GOP Choice: Balanced Budgets or Senior Votes

November 12th, 2010 at 9:45 am David Frum | 50 Comments |

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One of the best things about the Bowles-Simpson deficit report: It has exposed where we’ll find the opponents of budget balancing.

On the left, you find them among free-spending liberals who dislike the Bowles-Simpson’s limit upon the upward growth of government. 21%? How are the feds supposed to get by on a measly 21%? These critics think we should put together a budget on the principle:

First the federal government decides everything it wants to spend money on, then we raise taxes to pay for it. The very idea of a budget – that is, an external constraint, a hard requirement that the government make choices – is obnoxious to them.

On the right, we’re hearing a very different kind of opposition.

Listen to Sean Hannity from Wednesday night:

First, they want to increase the Federal Gas Tax rate starting in 2013 by 15 cents per gallon. Next they propose increasing the Social Security retirement age. Now third, the commission is calling for cuts in both Social Security and Medicare benefits. … If you’re going to say to the American people after they squandered our Social Security trust fund, it was never put in a lock box, and they bankrupted the country — if they’re going to say by the way, we’re going to give you Social Security the day before you die, if you’re lucky. And we’re going to means test it so you’ve got to pay your whole life, and if you paid your whole life, you’re going to — we’re going to confiscate it basically.

Hannity is expressing here something more than the routine conservative view that the budget must be balanced without additional taxes. Hannity’s attacking the commission – and continues to do so throughout his program – for daring to touch the country’s biggest spending programs, Medicare and Social Security.

It’s easy to be snarky about this: Hannity’s particular complaints are (surprise!) poorly informed. Nobody’s proposing to confiscate Social Security.

But let’s step past the snark. Hannity may not know much about the commission recommendations, but he knows a lot about his audience. That audience is overwhelmingly made up of upper-income senior citizens. Hannity is speaking to one of the oldest audiences on television: 30% of his viewers are over 65, 65% of his viewers are over 50.

(The comparable figures for The Daily Show are 6% over 65, 26% over age 50.)

Despite the inaccuracy of Hannity’s particular indictments, it is true: The deficit commission report targets the pocketbooks of upper income seniors. Their Social Security payments will increase more modestly than those of poorer seniors. Reductions in Medicare payments to doctors will likely cause a rise in their out-of-pocket medical expenses.

It might be said: this is almost unavoidable. Seniors are the biggest total beneficiaries of the American welfare state. If that state’s growth is to be controlled, seniors will have to accept less than they are currently expecting. But it seems harsh to squeeze poorer and richer seniors equally: the wealthier seniors will lose more.

Trouble is, not only do wealthier seniors provide the largest segment of the Sean Hannity audience – they have also become the voting bulwark of the Republican party, and especially the congressional Republican party.

What we see in today’s GOP is a party whose ideology (limited government) and whose constituency (the biggest recipients of domestic government spending) are sharply at variance. That variance is not a sustainable situation. In fact, it’s not sustained.

At the operational level, the GOP is a spending party. Tea Party or no Tea Party, a spending party the GOP will remain. If anything, the Tea Party reinforces the spending tendency of the GOP by redirecting the GOP away from business interests to its senior constituency. In 1995, congressional Republicans triggered a government shut down by asking senior citizens to contribute slightly more to their Medicare. In the summer of 2009, Republicans denounced – not only any reductions in Medicare – but even any attempt to compare the effectiveness of Medicare treatments.

Republicans have to date resolved the contradictions between their voters and their ideology by relying on wishful thinking. Lower taxes will stimulate growth which will pay for programs. Or else we’ll deal with “the entitlements” at some point in the future. Or else that the real money is going somewhere else: NPR maybe or foreign aid or welfare.

Above all of course the contradiction is resolved by deficit spending. We express our ideology in our tax policy, our interests in our spending policy, and even before the financial crisis, those two lines had grown almost half a trillion dollars apart.

When the time comes at last to close that gap, we’ll face a quandary. We’re going to need either to modify our ideology or discipline our base. As is, we’re paralyzed between the two.

Recent Posts by David Frum



50 Comments so far ↓

  • armstp

    The real interesting fight in the future is going to be between the younger generation and increasingly hispanic and the older largely white population. It will be the fight for resources.

