March 12th, 2013

Cutting entitlements is a hard and thankless task…

…and most of the Republicans in Congress don’t really seem to want to do very much of it.

There’s a reason for that: human nature. Such cuts are unpopular with people.

Ever since the 1930s, this country and Europe have fostered an ever-expanding percentage of people depending on government programs of various kinds. I almost wrote “government largesse” but I changed it because the word “largesse” has more of a “gift” connotation. While it is certainly the case that some people pay a minimal amount of taxes (although everyone pays sales taxes in states with them) and get a lot back, so that that group could be called recipients of a gift, and other people pay much more than they ever get, there is still a huge population in the vast middle who fall somewhere between those two extremes on the pay/receive continuum.

That means that even though most of us have never been and will never be on welfare or food stamps, the majority of us are looking forward to that Social Security check and that Medicare in our supposed golden years. What’s more, the economy has changed in ways that make most of us more dependent on getting that assistance—for example, the near-ubiquity of third-party payments is one of the things that has helped put a great many medical costs out of the reach of the average retired citizen if he/she had to depend on income and savings alone.

And so why should it be a surprise that, as DrewM of Ace’s writes, in speaking of the proposed Ryan budget and the fact that it only slows but does not halt the continuing growth of government:

People will keep telling pollsters they want these problems solved but when it comes to voting they will send people to DC who will support more spending (which is what the voters really want) that will only make it worse.

Please read the whole thing.

Thinking back to the growth of government under President Bush and his Republican Congress, it seems to me that Republicans face a built-in conundrum, which Bush and especially that Congress solved by becoming Democrats-lite (or maybe not even so lite). It didn’t serve to keep Congress Republican in 2006, did it, or keep the presidency in Republican hands in 2008? As the saying goes, given a choice between a fake Democrat and a real one, the public will choose the real one every time (although Bush’s election and re-election indicates the saying is not always true).

I have another question, though: how often, given the choice between a real Republican and a real Democrat, will the public choose the real Republican? Well, it depends on the state. On the national level, at least since the 1930s, the only time I can think of when the public chose a real Republican over a real Democrat was Reagan’s two victories (and the only time another “real Republican”—i.e. conservative—was nominated was in 1964, when Goldwater was defeated in a landslide). It also depends on the politicians in question and their “likeability,” whatever than means.

And it also depends on what people see as their most pressing problems, and what they feel most threatened by. It’s that latter thought that Obama exploited most effectively in the last election.

[NOTE: The above is why conservatives were so worried about the passage of Obamacare and why the Democrats were so eager to pass it ASAP, despite its lack of public support at the time. “Try it, you’ll like it,” was the bet the Democrats made, and the Republicans knew it might indeed work just that way.

Notice how, since the election of 2012, there hasn’t been so much talk of doing away with it, since the Senate would be an obstacle and Obama’s veto would also stand in the way? However, Ted Cruz is still on the case:

]This week, [Cruz] will introduce an amendment he calls “Restore Growth First” as the Senate considers a continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of the year. The amendment would cut funding for the implementation of Obamacare, at least until economic growth — currently at a terrible 0.1 percent — returns to its historic average of about 3.3 percent.

“My preference is to repeal Obamacare in its entirety,” says Cruz. “But at a minimum, it doesn’t make sense to implement Obamacare now. It would kill jobs, it would have an enormous negative impact on the economy.”

Of course, actually passing such an amendment is impossible, given the Democrats’ 55-seat majority in the Senate. The question is whether Cruz, his co-sponsors Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson and James Inhofe, and fellow Republicans would be willing to jam up the continuing resolution — that is, risk a government shutdown — over Obamacare.

“I am willing to do anything possible to ensure that we get a vote on this,” Cruz says. “There are a variety of procedural mechanisms that a senator can employ to get a vote. I am confident we are going to get that vote.”

So the vote itself is the important thing. But even pushing for a vote has exposed some serious Republican divisions on continuing the fight against Obamacare. In the House, the GOP leadership wouldn’t allow a vote on a defund-Obamacare measure before passing a continuing resolution last week. And at a meeting of Senate Republicans recently, several lawmakers spoke out against Cruz’s plan, with some raised voices. Obamacare is a reality, one lawmaker argued; there’s just been an election that was in part a referendum on it, and Republicans lost.

To Cruz, opposing Obamacare, even after it has been passed by Congress, signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court, is about sticking to principles.

I’m with Cruz on that one. But I see the dilemma, and Republicans could be successfully demonized for it.

Between a rock and a hard place.]

13 Responses to “Cutting entitlements is a hard and thankless task…”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    The only way you are going to be able to cut this government is to cut its throat. (Metaphor)

  2. Oldflyer Says:

    You touch a nerve Neo.

    As retired Navy, and a Social Security recipient I am feeding at the public trough I occasionally remind my wife that all of our current income comes from Obama. Boy, does that set her off.

    It is an odd situation. Congress and the Defense Department never expected us to live so long when the retirement system was established. Nor did FDR when he forced us into Social Security. (Yes military people, unlike Civil Service, Congress, and State/municipal employees) are required to participate in SS–although ignorant friends have disputed that fact over the years. So, here we are decades after our usefulness has passed, but committed to the system.

    Classic example of the government creating a monster that it cannot control, and cannot kill.

