut aircraft carriers in half, reduce R&D for future aircraft (F-16 would still dominate the sky, and that is a 30 year old plane), terminate 100% of foreign assistance/development funds, reduce the State Department by 30%, eliminate the Dept of Education & Energy; eliminate the most socialistic program in the US – the Earned Income Credit. YOU COULD raise revenue via import tariffs – a minimum tax of $1.00 per unit or 5% of the cost, plus enact a “wage equalization tariff” (80% of difference between labor cost in US & China/abroad. No one should pay more than 25% of their income to the federal government in taxes. Here is a new, fair income tax system:

Mandates:
1. All citizens over the age of 18 must pay a minimum of 2.5% of their gross income to the government to fund the operation of the government.
2. All income, regardless of source, must be treated equally (dividends, recipient of child support funds).

The Equation:
1. All adults over the age of 18 will be provided a standard deduction of $25,000. All Children under the age of 18 will have a standard deduction for the primary care giver of $8000.
2. All income of an individual under 18 shall be added into the income of the primary care giver taking the $8000 deduction.
3. All taxpayers shall receive a 10% exemption upon their income.
4. Once all deductions and exemptions are reduced from the gross income, you shall have the adjusted net income.
5. The adjusted net income shall be multiplied by .17; this mathematical exercise shall render the amount of income tax an individual shall owe to the Federal government for the operation of the federal government.
6. However, if the amount in #5 is less than 2.5% of the taxpayers gross income, then the taxpayer must pay the higher amount (If you earned $100,000 – you must pay at least $2500; if you are 19 and earn 15,000, you must pay at least $375).

This income tax system fulfills the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

real john

April 15th, 2011
10:13 am

OMG. How do you try to reason with someone so ignorant?? It would literally take me two pages of facts and actual real data to completely destroy this entire article. However, because of my first sentence, it still won’t matter to liberals.

I’ve said this before, and unfortunately, I will say this again. Within the next decade, I truly believe the US will be headed for another Civil War. The Libs in this country will spend the US into oblivion and not take any responsiblity whatsoever. The Repubs are at least admitting some mistakes and trying to make actual long term solutions. Obama and Pelosi and Reed have no intentions of cutting spending. How else would they get votes???

I hate to inform you libs, but I don’t care how much you raise taxes on the wealthy, it is still not even close enough to balance the budget and lower the deficits. The people actually paying taxes will only take so much. The libs will push this country to that limit and revolt will happen within the next decade.

ATLAS Shrugged starts today. Ever lib/democrat needs to go watch this.

Daniel C.

April 15th, 2011
10:13 am

Complaining about the spending curve sounds fine in theory, but what are you going to do in practice to correct it? Take the terminally ill off of dialysis? It seems the accusations of “death panels” were not completely off the mark.

williebkind

April 15th, 2011
10:13 am

Troglodyke

April 15th, 2011
9:43 am
I think we should spend less on those who have sex other than for reproduction. That makes as much sense as your comments about obesity and smoking.

I'm Wit Ya too

April 15th, 2011
10:14 am

As an intelligent, wealthy, young college graduate, I agree with ya, I’m Wit Ya. I will contribute inifnitely more to society than most of these stupid poor people any day.

RambleOn84

April 15th, 2011
10:16 am

“real john,”
The Republican budget was laughable as well. Better than Obama’s, but not much better.

Rand Paul was the only one who came up with a serious budget (one that would eliminate the deficit within five years), but nearly everyone ignored it.

Republicans and Democrats on the Hill are equally at fault in my eyes.

Neither side wants to give up their handouts.

JP

April 15th, 2011
10:17 am

I am pretty much a left-of-center Dem. Not totally enamored of Obama, and I don’t hate Repubs out of reflex. I think both Obama’s and Ryan’s proposals have merit as well as faults. Neither really address the growing costs of health care – just how to pay for it. And while I do think revenue/taxes need to be increased, I would like to see heavy cuts across the board before such increases are implemented.

At the end of the day, the voters will have to decide what is more important. It’s just too bad that only 40% of us vote. The Tea Party (while I disagree with a lot what they are about) shows us what an engaged and fired-up citizenry can do. Sorry to ramble.

tar and feathers party

April 15th, 2011
10:18 am

The elderly have paid in full for their benefits, unlike your ethnic group Ms Tucker. We paid our income, social security, and Medicare taxes all our working lives. What have the lazy Medicaid bennies ever paid for? The ER’s are full of young healthy unemployed black males seeking drugs, just go sit in the waiting room for one day and keep count. Fewer than 38% of adults work in Georgia, the rest sponge off the rest of us. I pay over two thousand two hundred dollars to fund the school system in my county, yet you want more? I say “NO MORE.”