    Medicare/Social Security versus education/job creation seen through the guise of balancing a budget and even race.

  • Non-Contributor

    I still say the Republican party should focus on job creation. Until that is resolved I really don’t think anything significant can be done with the deficit.

  • balconesfault

    Hannity If you’re going to say to the American people after they squandered our Social Security trust fund, it was never put in a lock box, and they bankrupted the country — if they’re going to say by the way, we’re going to give you Social Security the day before you die, if you’re lucky. And we’re going to means test it so you’ve got to pay your whole life, and if you paid your whole life, you’re going to — we’re going to confiscate it basically.

    Hannity is right. The problem is that he doesn’t understand how the Social Security Trust Fund was squandered.

    It was squandered in order to balance out huge cuts in tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.

  • dugfromthearth

    This is why as a conservative I do not support the republicans. They long ago ceased being a conservative party and became a party that expressed the hypocritical and selfish desires of the elderly. Borrow and spend, since the elderly won’t be around when the bill comes due. Legislate morality that appeals to the elderly. Focus on the military as if the cold war were still a reality and we needed a massive navy and army.

    Until the republican party deals with reality and tries to help the country rather than dealing with delusion and simply tries to appease and frighten the elderly for votes, the republican party will remain the single greatest threat to personal freedoms and the continued existence of the U.S.

  • sandyg

    How do tax-cuts create jobs. Seems like there’s a disturbing deficiency in the
    Demand-side’ of the equation: who’s gonna hire more workers when they can’t sell all they can produce, as it is??

  • Watusie

    Echoing sandyg, if tax-cuts create jobs, why were no jobs created during the entire Bush Administration?

  • seeker656

    This has been and will continue to be a test of whether our form of government can deal with the challenges of the 21st century. We are heading toward a financial catastrophe that will require strong leadership and rational voting public to avoid. The Limbaugh and Hannity crowd have no real interest in the future of our nation and they will continue to stoke the anger and range of the entitled.

    A significant difference between this and the last century is that we are no longer assured of remaining the world’s leading economic power. Nations such as China, India, and Brazil are growing and will capture an increasingly large share of the economic pie, and our increasing debt, much of owed to others, will weaken us from within. A further risk is that as we decline economically the temptation to engage in military conflicts that will distract us from our own failings will increase.

    I recall the gas crisis of the nineteen seventies that clearly was a warning of the dangers of our growing dependency on oil produced by other nations, not always our friends. We chose to continue our wasteful ways and that has proven to be costly in lives and money.

    Here we go again.

  • Nanotek

    “On the left, you find them among free-spending liberals… ”

    say anything as long as it supports stereotypes, huh? were they the ones who inherited a national surplus in 2001, turned it into a record deficit by 2008, added $25Trillion in unfunded liabilities, financed two wars on a credit card issued by the Bank of china, forced regular people to financially rescue (at 100 cents on the dollar) the gambles-went-south investments made by Wall Street and collapsed the US economy so it was losing 750,000 jobs a month when Obama took the reins? those “free-spending liberals”?

  • seeker656

    I miss the modify option. range should be rage.

  • Non-Contributor

    If tax cuts are to create jobs then number s of jobs and when needs to be defined.

    No more wishful thinking.

  • sstewart55

    Now they’re talking about increasing the retirement age, lets cut medicare benefit so that money can be used to decrease the deficit. There again the working people is having to pay. They are wanting use the funds in medicare to help reduce the deficit. How is this a benefit for all the working people that has paid into Mediare. On the other side, both social security and medicare is is being drained by those that as never had a job, other than knowing how to work the system.

  • JimBob

    Across the board cuts. Defense, Medicare, and Social Security. That’s where the money is. Next start looking at entire cabinet departments. Education, energy, and commerce would be a good start. All could be eliminated and we wouldn’t notice.

  • SallyVee

    We’re going to need either to modify our ideology or discipline our base. As is, we’re paralyzed between the two.

    Very well said. I don’t have all the answers, but if we start by recognizing the problem maybe we can get somewhere before today’s infants reach their sixties.

