Thursday, May 29, 2003

Deficits: Shame on the administration for not releasing the deficit report Paul O'Neill commissioned before he was shown the gate. Democrats will make great hay from this, and with some justification, although philosophically they are bankrupt on this point, too. The report apparently focuses on runaway entitlements (and not a comparatively small tax cut) at the center of a projected $44 trillion deficit:
The study asserts that sharp tax increases, massive spending cuts or a painful mix of both are unavoidable if the US is to meet benefit promises to future generations. It estimates that closing the gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 per cent across-the-board income tax increase.
It's nut-cutting time. I've had it up to here with politicians who give me the "for the children" plea, while they continue to offer vote-sucking entitlement after vote-sucking entitlement to the comparatively wealthy, incredibly powerful, and ever younger AARP crowd, which includes more and more of the baby boomers every day. All of this at the expense of those who will pay the punishing tax rates to make sure that Medicare covers granny's umpteen pills (and the electrolysis to get rid of the moustache the pills give her).

I'm opposed (as you may have guessed) to continuing the charade. It may be "cold" and "heartless" and any number of other things, but it's time for the gravy train to retire to the roundhouse, and for a good portion of the riders to figure out how to run their own goddamn lives. The non-ostrich crowd has known for some time now that the demographic pig in the python was going to balloon the entitlement budget, and that the solution, whenever it came, would involve serious pain. Bush will take a hit for this, and he deserves it. But who will offer an alternative? (I don't envision Dick Gephardt rolling up his health plan and sticking it back into the conestoga: "Sorry, folks. I know I promised frre health care, but -- golly -- looks like we can't afford it. Ever.") And god bless Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party, their principles, and all that crap, but I wouldn't let them run a Star Trek convention, let alone the country.

So what's left? Do we continue our incremental march toward unaffordable, birth-to-dirt-nap government goodies -- and end up a leveraged to the eyeballs, third-rate nation insearch of an economy, like Sweden (only with subsidized NASCAR tickets instead of ballet tickets)? Do we return to a more robust, shall we say, incentive for personal responsibility, like starvation? Or do we pretend, like the Europeans and the DLC, that there is some kind of hybrid third way that can give us the social benefits without the fiscal nightmares, as long as we remember to refer to spending as investment and taxes as contributions? God, I need a beer.

More: Stephen Moore says federal spending should all be subject to a five-year "sunset" provision. It's a start.

Still more: John Derbyshire:

If a group of 100 farmers got together to petition the government to give them $10 million, the benefit to each farmer is $100,000. The cost to the rest of the country is about 4 cents per person. Who is more likely to form a lobby, them or us? Multiply this example by thousands and you understand the central problem of American democracy today.

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