Wednesday, August 06, 2008

We're broke (Bonus "Mad magazine" reference within)

GMTA again as the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby excoriates both Presidential candidates for ignoring the looming entitlement crisis:

This is the year that the first of nearly 80 million baby boomers become eligible for Social Security payments; within three years, they will begin drawing Medicare benefits as well. Those two programs alone already account for one-third of the federal budget - 42 percent if you add Medicaid, which is also focused largely on the elderly. But in the years ahead, their costs will explode. If nothing changes, the Concord Coalition warns, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the national debt will consume every penny of federal revenues in less than 20 years.

Clearly, things will change. They have to. Either taxes will be hiked to unprecedented levels, or spending - especially on entitlement programs - must be forcefully reined in. There is no other alternative short of continuing to run up the national debt, thereby loading our children with an unconscionable financial burden.

But where is the presidential candidate who will talk honestly about this? McCain insists he will balance the budget and "provide the courageous leadership necessary to control spending." Yet his economic plan is devoid of details, offering little more than windy promises to "stop earmarks, pork-barrel spending, and waste" and freeze nondefense discretionary spending for a year while spending programs are reviewed.

Obama won't even go that far. His campaign touts a "Plan for Restoring Fiscal Discipline" that is as vague as McCain's, but he rules out balancing the budget - "because," he told reporters last month, "I think it is important for us to make some critical investments right now in America's families." The National Taxpayers Union Foundation, tallying the promises made by the presidential candidates, calculates that Obama 's "investments" would cost taxpayers another $344 billion a year. McCain's add up to an extra $68.5 billion.

We are awash in a sea of red ink, and the tide is coming in. Alfred E. Neuman isn't worried. Are Obama and McCain?
As Bizzy Blog points out in this meticulously-researched post, the strains of entitlement spending will start to show in only two years when the surplus going into the Social Security Trust Fund starts to shrink: "In 2010 (perhaps 2009, if the economy slips into recession), that subsidy to the rest of the government will get smaller with each successive year. Every year in which the subsidy decreases will be a year with three stark choices: cut spending, raise taxes, or issue more debt."

That's why it's silly for either Presidential candidate to talk about new spending proposals. Sooner than you think, the government will have to honor the $9+ trillion dollar debt sitting in the Social Security Trust Fund. New federal college loans? We'll be lucky if we can avoid selling Alaska back to the Russians.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"In 2010 (perhaps 2009, if the economy slips into recession)...

Ha! If. Good one!

And Iraq is not "a civil war," and the mortgage legislation is not "a bailout."

Save us, terminology of choice! Make reality bend to our linguistic will!