Sunday, July 24, 2011

Entitlement programs by the numbers...

... but first this from Michael A. Walsh:

Forget all the numbers being tossed around in Washington -- the millions and billions and trillions of dollars being taxed, borrowed, printed and spent as the country approaches the Aug. 2 debt-ceiling deadline.

Forget the political jockeying for position between a president desperately seeking re-election in 16 months and a Congress equally desperately seeking not to be blamed for spending even more money that we don't have.

Forget the fact that such "entitlements" as Social Security and Medicare -- social-insurance programs that the public long thought to be actuarially sound -- have been exposed as little more than legal Ponzi schemes, paying today's benefits out of tomorrow's borrowed receipts.

Instead, just ask yourself this simple question: When did it become the primary function of the federal government to send millions of Americans checks?

For this, in essence, is what the debt-ceiling fight is all about -- the inexorable and ultimately fatal growth of the welfare state. If you don't believe it, just look at President Obama's veiled threat to withhold Grandma's Social Security benefits if Congress doesn't let him borrow another $2 trillion or so to get himself safely past the 2012 election.
(italics, ours)

Now some numbers:

43 : the cents borrowed by the Feds for every dollar they spend.

1/2 : the amount of the federal budget ($3.8 trillion) consumed by Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and debt interest.

12 billion : What they said, back in 1966, Medicare would cost in 1990 adjusted for inflation.

107 billion: What it actually cost.

5 : The number of workers for every Social Security recipient in 1960.

3 : The number of workers for every Social Security recipient today.

No wonder the trustees of the system themselves -- including three Obama Cabinet officials -- warned in their most recent report on the health of the entitlement system: "Projected long-run program costs for both Medicare and Social Security are not sustainable under currently scheduled financing, and will require legislative corrections if disruptive consequences for beneficiaries and taxpayers are to be avoided."

No sober or rational person can deny that significant structural changes will need to be made to our entitlement programs if we as a country wish to remain solvent yet no one, and most importantly, including the American public, seems willing to eat our peas, to borrow a phrase, with respect to accepting the inevitable.

Walsh finishes with this:

The preamble to the Constitution talks about promoting the general welfare, not the welfare state. For the welfare state is incompatible with the rest of the preamble, which concludes: "and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." By definition, dependents are not free.

He's right. How can we be called "free" if we have allowed ourselves to be taken hostage by debts and deficits brought on by government programs of our own doing?

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