Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Big Gummint

Jonathan Chait has justly won a wanker of the day award or two, but I'll give him props for this. (No endorsement of the Puffington Host implied or intended.)

I'll put a slightly different spin on it, but the basic idea is correct. The reason the weeping orange man won't specify the spending cuts he's demanding in return for the revenue increases he also won't specify is that he cannot. The United States has a far less generous social safety net than other wealthy countries, our infrastructure is crumbling, our regulatory agencies are underfunded (and they spend little money anyway) -- the one place where we can actually find substantial savings is in the bloated military, while the Republicans have been running around screaming that it's dangerously underfunded since Obama took office. They also campaigned against Obama for cutting Medicare, and now they're complaining that he doesn't want to cut it enough. Not that simple logic ever mattered in political discourse but . . .

The fact is that at some point, Congress is going to have to sit down and pass appropriations bills, and reauthorize the major entitlement programs. Fiscal cliff or not, debt ceiling or not, Orange Julius's House of Representatives is going to have to specify how much the federal government will spend on each and every one of its functions. They can cut funding for stuff they don't like, such as the EPA, but that will have a trivial impact on the budget deficit. They can cut spending on Medicare, but there are only two ways to do that:

  1. Payment reform and cost-effectiveness guidelines. They claim that is equal to "death panels," so they won't do that.
  2. Reducing benefits. That's not going to win them any love in 2014. 
 They could try cutting Medicaid benefits and tightening eligibility standards. That won't pass the Senate and if they did it, they would get the blame for horrendous consequences. At some level, the sane among them know that.

And they can cut the military budget, but they won't do that.

So they're stuck. The low IQ members may not understand that, but Boehner does. He knows it perfectly well.

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