Free Markets, Free People


Entitlements–the elephant in the room

As Republicans and Democrats jockey for political position in the upcoming budget fights, entitlements should loom large as programs that must be addressed and addressed quickly.

Instead, as we see so many times, the tendency to avoid the problem – to kick the can down the road- often becomes the chosen path.  Majority Leader Reid, for instance, has made it clear he doesn’t want to deal with Social Security at this time.

But, as we watch the deficit grow and debt pile up to unprecedented levels, most of us have come to realize there isn’t anymore road down which we can kick the can.  We’re at a dead end.  And the problem with entitlements still persists and has gotten worse.

Which brings me to the cite “elephant in the room” pertaining to entitlements.  Note the word – entitlement.  It connotes something which is owed without exception or change, something which is sacrosanct, something which can’t and shouldn’t be touched.

But Sal Bommarito at PolicyMic points out something which, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, we should all realize:

Abrogation of existing entitlements is an arduous process as the roar of liberal lawmakers and civic leaders is much louder than the proponents of the fiscal conservatism side. Often, a sense of entitlement can overwhelm such debates. However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that an entitlement is only valid so long as it earns the approval of the people. Changing economic prospects could increase or decrease our nation’s propensity to be altruistic. In essence, entitlements are “people-given,” not “God-given”.

There is no “right” to “people-given” entitlements.  They are a privilege we choose to bestow when we can afford it.

Some will argue, rightly, that not all of the entitlements are bestowed.  That in fact, by legal mandate, we’re required to send Washington a portion of our income they demand for programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

But in reality, while that argument is valid, it isn’t valid for spending above and beyond what the programs take in.  The fact that government has badly mismanaged programs into which we’re legally obligated to pay doesn’t mean the programs should be left untouched.  Bommarito then addresses the elephant in the room, the argument those wanting entitlement reform to bring those programs to an affordable and sustainable level (or, elimination) should cite each and every time the subject is raised:

The legitimacy of the programs should not be based upon emotional responses to poverty — by Congress, society, and/or the media. If our government has the economic wherewithal, the effective transfer of money to those less fortunate should be law. However, the financial stability of our country is paramount even if this has become harder to achieve in recent years. And so, Congress and the president may have to rescind entitlements in response to bad times even if the beneficiaries will suffer greater hardships.

The absolute and primary priority for our national government should and must be the “financial stability of our country” – period.  That priority should never be held hostage to emotional appeals about the result of cutting or changing programs we obviously can’t afford.  We should never allow unsustainable spending on entitlements to threaten that top priority.

And of course the end state of 2 courses of action tell you why that priority should be paramount as Bommarito states.  Course A – do nothing.  We essentially bankrupt the nation with continued unsustainable spending and entitlements become null and void anyway.   Course B – we address the problem head on and do what is necessary to make entitlements viable and sustainable.   Some entitlements remain in force, even if at a lesser extent than before and we preserve the fiscal stability of the country.

President Obama, in his speech addressing the budget last week, essentially said we could have our cake and eat it too.  He declared that the other side’s claim that we couldn’t “afford” much of the welfare state was just pessimistic and wrong.  And of course, he then put forward a plan that would eventually raise taxes for everyone to pay for the profligacy of past (and present) government.

Bommarito has stated the primary reason entitlement reform must be a primary concern of the next budget cycle. Why not addressing those programs and doing what is necessary to reform them and make them sustainable or eliminate them is an abrogation of the primary priority for this government.  Entitlements are a “people-given” choice which should and must always be secondary to the overall financial stability of our country.

It is time we addressed this elephant in the room properly.

~McQ

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21 Responses to Entitlements–the elephant in the room

  • WRT entitlements – a lot of the whiners who complain at those of us who want it restrained don’t bother to note while yelling about Grandma and Grandpa having to eat cat-food, that many of us ARE grandma and grandpa, or are soon to be grandma and grandpa.

    I guess it boggles their minds that having been responsible for much of our adult lives we intend to continue that behavior as much as possible until our lives end.

  • It is time we addressed this elephant in the room properly.