I speak jive too

April 15th, 2011
10:18 am

Ever notice how gutless the leftist quacks truly are? The illegals claim to love Mexico. The blacks insist they be referred to as “African” Americans and the diehards tout how great Cuba and Venezuela are; yet not a one of them have the balls to pack up and move there.

Hypocritical cowards all!!!!

Douglas

April 15th, 2011
10:19 am

You say Bush spent recklessly but don’t mention the astronomical spending that took place and is continuing under Obama ……. why not?

Also, the Ryan plan lowers tax rates as you mention, but you don’t mention that it also reforms the tax code to get rid of or lower deductions so that even though the rates may be lower, the revenue is not.

What is wrong with letting the states decide how to structure medicare and medicaid? It has not worked too well with the federal government being in charge of those programs.

Easy E

April 15th, 2011
10:19 am

People look at me funny whenever I say this, but I think we spend far too much helping a seriously-ill 91-year old live to be 92. There should be more that just being alive; quality of life should factor into the equation as well.

Mr Right

April 15th, 2011
10:20 am

Obama will need to repeat the facts that link higher taxes with increased prosperity time and again. And even he didn’t go far enough; the president ought propose raising taxes on the merely affluent, not just the rich.

CT, please explain how taking peoples money increases prosperity. So if that is true why don’t we tax everyone 90% and then we could really prosper like they did in the old USSR!!

beaker

April 15th, 2011
10:20 am

I’m 70 and I want more; if you don’t give me more, I will vote for someome who will.

Dekalb taxpayer

April 15th, 2011
10:22 am

Of course we spend more on the elderly. How many prescription meds does the average kid take?

Derwood

April 15th, 2011
10:22 am

we spend to damn much on our elected officials.

Some People are stupid

April 15th, 2011
10:25 am

Contractor-

The “you don’t spend more than you make”, I agree wholeheartedly, except this economy is literally built on people spending more than they make. In the government’s situation, they do spend to much..but there is also a tremendous loss of revenue from a recession, so to sit here and say cut everything is being disingenuous when it’s a 2 sided problem. Revenues are historically 19-20% of GDP, now they are 14%.

On the economic point, so was there a non-working society in the 90’s with a higher tax rate and lower unemployment?
I agree with your point in principle, but I don’t believe a 3% increase is the point where they don’t want to work.

Last point, taxes are never gonna go to everything you want and not to those you don’t want. That’s why you try and vote for the best steward of money in an election.

RambleOn84

April 15th, 2011
10:26 am

“JP,”
You talk about the problem of rising healthcare costs…but do you know why they keep rising? There is one reason…a middleman. Or more accurately, multiple middlemen. Insurance companies, government agencies, etc.

Look into LASEK surgery. This is cutting-edge technology, and was very expensive when it was first introduced. Yet now, it costs a small fraction of what it did just ten years ago. Why, do you ask? It is not covered by insurance. You pay for it out of pocket, directly to the doctor.

On the other hand, how much do you pay for a routine check-up? How much did it cost ten years ago?

This is why it was so laughable when Obama’s wonderful solution to the “healthcare problem” was to make everyone buy health insurance.

RGB

April 15th, 2011
10:32 am

“I would just love to hear this answer, how do you increase spending by cutting money out of the program.”

That’s a question for President Obama who pledged to remove $500 billion from Medicare.

Ryan’s proposal would give seniors multiple choices from companies who would compete with each other to offer higher standards of care, better service, etc. The result would be a decrease in the medical inflation rate which would lessen the need to ration care. Reduced medical inflation benefits everyone. Additionally, Ryan’s measure would help remove Medicare as an issue—especially from the Democrats who routinely campaign on the falsehood that Republicans want old people to die, starve, etc. along with children and puppies.

As far as your moniker “Some people are stupid”, I suppose you feel better about yourself with this name. I’ll stand on my beliefs. With practical experience in the field along with undergraduate and graduate credentials in the health care and business fields, I don’t feel “stupid”.

