David Brooks Is Upset that President Obama Hasn't Inflicted More Pain on the Middle Class

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Friday, 02 November 2012 04:44

I'm not kidding. If you get through the excess verbiage in his column, the main point is that President Obama hasn't moved to cut Social Security and Medicare in his first term. This is what Brooks means when he says:

"get our long-term entitlement burdens under control, get our political system working, shift government resources from the affluent elderly to struggling young families and future growth,"

and by his later call for "sacrifice." Of course Brooks doesn't really mean "affluent" elderly. We know that Brooks and his political allies question whether even people earning above $250,000 a year are affluent when it comes to tax cuts. If the cuts in Social Security and Medicare were restricted to this group then we would barely need to change the projections for these programs. There are so few seniors with incomes above this cutoff that whether or not they get Medicare and Social Security makes almost no difference to the financial health of these programs.

Brooks wants to see Obama cut benefits for retired nurses, school teachers, truck drivers and other middle class workers. That is the only way to produce real savings in these programs. And, in spite of indicating a willingness to make cuts in these programs, Obama has not delivered in his first term. So just as many Democrats were disappointed that President Bush hadn't provided universal health care or taken steps to curb global warming in his first term, David Brooks is upset that President Obama has not cut Social Security and Medicare.

(Btw, just in case anyone was wondering, more pain for the middle class is not necessary as Brooks asserts. As every budget wonk knows, the problem is simply fixing our broken health care system. If our per person health care costs were anywhere close to costs in other wealthy countries, we would be looking at long-term budget surpluses, not deficits.)