October 19, 2018

McConnell Talks Entitlement Spending

In an interview with Bloomberg News, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security."


See past issues

From the Left

The left accuses McConnell and the GOP of only caring about the deficit when it suits their agenda, and warns that cuts to social safety net programs would have dire consequences for millions of Americans.

“After spending the Obama era frowning and sighing about how the national deficit... was troublingly high, Republicans decided last year to explode that same figure with a tax cut package massively tilted toward the rich and corporations. When warned by various experts that cutting taxes would mean lower revenues and therefore higher deficits, Republicans attacked those analyses as biased and claimed the deficit wouldn't go up all that much. Predictably, the experts were right and the deficit did increase...

“[Now] after Congress passed a bipartisan spending bill that jacked up military spending among other priorities, McConnell is apparently back to caring about the deficit.”


Many note that “Obama doggedly pursued a fiscal ‘grand bargain’ several times in his first term that would have cut Social Security in exchange for some new revenue. A major factor in the collapse of those talks were the objections of an ultra-conservative faction of House Republicans to then-Speaker John Boehner offering Obama any new revenue."

Huffington Post

“Even as McConnell blames ‘entitlements’ (that is, Medicare and Social Security) for deficits, and declares (falsely) that Medicare in particular is ‘unsustainable,’ Paul Ryan’s super PAC has been running ads accusing Democrats of wanting to cut Medicare. The cynicism is breathtaking.”

New York Times

“It is true that those programs make up a large share of federal spending... An aging population will put a strain on the program like it hasn’t seen before. But on the other hand, Social Security benefits in particular are not exactly robust — the average check is just $1,300 a month — and we know that the program plays a big role in helping American seniors stay out of poverty...

Governing is about priorities. Democrats have run on expanding Social Security benefits and extending Medicare coverage to every American. They’re proposing higher taxes on the wealthy and on corporations to pay for those plans. Republicans are going hard in the other direction: lower taxes for businesses, fewer benefits for vulnerable Americans.”


The political calendar and Trump's approach could give grounds for optimism. Kim, who has presided over a limited form of economic development inside North Korea, is under pressure to deliver improvements in the lives of his people… So he has an incentive to try to seek economic benefits or aid from the United States and wants punishing economic sanctions lifted — a potential opening for US negotiators… Kim must realize that his chances of basking in this kind of legitimacy with a US President other than Trump are slim. So if he fears Trump could lose in 2020, he may reason the time may be ripe for a deal. And Trump wants nothing more than a big diplomatic breakthrough months before the election.”
Stephen Collinson, CNN

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

The right accuses the media of distorting McConnell’s words, but worries that bringing up entitlement reform before the midterms could backfire.

From the Right

The right accuses the media of distorting McConnell’s words, but worries that bringing up entitlement reform before the midterms could backfire.

“McConnell did not suggest that Republicans had any ‘plan’ to make significant changes to those programs; he suggested that he thought any such effort was doomed for failure without Democratic support... You can certainly make the case that Republicans should be seeking to rein in the growth of those programs; I’ve made that case myself. But there’s no sign that they have any plans to take up this challenge after the elections."

National Review

Furthermore, “President Trump told the Associated Press... that he will not sign a bill that would make changes to Social Security."

Washington Examiner

“With less than three weeks left until the midterms, McConnell may have just handed the Democrats the economic argument they had been longing for at the worst possible moment for the Republicans... the Senate majority leader stepped on a figurative grenade and signaled that he was ready to throw granny from a moving train to placate the donor gods."

The Hill

Minority view: The fiscal recklessness that Republicans have shown while in power is only going to reinforce the view on the Left that Republicans are acting in bad faith when they voice concerns about rising debt. This means when Democrats are back in power, they are much less likely to want to talk entitlement reform or responsible budgeting with Republicans."

Washington Examiner

Many caution that reform is necessary. “America is paying for current consumption of government services using the government’s credit card that will be paid for by future generations. If it’s all about the children, as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says, we’re not doing them any favors... entitlement spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid continues to exceed federal revenue increases... no one wants to tell the public that these programs need to be reformed if they are to survive."

USA Today

Entitlements are a far bigger debt-driver than the recent tax cuts are... Assuming they’re extended, and factoring in interest costs and economic growth, the tax cuts will cost perhaps $2.7 trillion over a decade... [By contrast] Social Security and Medicare face a cash deficit of $82 trillion over the next three decades."

National Review

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Nebraska's new tourism pitch: 'Honestly, it's not for everyone'

Omaha World-Herald

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