    As for Hannity: I cannot believe anyone mistakes him for anything but a craven ratings hound. It’s true, the only people I know who listen to him are over 65… way over 65. He shouts platitudes and outrage with only his viewers in mind… just like politicians he rails against pander to their constituencies. Welcome to American Problem Solving in the 21st century.

  • CD-Host

    We’re going to need either to modify our ideology or discipline our base.

    Yep I keep saying it over and over… Here are the 3 options:

    1) A socially conservative / economically liberal party, the democratic party of 1963. That’s something the country needs. Then the Republicans become the old fashioned Dems. The Dems are the old fashioned Republicans, a socially moderate / economically moderate party. Because demographically there a very large number of social conservatives and economic liberals, a very large number of moderates on those two axis and not many opposed this way we can go back to having a much more sane politics. The vast majority of people will fall into one of the two parties easily and not have to constantly flip back and forth.

    2) A populist party. A marriage between most of the extremes in the US on both the left and right. Something like a Peronist party for the USA.

    3) Economic moderate / socially moderate running against the economically liberal party

    A focus on seniors allows for (1). But any of these 3 options mean moving left on economics.

  • KBKY

    I think that this is an excellent post that deals with an important and exceedingly visible issue with the Republican party. In the past, I had viewed the Democrats as the idealist party and the Republicans as the practical party. I would count on the Republicans to bring a dose of reality to Democratic social initiatives. Now, both parties are trying to out-spend each other to keep the 65+ crowd happy and the rest of the country’s finances are suffering. Both political parties need to display a little political courage and make some painful, but necessary, cuts.

  • eugibs

    General comment about this website:

    Why is it that whenever there is an article about the elderly, there is an extremely unflattering picture of old people? Not to mention, their involvement in politics and Republican politics in general is almost always framed in a negative way – as if Republicans would be better served shunning them.

    Conversely, whenever there is an article about young people, there is always an extremely flattering picture of intelligent-looking, civic-minded young people. The general tone is that they are the group that Republicans should be courting at all costs.

    I do believe there is blatant agism all over this website implicitly and in some cases explicitly (I recall reading an article by one of the college student contributors to this site a few months back that referred to a woman he estimated as being in her 50s as a “little old lady” – how incredibly insulting).

    To the extent the agism is not malicious, but rather simply a way of pointing out the GOP’s future “demographic problem”, I find the argument terribly unpersuasive. Young people, throughout history, have nearly always been more liberal and older people have nearly always been more conservative. Today’s liberals will overwhelmingly become tomorrow’s conservatives. A person’s politics have a funny way of changing once they start actually making money and realize they aren’t the smartest person in the world.

  • easton

    I don’t understand this fixation with 21% myself. Do you really imagine the US budget during WW2 was crazily pegged not to exceed 21%? During war time we should absolutely expect that the budget go beyond that amount, and during peace time it can go under.

    To arbitrarily limit the goverments spending to not exceed 21% during war time is suicidal. Last time I checked we are still at war, if we want to win it we have to be prepared to pay for it by whatever means necessary and if it means going over 21%, so be it.

  • TerryF98

    I have not seen one serious GOP pol suggest we cut the defense budget at all. Until they do there is no reality in their position. None.

  • sdspringy

    Balcon should be old enough to know that the accounting gimmick which allowed SS revenues to be used to balance the budget occurred under Democrat control in 1960 to accommodate their social agenda. He would be correct to state that no Republican had the courage to correct the mistake after that but incorrect to state it was used to fund tax cuts.

    Another Lefty myth is the 2001 surplus. The government long term debt has accumulated every year since 1960. The debt continued to accumulate under Clinton, at a slower rate thanks to the budget passed by the House Republican, but increased it did. No surplus existed.

    Social Security benefits were paid for by every American and as such are owed to every American. Medicare and other government spending can and should be reduced to lower our deficit spending. There are numerous government programs from Defense to Energy to Farm where cuts should be made.

  • Watusie

    eugibs, what is unflattering about the picture? It shows…old people.

  • CD-Host

    Last time I checked we are still at war

    I think the American people are pretty clear they are tired of war. We’ll have to see how they react to defense cuts but I don’t see support for the wars.