    Oh, it’s way past time. But we have a large contingent of people who either deny the reality (“What can’t go on forever, won’t.”) and are totally focused on their own selfishness, or think they can delay the resolution until they are dead and don’t give a d*mn what happens to the next generation, or actively wish for a shambles hoping to see the kind of authoritarian, collectivist government they really prefer.

    These people are effectively determined to force us into an economic catastrophe that hasn’t been seen in the history of mankind, even if some of them don’t realize it. They absolutely will not back down. They will use every weapon they possess to get their way, and they are going to insist on no cuts in entitlements and raising taxes into the stratosphere on anybody they don’t like. They will demagogue and shout down the opposition, and depend on decades of indoctrination to furnish a supporting contingent for anything they shout. 

    Then when that stops working, they will go to violence. We’ve already seen the first shimmers of it, and I think it’s going to get much, much worse as the crisis deepens and the reality becomes apparent even to apathetic, apolitical types who wish they didn’t have to care.

    Madison, Wisconsin showed us how far the left is willing to go, and it was just over a few minor cuts for public sector workers. When real entitlement reform starts to be seriously discussed, look for them to go about a thousand times worse, nationwide.

    • Madison, Wisconsin showed us how far the left is willing to go
      … but you see they have never admitted that there is a problem.  You see, the government can just tax some more.
      Coming from the group most likely to lecture anybody who will listen about the limited resources on this planet, to hear them say … that the government will just tax more … is like hearing the Pope talk about his girl friend’s abortion.

    • These people are effectively determined to force us into an economic catastrophe that hasn’t been seen in the history of mankind, even if some of them don’t realize it. They absolutely will not back down. They will use every weapon they possess to get their way, and they are going to insist on no cuts in entitlements and raising taxes into the stratosphere on anybody they don’t like. They will demagogue and shout down the opposition, and depend on decades of indoctrination to furnish a supporting contingent for anything they shout.

      And just who are “these people”?  And for that matter, who is “the opposition” they’re trying to shut down?

      In this, please tell me who are “these people” and who is “the opposition.”
      Poll after poll suggests that the vast majority of Americans – Left, Right, and Center – are “these people.”

      Obviously, to you, “these people” are public workers and other leftists.  So maybe at least you can tell me who is “the opposition”?
      Certainly not the vast majority of Republicans who have vowed not to cut SS.  And certainly not the TeaPartiers that overwhelmingly do not want cuts in entitlements.
      So who, exactly?

      Cheers.

      • The US can’t afford it.  If you take the debt and unfunded liabilities for entitlements and such, you end up with almost 65 Trillion.
        That is 500% of GDP.  We are out Greeking the Greeks, and the idiots that support all these buffoons (WH, democrats, current Repub leadership, etc) are singing Pollyanna’s every day.
        Where the heck do you even begin to pay for this?  If the government was a public company the lot of them would be in jail.  The same accounting processes that got Ebbers his deserved jail sentence are used with steroids by the gov.
        Pogue, it has to change and it has to change now.  You can’t keep defending this. We are all f-ed so bad

      • Who exactly? Well, who did you see in Madison? Public sector unions are one of the major groups. Academics are another, and they joined in up there.

        You are entirely correct that “those people” form a broad spectrum. It isn’t just the far left, though they add plenty of weight ot the group. It’s anyone who refuses to see the plain math in front of them on entitlements, or who sees it but doesn’t care for whatever self-serving reason.

        My question is, are you one of “those people”? Do you believe the entitlement mess will lead to economic chaos unless it is addressed seriously and in the near future? Or not?

        • I also forgot to mention the same idiot anarchists that show up at various events and trash everything in sight. They furnish some nice shock troops for collectivist leftists who don’t want to get their hands dirty.

          And I also forget to mention corrupticrats like Barney Frank, who was one of the principle drivers of the subprime crisis and did his d*mndest to block any meaningful attempts at reform before the SHTF. He has plenty of allies: Pelosi, Waxman, Leahy, et. al.