    We were also promised life time medical care if we gave our bodies and souls to the government for two decades or longer. We were very surprised to find a few years after retirement that they meant Medicare. Actually the combination of Medicare, supplemented by the DOD works well for us.

    So, our government is pretty generous (although it is more generous to politicians, and others); and has made us dependent on it–just like Obama’s 47%. The situation creates a little angst for a small government devotee, but we are sort of trapped at this point.

    We used to quote the mythical “Old Fighter Pilot” who said, “If I had known I would lived this long, I would have taken better care of myself”. If the gov’t had known, they would have probably done things differently.

    PS Military folks are sort of forced into retirement at at relatively early age so as to maintain a young and vigorous force. I have had some thoughts on how the gray heads could be used effectively; but, now it would be a perfect fit. Oldflyers could become drone pilots. I for one can sit in an easy chair indefinitely, and could fly one of those things in my sleep.

  3. sharpie Says:

    Passing laws for the common good has commonly produced bad. How much legislation would you include under the phrase “common good?” If only those who don’t believe in the common good could pass laws for the common good, then perhaps common good laws might, on the whole, work good.

  4. parker Says:

    I am extremely skeptical there will be meaningful reform of medicare-obamacare, SS, or any of the social welfare programs. There is very little understanding on Main Street that these systems can not be sustained. But perhaps obamacare can be repealed after its predicted consequences start harming a significant majority of the public. Nonetheless, baby boomers are going to be the tsunami that crushes the social welfare system even if obamacare is repealed.

    However, I will applaud Cruz and others if they manage to force an open and prolonged public debate that even the MSM can not ignore.

  5. Sam L. Says:

    “The common good” is an excuse for funneling contract money to one’s cronies. Damn the unexpected consequences, full sppe ahead!

  6. parker Says:

    This just another example of the inherent problem with trying to reform the behemoth:

    Even Ryan’s math is impossible without economic growth that only happens in a fairy tale.

  7. sharpie Says:

    “For who are a free people? Not those, over whom government is reasonably and equitably exercised, but those, who live under a government so constitutionally checked and controuled, that proper provision is made against its being otherwise exercised.” — John Dickinson, Letters From a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1768).

    When the bulk of the populace does not understand that our government was expressly created to provide liberty and leave security to other institutions, that bulk shall get what they demand as one writer put it “good and hard.”

  8. Oldflyer Says:

    I nearly gagged listening to Paul Ryan talk to Hannity about his plan. So, a bold, but doomed, plan is to limit spending to a 3.2% increase per year over the next ten years? Gag! Ryan is bragging that his plan will reach a balanced budget in 10 years. I could not believe that Hannity did not point out that we would be increasing the already intolerable debt for each of those ten years–even under his scenario.

    In ten years I would be 88. Strangely, the idea that I may not be around by then bothers me less every day. What passes for our government and society is becoming less and less tolerable.

    Just corresponded with a high school class mate who is organizing the 60th reunion this Spring. I commented how lucky we were to grow up when and where we did. What happened?

  9. parker Says:

    “I commented how lucky we were to grow up when and where we did.”

    I’m a youngster, I’ll only be 75 in ten years. 🙂 I feel the same way, I grew up in rural Iowa and it was paradise compared to 21st century America. We were not middle class, but we ate well, worked hard, and felt free.

    “What happened?”

    FDR, LBJ, etc. plus the general demise of a work ethic and the demise of the desire to be independent from government.

  10. rickl Says:

    Oldflyer Says:
    March 12th, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    I nearly gagged listening to Paul Ryan talk to Hannity about his plan. So, a bold, but doomed, plan is to limit spending to a 3.2% increase per year over the next ten years? Gag! Ryan is bragging that his plan will reach a balanced budget in 10 years. I could not believe that Hannity did not point out that we would be increasing the already intolerable debt for each of those ten years–even under his scenario.

    Karl Denninger had explicitly called Paul Ryan a liar on numerous occasions, including today:

    Deconstructing Lyin’ Ryan (Again)

    He says that Ryan’s plan assumes completely unrealistic projections of economic growth, and doesn’t allow for recessions.

  11. parker Says:

    “Karl Denninger had explicitly called Paul Ryan a liar on numerous occasions, including today…. He says that Ryan’s plan assumes completely unrealistic projections of economic growth, and doesn’t allow for recessions.”

    Its all cooked books, funny numbers, and smoke of any color up the chimney. We are in the calm before the tsunami crests. The calm may last a few years or only a few months. It will end with a crash and burn given the lack of reality in DC. It is impossible to predict the aftermath but it is clear we are out of time.

    Prepare accordingly per your means and temperament. Me & mine are prepared. Water, food, and ammo.

  12. expat Says:

    I’m not sure that we couldn’t have better growth if there was some indication that uncertainty was being worked on. For instance if you approve Keystone and rule in the EPA, companies would have more confidence about energy costs. If Obamacare is delayed for 2 years, you might get a bit more hiring now.

    I think Ryan is trying to reach a tipping point after which Obamamania and the victim mentality don’t totally control the mesage.

  13. Eric Says:

    The local Democrats tell their constituents that by cutting military spending and taxing the 1% their “fair share” *zero* cuts to spending are necessary and, more, the Republicans that say any spending cuts are needed are lying to defend the 1% and the military-industrial complex.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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