Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The GOP's Entitlement Game

Matt Yglesias has an extremely shrill post up about the GOP and Social Security:

Right now we have conservatives simultaneously calling for huge spending cuts and also getting the line’s share of old people’s votes even while the vast majority of non-security spending is on old people. In essence, by first separating the domestic budget into “discretionary” and “entitlement” portions and then dividing the entitlement programs up into “what today’s old people get” versus “what tomorrow’s old people will get” the political class has created a large and vociferously right-wing class of people who are completely immune from the impact of their own calls for fiscal austerity. In my view, that reality is the biggest driver of our current political dysfunction. There’s some need for spending to be lower over the long term than it’s currently projected to go and I think it’s politically and morally vital that the adjustments be made in a balanced way. You frequently hear of the need to exempt everyone over the age of 55 from any possible cuts. That’s nice for them and encourages them to go right on complaining about out of control spending. But the average 55 year-old will still be alive and collecting benefits in 2035 so the long-term budgetary implications of this “let the geezers keep their full benefits while they whine about how Democrats are bankrupting the country” are actually pretty significant.

I agree with Yglesias and others in pointing out that Social Security is not the cause of the deficit or the debt that's accumulated over the past decade. All the same, if conservatives, teabaggers, and Media Villagers are going to clamor for "entitlement" cuts generally, and Social Security cuts in particular, then the cuts should apply to everyone, right now. No more of this "austerity for thee, but not for me" shell game.

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