One thing further: Do you not understand that reducing the growth of a program is not tantamount to “cutting money out of the program”?

A little self-examination would be in order, Stupid.

Good Grief

April 15th, 2011
10:32 am

Woody______April 15th, 2011_____9:36 am
Referring to some of the comments here, it’s difficult for me to buy in to the idea that is is wrong, or rationally unjust, or logically incorrect, to collect a small amount from everyone to try to solve some of our widespread national problems…Sorry, peanut gallery, Mom taught me it was right to share. Taxes and programs to support children in basic ways are an efficient way to do that.
_____

Woody, if I came to you and ordered you under penalty of law to give me a certain percentage of the money in your wallet, would you really consider that to be “sharing?” Yeah, sharing is good. Taxation is not sharing.

williebkind

April 15th, 2011
10:33 am

How about stop adding those who can work but claim to have disability to the system. I have neighbors who never paid into the soc sec. system but are drawing about $700 a month. I wonder how many hundreds of thousands are doing that.

Me

April 15th, 2011
10:33 am

Mr Right
April 15th, 2011
10:20 am

CT, please explain how taking peoples money increases prosperity. So if that is true why don’t we tax everyone 90% and then we could really prosper like they did in the old USSR!!

Easy, we collect more and paydown our debt. Or even just collect more to balance the budget as we did in the 90s with Clinton. Then the world markets view our economy as stronger, and up goes the value of the dollar. Then you can more easily afford those Chinese goods at Walmart and Target. The key here is to have a balanced budget. You do that by trimming spending and collecting more – then watch what happens to the dollar. Just like in the Clinton years….. Everyone needs to pay their share.

Ivan

April 15th, 2011
10:34 am

“The balanced federal budget was squandered by Obama’s predecessor, who slashed taxes, spent recklessly and presided over a period of tepid economic growth.”

Yet, Obama has extended those tax cuts, has also spent recklessly, and presided over a period of tepid economic growth. In addition to another conflict over seas. How is he any different?

Cynthia Rucker

April 15th, 2011
10:34 am

I do not in any way support the Neo-Con lie and fear mongering of these factious “death panels.” Completely absurd.

I just simply believe panels of death should not be ruled out.

BDUDLEY

April 15th, 2011
10:35 am

Say what? My dad’s generation (The Greatest Generation), created our economy. My generation (the 60’s and 70’s), literally, battled for social equality. Now you, and others, want to declare me excess baggage !!!!. WTF??

fascist gopher

April 15th, 2011
10:36 am

If old, christian geezers are so confident they’ll met jeebus in the afterlife, why wait. Refuse your welfare benefits and get your wrinkly arses up to the pearly gates. praise gawd.

williebkind

April 15th, 2011
10:36 am

Ivan

April 15th, 2011
10:34 am

The difference between Bush and Obama is that Bush was honest and had integrity. Obama is a typical lying weasel.

sport

April 15th, 2011
10:39 am

If you had a friend that was holding your wallet and he went out and spent all your money on foolish things, would you let him hold your wallet again?Heck no. So now that we’ve all read the stories of wastefull spending (military waste, fraud ridden social programs, corrupt govt. workers, $10000 toilets, bridges to nowhere, red tape, over-regulation, costly re-election promises) and ALL concieved with the BEST of intentions, now that we have all seen this,how can someone say, the answer to our problems is giving our wallets back to the friend who spends like an idiot? How can someone actualy propose, our govt should spend MORE money? RU out of your f’ing mind?

We have a ga-zillion dollars in debt, and your best answer is too spend more and take more from the citizens of this country? You can’t be serious. In what financial/economical world are you living in?

Are you that tied to your political party to follow whatever comes out of their mouth? I suggest you take a huge step back, and have just one original thought while you’re still on this earth.

williebkind

April 15th, 2011
10:39 am

“My generation (the 60’s and 70’s), literally, battled for social equality.”

Yes and gave us drugs and diseases.

RambleOn84

April 15th, 2011
10:40 am

Well, the AJC doesn’t trust my government website. Can’t blame em. But I posted a website run by our federal government.

Anyone who thinks our taxes aren’t high enough can go and make a donation to pay down the federal deficit any time they wish.

Don’t be a hypocrite; put your money where your mouth is!

fascist gopher

April 15th, 2011
10:40 am

sorry bdud,

If you ain’t producin’ your’e a parasite, according to neal boortz. Consult your teabag handbook for next steps.

