Notes From Babel

Posts Tagged ‘entitlements

2026 State of the Union

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For a depressing read, check out Greg Mankiw’s 2026 State of the Union speech.  And if you think we can shore up all our overspending-undertaxing problems by turning Sauron’s gaze on the billionaires at the tippy top of the income scale, consider that even if we hogtied and took every last penny from each of the 500 or so billionaires and almost-billionaires in the U.S., it would cover little more than a third of a single year’s spending.


Written by Tim Kowal

March 26, 2011 at 10:54 am

Posted in Economics

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Entitlements: “Cutting them will lead to human misery and death”

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So says Freddie deBoer:

Here’s what you won’t find at the Daily Dish, or at the Corner, or in any of the other places showily demanding seriousness: the actual, human, negative consequences of harsh entitlement cutbacks. I mean, from reading online today, you’d be hard pressed to know why we have Social Security and Medicare at all. I’ll tell you why: because our winner-take-all economic system leaves defenseless, impoverished people in its wake. We have Social Security because the sight of so many elderly people left literally homeless and starving , too old and weak to work, was unseemly to an earlier generation that was willing to take less for themselves to provide for others. We have Medicare because it is an obscenity for a country responsible for the atom bomb and the moon landing and the Hoover Dam to allow suffer and die from lack of health care access due to the vagaries of birth and chance. That’s why those programs exist.

Cutting them will lead to human misery and death. It will. Cutting Social Security will mean the difference between subsistence and a pitiful existence for untold thousands of senior citizens. Cutting Medicare will mean some people won’t get the health care they need when they need it and will suffer the physical pain and indignity that comes with that. That’s just the way it is. Yet I keep reading all of these very serious people today failing to mention this reality at all. It’s as if we have entitlement programs for no reason.

Certainly many on the left believe this, and increasingly with the distance from the center.  I’m on the right, so I don’t believe it.  Now, being on the left or right or any disposition comes with lots of biases, which one ought to earnestly challenge.  But frankly, I think Freddie’s been overcome by his when he suggests the weeping and gnashing of teeth that would occur if we compromise the current entitlement state.  At this advanced stage of the American economy, it is difficult to imagine that scaling back some of these entitlements would result in the significant human casualties Freddie suggests.  Am I too impoverished of imagination?

On a different note, a couple of Freddie’s recent posts reminded me of what Daniel Walker Howe said about Robert Owen’s social engineering ideas, which captured the imagination of even president John Quincy Adams.  Yet, when Owen publicly confessed his disbelief in the scriptures and denounced the institution of marriage, he betrayed his views as too far beyond the mainstream of acceptable American opinion.  Today’s more moderate leftists, like Ezra Klein, might compromise their beliefs not because they don’t care about the ideals of the left, but because they actually “care[] enough to actually get SOMETHING done for justice.”

Yet, Freddie has confessed he has no intention of confining his views within the limits of mainstream or acceptable opinion.  This is something I find admirable.  Ideas announced apart from their preconditions and derivatives are not ideas at all, but schemes.

[Update: To be more specific about the kinds of entitlements I’m thinking about, consider these hand-outs we currently provide to even ostensibly able-bodied Americans (note I have not verified each of the cites, but the sources at least appear to be reputable):

H/T Professor Mondo.]

[Update 2:  Notice I do not include the 57 million Americans are on Medicaid, or the 46.5 million Americans on Medicare, for a total of nearly one-third of the United States population on government insurance. In conversations about health care reform, the question invariably arises whether I’d let the poor and the old die in the streets, to which I invariably point out we already have Medicaid and Medicare for just these reasons.  Implicitly, then, I gather I must be in favor of the continued existence of these programs on some level.  More to the point, eliminating these programs altogether would lead to “human misery and death.”]

Written by Tim Kowal

February 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm

My Pension Op-Ed Is Up at the Sacramento Bee

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My piece on the (in)validity of retroactive public employee pension increases ran in today’s Sacramento Bee as the top story on the Viewpoints section.  You’ll have to get past my giant mugshot, though. Check it out!

[You can find more details about the legal analysis of the issue at my previous post here.]

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