Don’t take it from us in the form of taxes. And don’t take it from us in the form of benefit cuts. Neither, currently, are politically realistic options, given the nature of the characters that we collectively send to Congress. Nobody has the balls to cut*, and nobody has the balls to raise taxes. And this year, the United States is set to run a deficit that’s in excess of a trillion dollars.
I’ve heard it said before that America is a philosophically conservative, operationally liberal country. Meaning, we like to think of ourselves and our country as a rugged lot of individualists, but the reality is that we like getting other people’s money handed to us in truckloads in the form of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. To me, that people like their entitlements is fine. I’m a Democrat, I think those programs are there for a reason. They form a social safety net that prevents tens of millions of people from leading existences that are downright awful. But, Americans don’t seem to get that someone has to pay for them. The prevailing mentality amongst voters is that the government needs to cut spending, but God forbid that they touch those social programs such as Social Security or Medicaid.
Nobody likes taxes. But they’re the price that we pay for living in a civilized society. And the fact of the matter is that if we, as a nation, are politically unwilling to touch those benefits, we are going to have to raise taxes, which, historically speaking, are at their lowest levels since the 1950s. The fact that we’re even discussing extending tax cuts while this nation is running an annual deficit that’s north of one trillion dollars is utterly laughable. If I had my way, I’d freeze, for a period of five years, all growth in any government entitlement programs, coupled lifting the mandatory retirement age to 70, or higher, with small increases in payroll taxes to make the system solvent. I’d also probably make it so that if you received government health care, you’d lose your benefits if you were a cigarette smoker. I have no idea why we pay for the healthcare of those people who smoke. Give it up already.
But, that’s not going to happen. It has to get worse, scarily worse, before America acts. If anything, we’re a nation of proscrastinators, and you can be guaranteed that we’ll act only at the last moment possible, assuming we act at all, God willing.
* On Thursday Republicans proposed budget cuts over the next decade that would trim $2.5 trillion from the federal budget, but none of it touches either entitlements or defense, which, together, form 62% of the federal budget (based on FY 2009 figures). And the fact of the matter is that you’re not going to be able to balance the budget without touching those two holy cows. So, to me, this is the GOP selectively targeting those programs that they just don’t care for, and claiming that they’re doing it in the interest of ‘fiscal responsibility.’ If that’s a joke, it’s not that amusing.