cut the spending

Paul Krugman says that the emphasis on tax cuts and “starving the beast” is not producing the intended result of reducing spending.  He’s right about that. Tax cuts are important, but they are only half of the equation. We really need to emphasize this more; because as valuable and useful as tax cuts are to stimulating the economy, there cannot be fiscal responsibility without reducing spending. This is a hard truth to accept for most politicians. It would be hard to find any of them who are willing to make tough choices about what programs need to be cut.  The easier choice is to support tax credits or cuts, than to say look, we are spending too much money and wasting the majority of the money being spent.   This is what must be done if our country is to be saved from the impending financial doom.  The time is now to fix what’s broken.

Reforming the system will not be an easy task. Government programs will always be ineffective and wasteful. If those programs actually solved problems, the need for them would go away completely or it would be greatly diminished.  Government jobs depend on the existence of these programs, and the employees will fight like mad to keep their comfortable existence on the federal payroll. 

Look to Greece for an outstanding example of this.  Who is protesting the government over there over their fiscal chaos?  It is government workers, upset about their potential loss of benefits and the entitlements granted to them by the beneficent socialists in their bureaucracy.  Once government dependents are created, Pandora has already escaped from the box, and there’s no return to normalcy after that.  While Paul Krugman may be correct that the U.S. is not Greece, I would argue that he underestimates the potential for a similar financial disaster.   As the cliché goes, the first step is to admit there’s a problem – and the U.S. has a spending problem.  It has a debt problem.  We have had massive debt and spending under both Republican and Democrat administrations.   It is way past time for both parties to seriously address these problems.

May I remind my colleagues on the left that deathbed conversions are still conversions?  Republicans know that the idea of reducing spending and reducing taxes is politically popular, so naturally they want to let voters know that they support both of those things.  But it’s hard to take any politician seriously on reducing spending who can’t point to specific programs or services that they want to cut.   In addition, no politician running for re-election will tell you that Social Security and Medicare are in desperate need of reform.  There is a huge bloc of seniors who vote, and want nothing to do with any future reform of these entitlements.  But it must be done – and we need to start this process now.

The federal government is broke.  It has no money for all these new and exciting programs that the Obama administration has introduced.   Since we are the big bad USA, we don’t force ourselves to make (or pretend to make, in the case of Greece) tough spending cuts or insist on tax hikes to pay for all this new spending.   Don’t misunderstand my position here.  I strongly oppose tax hikes, especially in this economy, because in the absence of any necessary fiscal discipline, this will only increase the pool of money available to create a bigger, badder, welfare state.  Krugman accuses those of us trying to warn the rest of America that we could end up like Greece as wanting to dismantle the welfare state.  Guilty as charged, Mr. Krugman.  It’s the most compassionate thing to do for my fellow Americans — force them to take responsibility for their own lives.  Some may fail spectacularly, and some may succeed, and it’s not the government’s job to equalize those outcomes.


We Are Not Greece– Paul Krugman
Facing the Facts: We Are Out of Money, Matt Welch, Reason

this is not good

House Republicans are voting in favor of entitlements and earmarks, and not even trying to resist all these new spending proposals by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.  So says Bob Novak.  Maybe it’s fair to blame the Republican leadership for this, although I’m not sure how much they can do, because it’s clear that the fiscal conservatives are outnumbered.  That’s one reason why the Republican brand will remain damaged through the November election.  We are acting no different from the Democrats on this, although I suppose that the few Republicans opposing all this new spending should be given some credit.  Of course they never had a fiscal conservative in the White House to begin with, so that makes the fight against spending even more difficult.

the government owes you nothing

where in the world did we get the idea that being a citizen of the united states means that we are entitled to government benefits? it must have come from FDR, who was the founder of this modern welfare state. perhaps we can blame LBJ’s Great Society. at this point, it doesn’t matter who created this mess of entitlements. we must fix it before our country suffers the fate of old Europe. at some point, European governments will be unable to finance all of the entitlements they provide.

we don’t have a right to government-paid health care, retirement, or the total financing of our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. many Americans would disagree with me on this, but that’s probably because we have been conditioned to accept government largesse without considering what it costs to receive all of these government benefits. social security is a good example of this. I would like to bet that before social security was introduced, it never occurred to people that the government would finance their retirement.

we have programs in place like medicare, medicaid, and social security that take huge chunks of the federal budget every year, and costs continue to rise. yet no politician has the courage to take on the unpopular cause of reforming these programs or taking steps to reduce the costs of these entitlements. it needs to be done. it needs to be done soon.

with all that we know about the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of government programs and services (think DMV), how can we, in good conscience, propose that the government take on yet another wildly expensive entitlement program like universal health care? like many other liberal proposals, it is based on a feel-good philosophy. most Americans probably do believe that they have a right to health care and that it should be guaranteed to every American. it’s a feel-good position. most of us want to be seen as caring and compassionate and willing to help out our fellow citizens. that’s a wonderful platitude that means absolutely nothing concrete. the pollsters ask the wrong question. sure it would be great for everyone to have health care, but i’m not convinced that allowing the government to fund it is the best solution we can come up with to achieve that goal. it won’t reduce costs, and increased government regulation will add to the workload on medical professionals, taking away from time spent with patients.

services that are publicly funded generally don’t meet our expectations. the argument that there’s no opposition to public funding of education, and that health care shouldn’t be treated any differently is just silly. don’t we want better decisions to be made in health care than are being made in public education? are we satisfied with the results of our public education system? you don’t really need me to answer that, do you?

the important thing to remember here is that competition generally produces a better product. under some single-payer health care systems, such as Canada’s, private insurers are prohibited from offering duplicate services to the public system, and are only allowed to provide services that fill gaps in the national health coverage. there are still coverage gaps under this system. full coverage under any system is an unrealistic goal, but that’s what its proponents seem to be promising.

according to this report(pdf), in 2001, Canada spent 9.3% of its GDP(gross domestic product) on health care, which is higher than the average 8% spent by most industrialized countries. yet Canadians are still unhappy with the service they are receiving. some even are in favor of MORE PRIVATIZATION, not less. the report also concluded that the system had financing problems.

there is another legitimate concern with government-run health care, one that is rarely talked about. there have already been documented incidents in the Medicare system where unauthorized personnel have gotten access to patient records. for those who are concerned about privacy rights in other areas, like phone conversations, and fear that the government knows too much about your personal affairs, wouldn’t this concern you?

i have looked at the arguments pro and con for universal health coverage, and I am convinced that we can make reforms that would get us closer to full coverage without allowing total government control of health care. I am uncomfortable with government mandates on individuals and on businesses, even on such an important issue as health care, which is why I cannot support John Edwards’ health care plan. my intention is to cover edwards’ plan in more detail in a future post, so I won’t get into the details right now. (if you wish to look it over, here’s the link to the pdf.)

for more information on the subject, check out some of these links:
The Case for Universal Health Care (pdf)
The NHS: a dysfunctional insurer
universal health care –
single payer health care –

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