Tucker Turns Republican?

April 15th, 2011
10:41 am

Jeez! Cynthia Tucker has turned into a Republican? Now she wants to cut Medicare benefits for the elderly and let thme die just like the liberals accuse Republicans of doing? Will wonders never cease!

Tommy

April 15th, 2011
10:41 am

Ivan
April 15th, 2011
10:34 am
Yet, Obama has extended those tax cuts, has also spent recklessly, and presided over a period of tepid economic growth. In addition to another conflict over seas. How is he any different?

I will take tepid economic growth over decline (the 2000’s) any day. And the reckless spending – keeping people employed, with jobs. Hell even Bush’s TARP plan worked, and may even make the government some money. And those tax cuts won’t be around for long.

Gm

April 15th, 2011
10:45 am

RGB: Are you crazy, give the Seniors 8,000 volchers to pay for 50,000 bill, this is the idiots of the Rep party thinking, lets toss our elders to the side, the people who helped build America, Tucker you are wrong on this, our Seniors derserve everthing they get.

Thanks President Obama for standing up for our Seniors and God help satan Rep party.

frank

April 15th, 2011
10:46 am

dont worry cynthia… your president is going to institute death panels to take care of that problem.

drmac

April 15th, 2011
10:47 am

As always, the decisions of a few affect hundreds of thousands of Americans. Until you/they (our wonderful politicos) have taken care of an elderly parent and a disabled person at the same time plus work full time….you have no idea what this entails. I still look back and sometimes do not know how I did it for so long. I do know I did the right things for the right reasons. One day all of us are going to need someone’s help as we continue the aging process. As a baby boomer, I am having conversations right now with friends so we can all live closer to one another and help take care of each other. It’s sad what the elderly and disabled go through in this country. It’s beyond sad how they are allowed to be treated and mistreated. The elderly in this country have paid for their services, or lack of, in most cases. This irritates me greatly……

kayaker 71

April 15th, 2011
10:47 am

CT,

Three years ago I experienced replacement of an aortic valve, among other things in a rather extensive open heart procedure. Failure to correct this and I would not be responding to this thread. This was done at age 70. This is expected to give me another 10yrs. How much is ten more years worth? Are your parents still alive? Would you want some bureaucrat making your parent’s medical decisions for them, essentially throwing them under bus because of their age. We pride ourselves in having an increased life expectancy that rivals most nations but under Bozocare, that number will certainly drop because of selective treatment. What are you suggesting, death panels? The same thing that you chided Sister Sarah about? What happens when you need an aortic valve at age 70,CT? You going to pass it up to save the children? I think not.

williebkind

April 15th, 2011
10:52 am

I guess we can tell the old folks that “dying is part of living”!

Contractor

April 15th, 2011
10:52 am

Some People are stupid,

I agree with your last point that taxes will never go towards everything you want, and in fact it isn’t even half of what we want at the moment I get the notion. There is so much spending going on for useless things, that no one wants to give another penny to the government because it is essentially wasted. Our tax dollars are going towards creating and increasing an already entitlement based generation and to where people think the government will bail them out every time, so they continue to be a parasite on society. These people aren’t learning any lessons by the government pulling more money out of working Americans pockets and extending the benefits to those who refuse to look for a job and those that have 12 kids. Illegals that come into this country and continue to have babies for free, get medical attention, not pay taxes, and continue to slide under the radar are another crackdown that needs to happen. If they weren’t trying to get away with something, then they wouldn’t be under the radar and continuing not to apply for citizenship. Spending is already out of control and out of our hands, so weathering the storm is the best option until it is under control and cuts can be made.

I don’t see ONLY a 3% increase in our tax rates. Obama and his administration want to stick it to the rich and more fortunate in order to cover for the society that doesn’t live within their means. Ever since the beginning of time there have the people with, and the people without, and no form of government will ever be able to change that, no matter how holy Tucker and others think they are. The fact that Obama’s Healthcare baby has hidden fees and funding, tax hikes, and other hidden agenda is a red flag to me that if he gets his way, it won’t only be 3% increases.

fascist gopher

April 15th, 2011
10:52 am

How ’bout internment camps for geezers? We could trap a bunch of snow-birds in the a.m at Denny’s. No one would be none the wiser. Problem solved.