  • eugibs

    watusie – be fair. The clear implication is that this is a “cranky” group of old people. I mean look at the expression on the face of the guy who is standing.

  • DFL

    Tell that old coot to sit down, we’re cutting his Medicare, and he better learn to stop eating at KFC or Morrison’s Cafeteria on a daily basis.

  • Rabiner

    Eugibs:

    “General comment about this website:

    Why is it that whenever there is an article about the elderly, there is an extremely unflattering picture of old people? Not to mention, their involvement in politics and Republican politics in general is almost always framed in a negative way – as if Republicans would be better served shunning them.

    Conversely, whenever there is an article about young people, there is always an extremely flattering picture of intelligent-looking, civic-minded young people. The general tone is that they are the group that Republicans should be courting at all costs.

    I do believe there is blatant agism all over this website implicitly and in some cases explicitly (I recall reading an article by one of the college student contributors to this site a few months back that referred to a woman he estimated as being in her 50s as a “little old lady” – how incredibly insulting).

    To the extent the agism is not malicious, but rather simply a way of pointing out the GOP’s future “demographic problem”, I find the argument terribly unpersuasive. Young people, throughout history, have nearly always been more liberal and older people have nearly always been more conservative. Today’s liberals will overwhelmingly become tomorrow’s conservatives. A person’s politics have a funny way of changing once they start actually making money and realize they aren’t the smartest person in the world.”

    Perhaps the reason many of the articles and many of the posters on this site ‘scapegoat’ the elderly is because they are the ones who voted for massive tax cuts to go alongside spending increases? And then when any reasonable cuts to their 2 main government programs are suggested they rise up and say ‘oh hell no’.

    Elderly have a disproportionate amount of the wealth in this nation due to the asset bubbles caused by their policies. I live in California where our policies all help the elderly stay in homes they can’t afford while people my age can’t afford those same homes since the values have skyrocketed since there isn’t enough supply in metropolitan areas. Prop 13 screws the younger generations at the expense of older citizens. It screws the education system since it decreases the property tax base. If we want to pass a school bond in my city we have to exclude the parcel tax from being applied to people over the age of 65 or it won’t pass. If I wanted to purchase my parents home, I’d have to earn probably $100,000 so I could pay it off in 20-25 years. My parents never made more than $65-70,000 annually combined in income and paid off the house in 15 years.

    Old people shouldn’t be flattered for the policies they’ve voted for in the last 30-40 years.

  • Rabiner

    spspringy:

    “Another Lefty myth is the 2001 surplus. The government long term debt has accumulated every year since 1960. The debt continued to accumulate under Clinton, at a slower rate thanks to the budget passed by the House Republican, but increased it did. No surplus existed.”

    Considering Bush’s argument for the 2001 tax cuts was ‘the government has a surplus and should give the money back to the hard working American people’ makes me thing it was an embracing of that myth by all politicians, left and right.

  • JimBob

    “I have not seen one serious GOP pol suggest we cut the defense budget at all. Until they do there is no reality in their position. None.”

    Senator elect Rand Paul has called for big cuts in the defense budget.

  • PatrickQuint

    Very good article, with lots of red-meat responses.

    Smarg: “The parasitism has to stop or we are doomed.”

    The parasitism of the elderly? Really?

    CD-Host: “Here are the 3 options:”

    I call false dilemma. Explain why no other option is viable for combating a socially moderate/liberal, economically moderate/liberal party.

    JimBob: “Across the board cuts. Defense, Medicare, and Social Security. That’s where the money is. Next start looking at entire cabinet departments. Education, energy, and commerce would be a good start. All could be eliminated and we wouldn’t notice.”

    You wouldn’t notice the elimination of these cabinet departments on the bottom line either. If the President wants advisers, then he should have them. Cutting the office budgets may be warranted (I simply don’t know what the budgets are, let alone what they’re used for).

    eugibs: “Today’s liberals will overwhelmingly become tomorrow’s conservatives.”

    Perhaps you’re right in terms of fiscal policy, but I that trend doesn’t seem to carry over to social issues or ideology. I don’t see how growing older will make someone feel differently about abortion or homosexuality. Growing older may cause people to turn to faith more, but I’d like to see the numbers on that one.

    easton: “To arbitrarily limit the governments spending to not exceed 21% during war time is suicidal.”

