The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


With Hillary Clinton now resurgent and John McCain labeled by the MSM as the "comeback kid," it’s worth taking still another breath, and asking just a few simple questions about positions—remember those, the things that really matter once you filter out the platitudes. Robert Samuelson comments on one of many the “big lies” that are voiced by both GOP and Democrat candidates:
The big lie of campaign 2008 -- so far -- is that the presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican, will take care of our children. Listening to these politicians, you might think they will. Doing well by children has now passed Motherhood and Apple Pie as an idol that all candidates must worship.

"We will do whatever it takes to make America a better country, to give our kids a better future," says Mike Huckabee, winner of the Republican Iowa caucuses.

"We will deliver for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren," claims Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic winner.

"We're going to reclaim the future for our children," says Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Yet it appears that as government entitlements grow, we’ll have a future in which there will be fewer and fewer dollars available to improve public services and national infrastructure. In fact, the young will be required to transfer their wealth (via taxes) to the old. And for those of you who are class warriors a la John Edwards, there simply aren’t enough “rich” people and "big corporations" to tax to make up the difference.

Samuelson gets to the core of the issue when he states:
Spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- three programs that go overwhelmingly to older Americans -- already represents more than 40 percent of federal spending. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office projects these programs could equal about 70 percent of the present budget by 2030. Without implausibly large budget deficits, the only way to preserve most other government programs would be huge tax increases (about 40 percent from today's levels). Avoiding the tax increases would require draconian cuts in other programs (about 60 percent). Workers and young families, not retirees, would bear the brunt of either higher taxes or degraded public services.

Similar pressures, though less ferocious, exist at the state and local levels. Schools, police, libraries and parks will be squeezed by the need to pay benefits for retired government workers. A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that states have promised retired workers $2.7 trillion in pension, health care and other benefits during the next three decades. Only about $2 trillion has been set aside; the rest would come from annual budgets.

Medicaid, a joint federal-state program with states paying about 40 percent of the costs, represents another drain; about two-thirds of its spending stems from the aged and disabled. Roads, water and mass transit might also be shortchanged. States and localities pay about three-quarters of their costs.

And now, Democrat candidates are suggesting a new "health care system" that will invariably cost the taxpayers trillions more.

But the candidates and many members of their parties look like the proverbial three monkeys—hearing, speaking and seeing no evil. It’s amusing that most Democrats accept 100-year climate change projections that are based largely on weak science and weaker mathematical models, but are perfectly willing to reject 20-year projections like Samuelson’s that are based on solid demographic numbers, strong economic fundamentals, and stronger real data.

Why? Because this is one of the very difficult problems that cannot be solved with platitudes. There. Will. Be. Pain. And that’s something that politicians avoid at all cost.

So the next time you hear Barack or Rudy or Hillary or John promise a bright future for our children, spend a moment thinking about our collective aversion to pain. Solutions are out there, but only if we find a leader who has the courage to tell us that they come with some pain.