          Then we have the AARP, who will no doubt exert every form of backroom pressure they can muster against anyone trying to cut benefits in SS/Medicare, just because they reflexively take the collectivist welfare state line on pretty much anything.

          Do you really need more? Do you live in some world where there are not huge groups of people completely determined to keep the current system in place more or less unchanged until the point of catastrophic failure?

          • Do you really need more? Do you live in some world where there are not huge groups of people completely determined to keep the current system in place more or less unchanged until the point of catastrophic failure?

            No, I don’t live in a world with Tea Partiers – you know, the 70% of which that wants to keep entitlements.  Me?  I say end them tomorrow and I can keep my own money.

            70% of your beloved Tea Party wants to keep entitlements, and all you want to talk about is protesters in WI and a handful of silly kids pretending to be anarchists.
            Talk about the elephant in the room…

            Cheers.

          • Yeah, well, as to the majority of tea partier wanting entitlements.  If that is what they want then they are wrong.
            For all that they have enough other ideas correct to want to “educate” them on this.
            With the leftists no education is possible because the majority of them live is clown foofoo land and are ideologically incapable of giving up their fantasies on this.
            At least with tea partiers, you can have a reasoned argument. Pogue, you can despise these people all you want but the majority are real and rational than the anarchistic goons and retards that Billy points out.
            All the propaganda on this plainly are  confusing most people.  It is time that “someone” take some degree of leadership and explain exactly what is at stake.
            Tell them that they either reduce or they lose it all.
             

          • 70% of your beloved Tea Party wants to keep entitlements…

            Larry hit this pretty good. You’re trying to change the subject. I assume that’s because you have no other response.

            I asked a direct question and you ducked it. Are there many groups of people who will fight tooth and nail for entitlements, up to and probably past a consequent meltdown?

            Sure, some of them will be Tea Partiers. What does that have to do with it? They’re not “beloved” by me or the others here. Do you have to use Erbish binary logic about them? They are doing a good job challenging the status quo, which is desperately needed. But they don’t have all the answers, and they are diverse enough that some of them are pretty wrong-headed. Welcome to politics.

            Now stop trying to change the subject, and do some serious thinking about an issue for a change. It’s all well and good to say “end them tomorrow and I can keep my own money”, and I’d be perfectly happy with too. But the very point of what I said was that there are large, aggressive, organized groups that will not let us do that.

            You would like to “end them tomorrow and I can keep my own money”. I’d like two blonde supermodels in my bed tonight. Neither of us is going to get what we want. So let’s get back to the real world, shall we?

          • Larry hit this pretty good.

            He did, but not in the way you think.
            First of all, I don’t despise the Tea Party movement, or its population.  Nothing I have ever written should give anyone cause to think so.  Sure, I’ve been critical – but not to the point of hatred.
            Larry touched on education – he thinks that the tea partiers have enough good ideas that we should forgo educating them on this issue.  Then he contrarily suggests that Leftists cannot be educated.  So who is left to educate?
            I would argue that educating the tea partiers is where one should start.  After all, you have an attentive, concerned group of individual already having a foundation of wanting smaller government.  So why would one go after any group of Leftist that, by your own admission, is unwilling to budge?
            Wouldn’t it be best to spend your efforts to get those already sympathetic to your argument on your side, rather than to spend your efforts continuously and fruitlessly fighting a battle against Leftists that cannot be won?
            IOW, clean your own house first.

            Sure, some of them will be Tea Partiers. What does that have to do with it? They’re not “beloved” by me or the others here. Do you have to use Erbish binary logic about them?

            I call BS.
            It has everything to do with the tea partiers.  You berate me for changing the subject, but the way I see it – the tea partiers are the subject.  You’ll never, ever, get public sector employees on your side.  Their whole existence depends on the government.  But at least with the tea partiers, you have a group of individuals – a group who is no doubt primarily involved in the private sector and knows the true meaning of accountability – already sympathetic to your argument.
            But here’s the rub… you have yet to be able to even get them.
            Political parties are prostitutes – they will do all kinds of nasty for their paying customers.  Democrats won’t touch entitlements due to their base.  But Republicans won’t either, thanks to that 70%+.
            This is the 800 pound gorilla standing right next to, nay… embracing, that big-ass elephant in the room.