    Perhaps in times of total war, but we haven’t seen that in Western nations sine the second world war. What we have in Iraq and Afghanistan is a particularly bloody policing action. You can call that war if you like, but it’s a far cry from the era of rationing, conscription and war bonds. A 21% cap could indeed hamstring the government if it needs to react quickly to authorize an increase in defense spending, but a “declaration of war” bill could include a repeal.

  • KBKY

    @ sdspringy
    I agree that there are many areas for our government to look for cuts (farm subsidies are an example), but you can’t realistically think to get our country’s budget under control by just looking at those types of cuts. That’s akin to saying that we’ll balance the budget by eliminating earmarks. It’s not that other inefficiencies don’t exist, but even defense spending pales in comparison to Medicare and Social Security expenses.

    To your other point, although every American pays into Social Security and Medicare, our current recipients are, on the whole, getting more than they put in while working. This is where the problem has arisen. If people were just getting receiving the benefits that they contributed there would be no budget issue. The contribution rates, however, are based on several, out-dated premises, for instance, retirement age and life expectancy. You now have people (my grandparents included) who have received Social Security benefits for 25-30 years. Now, my grandparents worked hard, they worked very hard, but they did not contribute enough in their Medicare and Social Security taxes for that kind of government support, especially given some of the expensive procedures and care that Medicare supports. This does not mean that I think we should get rid of these programs or that the elderly are greedy, nothing could be further from the truth, but we have to look realistically at today’s society and what is financially feasible. This is especially true now that the baby boomers are approaching 65 and we don’t have a large enough workforce to fund their entitlements.

    @eugibs
    I don’t think it’s ageism, I think it’s more a backlash against a perception of unchecked influence. The elderly have a very high voting percentage and when they vote, they vote their interest. This is not at all a bad thing, this is how democracy works. Right now, however, there is no alternative power (e.g. a youth vote) to balance this out. This means that we are getting policy skewed toward our 65+ population to the point that we aren’t getting policies good for the nation in the long-term. Compare it to unions. I don’t think you’ll find anyone that is against the idea of someone earning a fair wage for a day’s work or being able to work in a safe environment. When people get upset is when they feel that unions are receiving so much in the way or pensions or benefits that it is hindering the other side of the economic equation.

    In terms of the recent FrumForum articles, I think the entire argument is that something significant has shifted. It’s not that they are arguing (to my understanding) that the normal liberal youth aren’t going to turn into conservative adults. They are arguing that even these more conservative adults won’t feel at home in the current Republican party. Whether this is true or not is up for grabs, but it is certainly something worth discussing if you are interested in the longevity of the Republican party. In terms of the youth being portrayed more positively, I think David’s article on the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear presented today’s youth as being out-of-touch and coddled from life’s real problems.

  • CD-Host

    CD-Host: “Here are the 3 options:”

    I call false dilemma. Explain why no other option is viable for combating a socially moderate/liberal, economically moderate/liberal party.

    Because you have to pick up votes. Where do you get them from? There are none sideways. So go up, go diagonal or cross to the other board.

  • busboy33

    “GOP Choice: Balanced Budgets or Senior Votes”

    Balanced budgets don’t vote. Makes this dilemna pretty easy to resolve, don’t it?

  • rockinrobbie

    “It’s not that other inefficiencies don’t exist, but even defense spending pales in comparison to Medicare and Social Security expenses.”

    Not sure where you’re getting that. Defense spending is greater than Medicare and Social Security (separately).

    Defense: $782 billion
    Medicare: $676 billion
    Social Sec: $678 billion

    These three behemoths account for over 60% of the budget. All three must be on the table to meaningfully deal with the debt.

  • KBKY

    @rockinrobbie

    I stand corrected; the numbers I was looking at had Medicare and Social Security combined.

  • dante

    rockinrobbie – Up till now, the ONLY one of those paid for through income taxes is Defense. Medicare and Social Security are paid for 100%+ out of their own taxes. Claiming to want to “reform” those means that you’re committing to balancing the budget on the backs of payroll taxes instead of income taxes.

