It's great that the Washington Post lets Robert Samuelson run the same columns again and again. Otherwise he might have to work for his paycheck.
Today's column is a rerun of the senior bashing piece. The premise is that we can never raise taxes and that we are too stupid and/or corrupt to get our health care costs in line with the rest of the world. And, if these two claims prove to be true, then voila, spending on seniors will crowd out other spending in the budget.
It's not clear why anyone would think we will never be able to raise taxes ever again. Reagan signed into law a large increase in Social Security taxes. Clinton raised income taxes, as did Obama. We also have polling results showing that the public would support increases in the payroll tax to sustain benefits.
As a practical matter, if we restored normal wage growth, so that wages rose in step with productivity, it's difficult to see why it would be so difficult to take 10-20 percent of wage growth in some years to meet the cost of an aging population. If Samuelson knows some reason why this is impossible he is not sharing it with readers.
We also pay more than twice as much per person for our health care as people in other wealthy countries. We have nothing to show for this extra spending in terms of outcome. It is difficult to see why we will never be able to get our costs in line. Do protectionists so dominate U.S. politics that we will never be able to open up our health care system to international competition, if we are unable to fix it?
In short Samuelson is telling us that we have to beat up our seniors because we can never raise taxes and never fix our health care system. Furthermore, Samuelson complains that those of us who don't want to join him in beating up seniors are engaged in a "charade":
"Both liberals and conservatives are complicit in this charade, but liberals are more so because their unwillingness to discuss Social Security and Medicare benefits candidly is the crux of the budget stalemate."
Of course liberals and conservatives are discussing Social Security and Medicare. They just aren't saying the things that Robert Samuelson likes so he just insists they are saying nothing.
Actually, if someone wants to assess Samuelson's credibility, he gives a line that tells readers everything they need to know:
"The military is being weakened. As a share of national income, defense spending is projected to fall by 40 percent from 2010 to 2024."
Yes, well we were fighting two wars in 2010. The projections for 2024 assume that we will not be fighting any wars. That is a big deal if you were trying to make an honest comparison of military spending in 2010 and 2024, but this is a Robert Samuelson column.
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