Better not get sick, or old

The deficit hawks are all a twitter. With the President-Elect (and most world leaders) planning a significant economic re-investment package, there’s folks already calling for stripping off all unnecessary spending.

Put aside that cutting back on spending would have a de-stimulating effect on the economy. And forget for a while who is most impacted by the current economic crisis (hint: it isn’t the CEO’s of Bear Stearn, Lehman Brothers, GM, Citibank, or AIG). Let’s think about what targetting wasteful spending really means.

We couldn’t convince the McCain campaign of this, but “you get almost nothing from cutting waste, fraud, and abuse“, according to Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition. As I mentioned previously, cutting earmarks and making government more efficient just doesn’t add up to very much. Laudatory? Yes. A solution to deficit spending? No.

So, that leaves the two other big elephants in the room. The so-called entitlement programs and the military. Chop, chop. That’s their heads on the block, isn’t it? You can hear it already. To be fiscally responsible we’re going to have to cut back on Medicare (for the elderly and disabled) and on Social Security.

I get upset when we put these programs in the “unnecessary” or “wasteful” category. Not only are they some of the most successful and popular government services, but they are also some of the most efficient. And, right now, the most necessary. As health care costs are outrageously high and our 401K balances outrageously shrinking, we are going to need Medicare and Social Security more than ever. Maybe the uber-wealthy won’t need ’em, but the rest of us will.

Perhaps we could all show a little ‘personal responsibility’ in our twilight years. But, somehow I still don’t think I’m going to be able to afford a night or two in hospital. Instead, we might start seeing more and more hard-working citizens out pan-handling or in the soup kitchens, looking for a handout to get them through the winter.


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