            Ever since the modern tea party movement came about, I have been reading nothing but adulation from this crowd.  But I’ve been harping on this since the beginning.
            Yes, they turn out in great numbers to support smaller government (although in decreasing numbers since the midterms), but they have consistently been inconsistent on subjects for which they espouse.
            They want smaller government, but they don’t want to pay for it.

            The only way that we can get to that goal that you and I both desire – and I’m not talking about the two blond models, but if you have any ideas on that I’m willing to listen – is to actually make that tea party the knight in shining armor, rather than prostrating to the myth that they currently are.

            Cheers.

          • Pogue wrote:
            Larry touched on education – he thinks that the tea partiers have enough good ideas that we should forgo educating them on this issue.
            Whereas I actually said this:
            For all that they have enough other ideas correct to want to “educate” them on this.
            I actually did say we needed to educate them on this (the cost of entitlements).  Please don’t twist my words.
            As to my statement where I accused you of despising tea partiers and you say not you don’t. Well consider that you certainly give that impression with the scare quotes, etc.
            :)

          • It has everything to do with the tea partiers. You berate me for changing the subject, but the way I see it – the tea partiers are the subject. You’ll never, ever, get public sector employees on your side.

            At least in the last sentence, you finally admit that at least part of my original point is correct. Thank you. Now let’s proceed.

            First, your characterization of the Tea Parties is at best simplistic. They back people like Rand Paul and Michelle Bachmann, who are fighting hard enough on this issue that the other Republican politicians are uncomfortable. So this idea that they’re just hypocrits who will call for spending reductions but will never, ever give up their anything when their own ox is gored is not supported. Sure, some are hypocritical about it, but if the group in general were as adamant about entitlement preservation as you suggest, they would not be supporting people like Paul and  Bachmann.

            Second, I started this whole thing by saying that it doesn’t much matter what the Tea Partiers or anyone else does. The dependent class, which includes the various contingents I wrote about, is going to push this to violence. Do you think it will be the Tea Partiers out there committing the violence if entitlements are threatened?  Because if you do, that’s just silly. So I say again, the argument is not about them, and trying to make it about them is dodging the main obstacles to settling this whole thing in a non-violent way. 

            I’m not saying I have a solution. I’m saying there isn’t one that avoids violence, and it is the various groups that I discussed that push us to that. Any discussion of what we can try must recognize that reality. I’m all for educating the Tea Partiers or anyone else who will listen, but that will never be enough to come to a non-violent solution to this mess. 

          • I actually did say we needed to educate them on this (the cost of entitlements).  Please don’t twist my words.

            Sorry, Larry, if I misunderstood your meaning.  Apologies.  Glad we can agree that the tea partiers are worthy of education on this matter.
            I would ask you the same courtesy.  Just because I am critical of the tea party, doesn’t mean I “despise” them.  Okay?

            Now Billy,
            First, your characterization of the Tea Parties is at best simplistic. They back people like Rand Paul and Michelle Bachmann, who are fighting hard enough on this issue that the other Republican politicians are uncomfortable.
            Talk about being simplistic.  So what if they back Paul and Bachmann?  What were their alternatives?  It is hard to argue against the 70% who don’t want entitlements touched.
            As I confront the tea party, I always encounter the same argument – the lesser of two evils.  So are the tea partiers not confronted with the same conundrum???  Backing Paul or Bachmann means little.  After all, they are two voices in a sea of accomplices.  And making other politicians “uncomfortable,” ooooooh, well we’re certainly headed down the path of righteousness.

            So this idea that they’re just hypocrits who will call for spending reductions but will never, ever give up their anything when their own ox is gored is not supported. Sure, some are hypocritical about it, but if the group in general were as adamant about entitlement preservation as you suggest, they would not be supporting people like Paul and  Bachmann.

            But it is supported.
            70%, Billy… Seventy percent.

            So I say again, the argument is not about them, and trying to make it about them is dodging the main obstacles to settling this whole thing in a non-violent way.

