So thanks to reporting in Politico (dissected nicely here), we now know that ‘serious people’ in DC are talking about entitlement cuts as the only way to stabilize the US Federal budget going forward. This is (unsurprisingly) a coterie of the 1% who will never depend on Social Security to keep the lights on and something other than cat food on the table.
As Jon Stewart frequently puts it, two things:
1) Ever since the 1960’s when President Johnson (LBJ to us oldsters) used the fiction of a ‘unified federal budget’ as a way to try to hide the huge deficits in the discretionary budget caused by the Vietnam war, politicians from both parties have been hiding the real size of the deficits behind the surpluses the Social Security funds were running. President Obama happens to be unfortunate enough to come to office at a point when demographics are reducing much of that surplus. An apples-to-apples comparison of Obama’s deficits with those of his predecessors would have to factor out the SS trust fund (never mind the biggest economic turndown since 1931).
2) Every GOP politician now playing deficit hawk and screaming for ‘entitlement reforms’ who also voted for George W Bush’s tax cuts (and unfunded wars and Medicare Part D) needs to be shown a desk calendar (or a calculator that can subtract 1946 from 2009) and called out for hypocrisy. It was not rocket science to understand that starting in 2009, the first wave of Baby Boomers would be eligible for early retirement and would thus move from the ‘taxpaying’ side of the government ledger to the SS (and Medicare) recipient side. Since the Boomers were in most cases at their earning peak during the ‘aughts’, there was also going to be a big hole in income tax receipts even if we didn’t have a massive recession.
All our trading partners in the G8 faced these sorts of demographic changes and were smart enough to try and prepare for them. If they ran surpluses, they invested the extra in infrastructure so they’d be up to date for the lean years to come. It’s how Germany (sunny Germany) became the world’s leader in energy produced by solar. And in contrast, what did OUR elected officials do? They put the decade on a credit card that will have to be paid back by millenials already being hit with higher FICA taxes and unprecedented student debt.
Wow–looking at this video, it’s clear that the only prophet of the status quo was the late George Carlin. Or, as he put it, “it’s a big club–and you ain’t in it”.
We should be out in the streets if anybody on either side decides to negotiate limits on Social Security.