Deficit Reduction by Philosophy

Crossposted from DemConWatch

Scott lays out all the numbers. And numerically, he's certainly correct. We'll have to do a number of things to get the deficit under control. And if you want to see what you'd like to cut, click here for the Budget Calculator which shows what is saved, program by program, based on the choices you make.

But the determination of how to measure out the ingredients in the recipe is based 100% on philosophy. Whether the recipe sells is predicated on politics and message control, but at base, it's philosophical.

The Ryan plan, and other privatization plans are based on the philosophy that people should stand on their own two feet and accept no government help. And we can all take blame for the rise of someone like Paul. Years ago, when Medicare and Social Security were a gangrenous foot, no one would modify the programs, they were considered the third rail. Thus, no cutting off the foot to save the leg. There were modifications that could have been made decades ago, but now we've got gangrene up into the thigh. We can still save part of the leg, but Ryan and his ilk want to cut off the whole leg. And as Scott's numbers show, it won't be enough. Not only that, but there is a set of numbers he doesn't present: what happens if the elderly have no Social Security and no health care?

First, the number of homeless rises. Then, the number of sick brought to the hospital (generally by ambulance after they collapse on the street) greatly rises. Talk about an unfunded mandate on every hospital in America. And the food banks. And every charity: none of which have enough money to care for the number of people currently asking for help. 

Do we have to recalculate how we care for our sick and elderly? Sure. The Economist, in the 7 April edition, has a great special section on that. (Sadly, you need a subscription to read it online, I greatly advise you either buy a copy or read one in the local library. You can see some of it online, but not enough of it.) They point out that across the developed nations, retirement age needs to rise, and with that, how companies treat their employees needs to change also. That is, the current system says that seniority equals power, but for people in their 60's, most people want less “power” and more ability to mentor, share knowledge, and have personal flexibility. It's a little different here in the US as people change jobs far more often than those in Europe and Asia, but still there are great ways to use skills and talents. The section also points out that not all jobs are created equal: someone sitting at a computer into his 70's is doing easier work than digging ditches, and thus there needs to be a scaled response of retirement ages pegged to the type of work. They do not mention, but it is certainly a given, that the longer people work not only do they collect later, but they pay in longer, thus affecting the balance of input and outgo. 

Philosophically, I'm in favour of raising retirement ages, while instituting programs that keep people working who want to work longer, and even doing away with early retirement at 62, with exceptions for physical limitations. I'm in favour of revamping Medicare and Medicaid as part of an overall Single Payer system which solves the financial problems of both programs, and lowers costs across the board once certain cost controls are put in place. (Um, they're actually there now, they're just not transparent.)

Then, I'd like to see the military budget cut and have us cease being the world's policeman. Imagine if each “send the troops” piece of legislation were debated publicly like other aspects of the budget. Fewer would support paying.

Finally, I say raise taxes. And yes, start with me. I'd be glad to pay 10% more than I pay now for the improvements I want. I think we've become so tax-averse that we fail to see that taxes are nothing more than a payment for services. 

So, play with the budget. If it looks familiar, yes, we've linked to it before. Then come back with what YOU want to cut, and what YOU are willing to pay for. It's not just the dollars, it's the belief system, too. 

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