            Bullsh!t!!!
            The Dems won’t do it.  So it is left to the Republicans.  And the Republicans won’t do it as long as their base doesn’t want them to.
            You say that the main obstacle is some protesters in WI and a handful of silly kids pretending to be anarchists????
            Piles and piles of bullsh!t.

          • Off course they are.  They are common average people with all the crap that comes from being common average people.  I look at them as the sort of people who can see that something is really wrong n the country and want someone to address it.
            However, like any true organic movement (and they are), there is no real head, no consistent set of goals other than Taxed Enough Already.
            A lot of people see the energy there and figure they can tap into it and that produces even more inconsistencies.
            Rather than berate them, we should be happy someone is pissed off at what is going on.
            My apologies as to maligning your intent.  You are rather strong in your criticism.   ;)
             

  • I think it’s important to remember that Social Security was reformed on the recommendation of the Greenspan Commission appointed by Ronald Reagan. Taxes were raised. The retirement age was raised. Problem solved.
    Social Security, Medicare. You can’t fix stupid.

  • If our government has the economic wherewithal, the effective transfer of money to those less fortunate should be law.

    What sort of idiocy is this?  Why should wealth redistribution be the law?  Is it OK to rob Peter to pay Paul if Peter basically has so much money that he won’t miss it?

    Billy HollisMadison, Wisconsin showed us how far the left is willing to go, and it was just over a few minor cuts for public sector workers. When real entitlement reform starts to be seriously discussed, look for them to go about a thousand times worse, nationwide.

    Yep… because those lefty hoodlums will be joined by millions of people who are about to see the check(s) they live off of about to be reduced or completely stopped.  People get nasty when they think they’re going to lose their house or not have enough to eat, and the left will take good care to make sure that as many people as possible believe that these things are exactly what will happen.

    lookerI guess it boggles their minds that having been responsible for much of our adult lives we intend to continue that behavior as much as possible until our lives end.

    I’m afraid that the number of people who are and plan to be responsible are dwarfed by those who aren’t and never have been.  To some extent, this is the result of a decades-long disinformation campaign on the part of the left: “Don’t worry about your retirement, because Social Security and Medicare will ALWAYS be there.  You paid in, and you deserve good benefits.”

    There are also those who tried to be responsible but got bitten: “What do you mean my 401k was wiped out?”

    Read this yesterday and I think it is too the point:

    I don’t think of the long-term budget fight as being between Democrats and Republicans or between rich and poor. I look at it as a fight between people with funded retirements and unfunded retirements.

    If I have saved enough to support my lifestyle in retirement, then I have a funded retirement. If my neighbor who teaches in public school wants to support a similar lifestyle based on her pension, then she has a retirement that is somewhat unfunded. That is, as of now, her pension plan has only about fifty cents for every dollar of promised benefits.

    Down the road, someone is going to get the shaft. It could be my neighbor, it could be me, or it could be both of us. That is, people who are relying on the unfunded systems–public sector pensions, Social Security, and Medicare–might find their benefits cut. Or people who are relying on personal savings could wind up having those savings taxed away in order to address the shortfalls in the public systems. Or all of us could have our savings eroded by inflation, from which we may not be able to protect ourselves.

    (H/T Powerline)

  • Steve C, the full SS retirement age was not raised enough and also not indexed for increasing longevity. Base the full SS benefit retirement age on longevity estimated at age 60, subtract 6 yrs and SS will heal itself. For example for a boomer born around 1960, assume that age 60 longevity is estimated at 16 yrs so full SS retirement benefits begin at 76-6 or 70. Then index SS benefits to wage growth instead of CPI growth. Wages are what pay for SS benefits so they cannot increase faster than wages.

  • I really can’t see what prevented Republicans from campaigning for a spending rollback to 2007 or even 2008 sans bailouts.  What was there that caused so much misery that couldn’t even be the initial goal.

    If the Republican’s plan initially at least couldn’t have targeted that, then there will never be the courage by politicians to make the necessary cuts.

    The system will have to collapse before something can be done.