One of the things I like to do in my free time is to comment on various pieces on the New York Times opinion page. (More)
In response to an editorial titled The Truth About Military Cuts, which criticizes the GOP’s efforts to falsely blame President Obama for the automatic cuts to military spending that were included in last year’s budget deal that narrowly averted the GOP-created debt-ceiling crisis, I commented:
That the GOP is lying about the cause of the cuts to the military budget included in the sequester is no big surprise – peddling untruths seems to be the thing that today’s GOP is best at.
What is remarkable is that the military cuts of approximately $55 billion per year that the GOP is squawking about is far less than the amount that most Americans believe should be cut from our bloated military budgets.
In a comprehensive national survey carried out by the Center for Public Integrity and two other groups earlier this year, 2/3 of Republicans and 90% of Democrats supported immediate cuts to military spending. The average total cut that the public supported was $103 billion per year out of a baseline military budget of $562 billion. More than half of the survey respondents supported cuts of at least $83 billion per year.
Cuts to military spending should certainly be done in a careful manner by, for example, eliminating weapons systems that were designed for the Cold War, closing military bases in countries that can afford to defend themselves, and cracking down on corrupt military contractors. But the important point is that reductions in military spending should be part of restoring fiscal balance, and the public supports going further on this issue than our elected officials do.
In response to Bill Keller’s column titled The Entitled Generation, which argues that Baby Boomers need to accept cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in order to restore fiscal balance, I commented:
It is misleading at best to put Social Security in the same category as Medicare and Medicaid and then blame our fiscal problems on “entitlements,” as the real problem is skyrocketing health care costs.
Social Security is fully solvent for twenty or more years, would continue paying 75% of benefits after that with no changes, and would be fully solvent for 75 years with minor changes, such as lifting the wage cap on the payroll tax.
Medicare and Medicaid face far larger fiscal problems, but the problems are not with the programs themselves, but rather with the fact that health care costs continue to skyrocket largely unabated. The GOP has no plan to deal with the cost issue but, instead, would simply shift all the costs to individuals. The result would be to raise the overall societal cost of health care because private insurance is more expensive than Medicare, while leaving even more people without insurance.
The Democrats have started to take the proper response, which is to find ways to rationalize health care spending, rather than to ration care. Doing so involves comparative effectiveness research, strengthening the IPAB, changing how providers are reimbursed, and allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. Replacing inefficient private insurance with Medicare-for-all would also save a large amount of money. Misguided attacks on “entitlements” won’t.
In response to Paul Krugman’s column titled Money For Nothing, which explores how conservatives have continued to warn that deficits would lead to skyrocketing U.S. interest rates even as interests rates have actually fallen to near zero, I commented:
The disconnect between the reality of the past few years and the claims of the so-called “deficit hawks” can be explained by the fact that the “deficit hawks” do not actually care about deficits.
As we’ve seen over the past thirty years, conservatives who pretend to care about deficits (primarily Republicans, but also Blue Dog Democrats) only emphasize the deficit when they are seeking to eliminate a government program that benefits average Americans. When it comes to wars, corporate subsidies, and tax cuts for the wealthy, however, conservatives are silent about deficits and, instead, are actively cheerleading policies that are the primary cause of those deficits to begin with.
The reason that conservatives pretend to care about deficits while at the same time making such deficits bigger is that they are out to destroy government as a tool for benefiting the common good. And the way to do that is: (1) prevent the government from taking the steps needed to improve the economy in order to “prove” that government does not work, and (2) to create a deficit “crisis” that makes it “necessary” to do things like abolish Medicare, eviscerate Medicaid, shrink education and infrastructure investments, and slash the safety net.
In short, the “deficit hawks” are actually deficit vultures who are using the deficits they created to achieve their own ideological goals.