A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
April 14th, 2011
By Tom Carter
I’ve been thinking about a column by Robert Samuelson since I read it on Sunday. Given that the government’s annual deficits and total debt are unsustainable and that neither politicians nor the people are willing to do what’s necessary, Samuelson concludes, “Government is suicidal because it breeds expectations that cannot be met.”
He explains, “By suicidal, I mean that government has promised more than it can realistically deliver and, as a result, repeatedly disappoints by providing less than people expect or jeopardizing what they already have.” Add to that obvious fact the reality that without more revenue from taxation and significantly reduced spending, the problem simply cannot be fixed. Find an expert source that isn’t more political than rational, and that’s what you’ll hear. The President’s own bipartisan commission, headed by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, recommended a mix of one-third increased taxes and two-thirds reduced spending. Other sources will say fifty-fifty.
President Obama studiously ignored his own commission’s findings, instead behaving like a typical Democrat — he wants lots of new taxes, especially on the rich, and few meaningful or practical reductions in spending. Republicans, of course, want no tax increases and draconian spending cuts that just aren’t going to happen.
…government can’t easily correct its excesses, because Americans depend on it for so much that any effort to change the status arouses a firestorm of opposition that virtually ensures defeat. Government’s very expansion has brought it into disrepute, paralyzed politics and impeded it from acting in the national interest.
Few Americans realize the extent of their dependency. The Census Bureau reports that in 2009 almost half (46.2 percent) of the 300 million Americans received at least one federal benefit: 46.5 million, Social Security; 42.6 million, Medicare; 42.4 million, Medicaid; 36.1 million, food stamps; 3.2 million, veterans’ benefits; 12.4 million, housing subsidies. The census list doesn’t include tax breaks. Counting those, perhaps three-quarters or more of Americans receive some sizable government benefit. For example, about 22 percent of taxpayers benefit from the home mortgage interest deduction and 43 percent from the preferential treatment of employer-provided health insurance, says the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. …
The trouble is that, despite superficial support for “deficit reduction” or “tax reform,” few Americans would surrender their own benefits, subsidies and tax breaks — a precondition for success.
So there you have it. The government isn’t committing suicide quickly and cleanly (relative term) — no large-caliber pistol in its mouth, no swan dive off the Golden Gate bridge. Instead it has opened its veins and is slowly bleeding to death, perhaps hoping, in the back of its fevered mind, that someone will come along and save it. But those who could save it — politicians and the dim citizens who elect them — are standing around in the puddling blood and yelling at each other about how the bleeding should be stopped.
Never fear; I have a modest proposal that will save us.
What this is really about is old folks. There’s more and more of them, and they’re the ones who place huge demands on Medicare and Social Security. Since politicians don’t have the sense or courage to close either of those wounds from which the body politic is bleeding to death and the people wouldn’t let them do it anyway, someone else has to save the nation.
The old folks will have to do it. They saved the country in World War II, fought the wars after that one, worked hard between wars to build companies and create jobs, and made the U.S. a world power. It’s not their fault, to be sure, that we now have more dependents that producers and that those who take despise those who provide. Never mind all that; the old folks will understand that once again the fate of the nation rests squarely on their fragile shoulders.
Since it’s clear that no one has the strength or courage to take on Medicare and Social Security, then the old folks who benefit from those programs will have to take care of the problem themselves. If every person in American over 65 years of age would commit suicide tomorrow, the problem would be solved. Beyond eliminating the need for Medicare and Social Security, their selfless acts of sacrifice would increase employment, at least temporarily, in a number of sectors — ambulance drivers, dieners (look it up), undertakers’ assistants, cleaning crews, obituary writers, grave diggers, insurance claims processors, and (as always) lawyers. That’s assuming, of course, that we can find enough Americans to take the jobs; if not, illegal immigrants will be available.
Extreme, you say? Au contraire. Politicians won’t do it; if they would, the voters wouldn’t let them. So why not fall back once again on the people who built the country we’re destroying? They’ll see that there isn’t any other solution, and they’ll do what’s necessary — as they always have.
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