Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The sacrifice

Republican representative Paul Ryan says getting the national debt under control is a "moral obligation." And how does he propose to fulfill that obligation? By watering down Medicare and Medicaid.

Another Ryan, Ryan Streeter, gives him thumbs up:
Whenever we have to forego something important that we expected to receive, we tend to call it a “sacrifice.” It’s not inappropriate to say that Ryan’s budget pushes us in the direction of “sacrifice” – even “shared sacrifice,” an expression entitlement reformers are loathe [he means loath] to use. Selling Medicare reform is hard enough as it is. Making it sound painful is even worse. But changing our expectations, and preparing for a different future, is what we have to require of ourselves. ...

If we are going to achieve the kinds of spending reductions needed to balance our books in the future, we all have to be prepared to give up what our parents and grandparents expected as a given. The only way we're going to keep our country great is by committing to sacrifice -- for the sake of our country. We've seen the sacrifices made by "The Greatest Generation." They came in the last century. Now, this is our generation’s greatest calling.
Such pious twaddle reminds me of the account in  "gonzo" "journalist" Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas about being in a motel room in Vegas, high on a combination of extracurricular brain chemicals, while a speech by Richard Nixon was being broadcast on the TV. The volume was low, Thompson wrote, and the only words he could make out from the president were, "Sacrifice ... sacrifice ... sacrifice ... ."


Now, make no mistake, the American economy is in a graveyard spiral, and radical spending reductions are beyond urgent.

But for once, I have to agree with a frequent Democratic Party talking point: why should the "sacrifices" be made by the old and the ill?

Notice what Ryan doesn't talk about sacrificing. Not a word about military adventurism in the Middle East. Nothing about useless federal bureaucracies, student loans that mainly benefit for-profit Internet "colleges," automobile company and bank bailouts, affirmative action programs and enforcers that discriminate against whites, "alternative energy" subsidy scams, and all the other ways the government taxes its subjects to distribute the money to its favorites.


We are in this devastating condition primarily because our politicians have lost any sane notion of the legitimate purposes, and especially limits, of government. It is just too easy to buy votes through spending that pleases lobbying groups and ethnic grievance organizations. Instead of allowing a painful but relatively short period of economic self-correction, the government steps in with money raised by borrowing, taxing, and "quantitative easing" to postpone the day of reckoning.

All that has become such standard operating procedure that it seems normal to the political class; it can't imagine any other way of doing business. Insofar as sit recognizes any financial debacle, the only solution it can conceive is telling the productive class, or those who were productive in their younger days, to suck it in.


We can expect a lot more pseudo-populist, "we're all in this together, but especially you" tosh. Particularly when it appears that it's aimed at the filthy rich. As Streeter puts it:
Multi-millionaires shouldn’t receive Social Security checks or have their knee replacements paid by Medicare. Scaling benefits to income is called means-testing, and we should all embrace it for entitlement programs. Ryan’s budget introduces means-testing into Medicare, which is a great start.
No, it is a bad start. If (as appears possible) hyper-inflation gets into gear, there are going to be a lot more multi-millionaires, as there are in Zimbabwe. They'll have millions of five-cent dollars. And, of course, once the government runs out of multi-millionaires, then it can means-test millionaires, then the rich, then People Who Have More Than They Deserve, and finally People Who Have More Than Others.

But there is a more important, and moral, objection to this proposal. Everyone who has received a paycheck or run a business has paid into the Medicare program. Medicare, like Social Security, isn't a gift. It's a return on money extracted via a forced loan from working Americans.


For the government to decide now that it doesn't need to repay the loan to those who have "means" is larceny. It's no different from an individual borrowing money from someone -- and it's usually the well-off who lend money -- and then refusing to repay it on the grounds that the lender is doing pretty well.

We may be willing to sacrifice. We shouldn't agree to be sacrificed.



Maria said...

Who couldn't see this coming? The plan is to screw us old white folks out of as many remaining taxes as they can, and then throw us on the scrapheap. It was inevitable since the 1965 Immigration Act, importing poverty and ethnic conflict where there was none before.

Bennies for illegal immigrants and all the other protected classes will remain, but those that old white folks have paid into for decades will be cut.

Best try to stay as healthy and able to work as possible.

Rick Darby said...

And suckers like this Ryan Streeter item, who probably thinks he's a conservative, will fall for it like bowling pins.

Maria said...

I am wondering more and more why we continue to stay law-abiding American citizens. The way we are being abused, it would make sense to start trying to hide from the taxman as much as possible, and hang the law. At least then we would have more money for retirement.

Rick Darby said...


I hope you don't mean tax evasion. Stick with legal ways of reducing your taxes with the help of a good tax accountant. Don't put yourself at risk by fiddling the IRS.

Maria said...

Rick, 10 years ago, even five years ago, I thought paying taxes was a moral and civic duty, so never would have had the thought in the first place. Today there is nothing keeping me honest except fear of the mighty IRS.

The government does not represent me and the country I was born in does not deserve my loyalty or my love. We are nothing but a great big white (if you'll excuse the pun) cow that puts out milk so that all the other peoples' of the world, the more "deserving" ones, can have their "better way of life" that they are entitled to. White people as livestock, or possibly, as natural resources, to be mined and plumbed for all we are worth, before we are sent to the knackers. But not people. Anything but people.

I just signed my tax forms today, so I'm in a somewhat sour mood. ):

Martin B said...

And the odd thing is that giving up foreign adventurism is not a sacrifice. It is the giving up of a sacrifice, and a costly sacrifice at that.

As long as the Republicans are immune to any sensible policy on foreign entanglements - both at home (immigration), and abroad (war), I will be immune to their entreaties.

Rick Darby said...


I understand your point. Not arguing you should have warm feelings toward this country where people like us are viewed by the political establishment as cows to be milked (I like your metaphor). But don't go up against the IRS -- you can't win.

Martin B,

Well said. I favor a strong, well-financed military ... for defense. Not hundreds of overseas bases "protecting" countries that can't be bothered to protect themselves. Presidents from both parties have come to use our military as a toy, sending servicemen and -women into harm's way without thinking through what we're there for and what the end game is. Madness.

Maria said...

Rick, that's one of the reasons why I'm ambivalent about going back to work after two years of being an at-home mom. Our tax bite this year, excluding sales tax but including SSI/Medicare, property tax, state, local and federal income tax, was around 40K. When I was working it was more like 70K. I wondered then why I was putting my own (single) child in daycare and working full-time to pay taxes that are then just transferred to some Mexican woman, likely here illegally, so that she can stay home with her five kids while I worked.

Two years of being an at-home mom has deprived the beast of 60K in taxes. An entirely legal form of tax evasion.

Nicholas Stix said...

You know, Rick, sometimes I get depressed reading all the gruesome, racist murder stories my people send me. But after reading about the sadistic, budgetary slaughter of old white milk cows, crime stories are looking a lot better.

Maria said...

But after reading about the sadistic, budgetary slaughter of old white milk cows, crime stories are looking a lot better.
It's not a matter of relativity. They paid into those programs for 40 years under force, now they are being told, "oh too bad, they're going away."

It's grossly unfair, and the fact is, those programs would not be so tempting to cut if the majority of elderly in our country were not of a certain unfavorable shade of skin.