  • CD-Host

    dante –

    Payroll taxes are an income at least up to a certain level of income. Republicans have always rejected the fiction that if I have two taxes for A paying for X and B paying for Y that this is somehow different than having a tax of A+B paying for X and Y. They have always looked at the total tax burdon. That’s a good thing that doesn’t need to change.

  • dante

    Uh, no they haevn’t. That’s why the Republican line is that “Almost 50% of American’s don’t pay (federal income) taxes”. EVERY working American pays payroll taxes, and it’s setup as a regressive tax. To balance the budget off of the payroll taxes is dirty, dirty politics.

  • rockinrobbie

    @dante

    Since income from social security and medicare is less than $900 billion (combined costs over $1.3 trillion), I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that they’re “paid for”. Hence, the debt! So, yeah, something needs to be done. But if you aren’t open to means testing or raising the retirement age, you certainly will have to look at raising revenue somewhere (such as raising the social security cap). So far, Bowles-Simpson seems pretty comprehensive to me, which includes slashing defense and addressing social security and medicare revenue by multiple prongs.

  • dante

    rockinrobbie – SS has run a surplus every year up until this one and has 2.5T in the “trust fund”. Medicare still has 12 years left in it’s “trust fund” as well. They have surplus funds because the working people in this country have paid more into them than they’ve taken out.

    I also wouldn’t call a measly 15% cut in Defense spending “slashing”. We could probably accomplish that through getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and that would be *real* decreases in spending, not the fluff that we were offered in this plan. We’re spending almost $800b on our Dept of Defense (not counting Veterans Affairs) this year. Do you *really* think that it’s going to go down to $680b under this plan? Yeah, I didn’t either.

  • PatrickQuint

    CD- Host “Because you have to pick up votes. Where do you get them from? There are none sideways. So go up, go diagonal or cross to the other board.”

    The social issues look to me to be a vote-loser for Republicans overall. They pick up as many protest votes over it as they pick up from the socially conservative third of the Republican coalition (foreign policy hawks / religious right / libertarians). De-emphasize that part of the platform and you de-mobilize protest votes from the libertarians and the Democratic base, as well as getting a shot at the younger votes. You can boost the relative Republican vote numbers simply by curbing the “not-Republican” vote.

    You keep the religious right by painting democrats as atheist or morally relativist.

    You keep the foreign policy hawks by keeping the foreign bases and keeping peace in areas like the seas of southeast Asia (dissuade overt Chinese aggression), and with indirect support of Israel as we see now.

    You keep libertarians with tax policy and cuts to wasteful spending (there isn’t all *that* much, but cutting what’s there will buy you the votes). Staying roughly Constitutionalist will help.

    As long as you keep those from voting Democrat, which shouldn’t be *that* hard, you can work on peeling off social and economic moderates. You peel off social moderates by putting on your libertarian hat and talking individual freedom. You peel off economic moderates by using government regulation in commerce to validate otherwise false free market assumptions.

    In this case, you cut defense (parts you can peg as wasteful spending, such as many bases in Europe and spare engines for every plane). Some military bureaucracy can go as well. You increase the social security retirement age for at least some to reflect longer lifespans. You cut some medicare benefits or allow some imported drugs to create some more competition (Canada often gets precisely the same drugs from the same brand and manufacturer as the US, for a lot less).

  • pnumi2

    @sdspringy

    “The debt continued to accumulate under Clinton, at a slower rate thanks to the budget passed by the House Republican, but increased it did.”

    What can we take home here? That a Republican House and Senate can act responsibly with a Democratic president but get their diapers dirty with a Republican one?

  • DNiemann

    Maybe it’s time for Term Limits! Sign the Petition for Term Limits at http://isupporttermlimits.com/term-limits-petition/

  • sdspringy

    First Dante, there is no SS Trust Fund, hasn’t been one since 1960. SS payroll taxes are used to buy Treasury Bonds which fuel government spending. The reason why there is no Trust Fund is really nothing more than an accounting gimmick which has allowed politicians from both parties to use SS income to offset government spending creating the illusion of a fiscally responsible government.

    Now that SS no longer is running a surplus and there is actually no Trust Fund the 40-50 Billion short fall has to be provide by the budget process which is not very helpful in this period of the Great Recession.

    Pnumi2, what can you take home from my comment is that if once bright young minds go to Washington with the goal of balancing the budget they usually end up being subverted to the normal Inside-the-Beltway method of doing business

  • Xunzi Washington

    First Dante, there is no SS Trust Fund, hasn’t been one since 1960. SS payroll taxes are used to buy Treasury Bonds which fuel government spending.

    Which means that the trust fund holds the bonds, which means there is a trust fund after all. It would be a gimmick if the govt had no intention of making good on those bonds.

  • JonF

    Re: The reason why there is no Trust Fund is really nothing more than an accounting gimmick

    Well, yes, but only to the same extent that *everything* financial is an accouting gimmick. If you trot down to your bank and ask to see the money in your IRA they won’t be able to show it to you. There’s no drawer in they vault where they have stashed your cash. That too is just numbers in a ledger.

  • greg_barton

    @pnumi2

    Yep. What I learned from the 90′s and 00′s is this: Repiblicans will only be responsible when they get to screw Democrats at the same time.

  • greg_barton

    Republicans.

    Modify button!!

  • SkepticalIdealist

    The deficit commission’s plan is a piece of garbage as far as I can tell. Every measure should go toward cutting the deficit. You don’t put tax cuts in a deficit reduction plan, even if it is supposedly a “net tax increase”. You don’t put a cap on revenue, which again is essentially putting a cap on how quickly we can reduce the deficit.

  • SkepticalIdealist

    Just imagine for a moment if so-called “tax-and-spend” liberals were in charge of the deficit commission, and they released a plan that raised taxes for the wealthy and the corporations by 50%, while simultaneously creating new entitlement programs.

    If you can understand the hypocrisy in that you can understand the hypocrisy in the real deficit reduction plan. Even the most liberal members in congress wouldn’t do that because it’s irresponsible. This wasn’t supposed to be a time for conservatives to push their agenda. It was supposed to be a time to get serious and really try to solve the problem. This plan is clearly not what we were hoping for.

  • CD-Host

    Patrick –

    from the socially conservative third of the Republican coalition (foreign policy hawks / religious right / libertarians).

    This is where the mistake in your analysis lies. These are not the parts of the Republican coalition. For one thing the “libertarians” on a percentage basis don’t exist.

    Enterprises – 10% of the voting population. Older often vets leans male. Economic conservatives, foreign policy hawks. Moderate or RR on social issues. Basically agree with the entire Bush agenda.

    Social Cons — 13%. Older lean female. Focused on social issues. Generally moderate on economic issues as they want to avoid the social disruption of large scale change. Strong support for things like welfare economics.

    Pro government conservatives — 10%. Often female. Quite often minority. Generally poor. These are economic liberals who are much more concerned about social issues than economic. However they can flip easily back and forth with conserva-dems.

    Disaffecteds – 10% of the voting population. Generally see themselves as independent voted strongly with the GOP in 2010 though voted against them in 2008. Young, male, low education. They like the macho rhetoric of the GOP, they like the racism. They like small government because they don’t trust it, seeing it dominated by interests they don’t approve of. This is your core small government conservative group, and they are not reliable GOP voters. They have very little interest in social issues.

    Upbeats — Also independent break generally for the GOP. These might be your libertarians. Like American society, think the government does a good job. Socially moderate and economically moderate. Note Democrats have been working this group and bring them in.

    That’s what the coalition really looks like. Drop social issues and:

    1) You lose pro government conservatives instantly
    2) Social conservatives split
    3) You get 100% of the disaffected voters unless the Democrats change tone (pick a Howard Dean type candidate)
    4) You get a greater percentage of the upbeats but likely still not reliable 100%.
    5) You keep roughly all the economic conservatives / social moderates there aren’t any more to get.

    In terms of economic conservatives / social liberals they don’t exist. What does exist are economic moderates / social liberals, the old Rockefeller Republicans and they are now part of the Democratic party’s base. They vote 92% democrat though a lot consider themselves independent.

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