Wednesday, July 13, 2011
This interview from yesterday shows another master stroke in the president's ongoing negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. Scott Pelley asks President Obama for reassurance that if the parties can't make a deal, people will still get their Social Security checks. Not only does the president refuse to provide that reassurance, he reminds us that it's not just Social Security checks. It's also veterans' checks, disability checks, in all about 70 million checks that are due to go out on August 3 that might not go out.
Whoa there! This is serious. It's all very well and good to talk about reducing government spending. Nobody likes government spending. We think of government spending as money that goes to support all those bureaucrats and wasteful programs that don't do anyone any good. We're not talking about money that goes out to actual Americans. Can't we cut spending enough to eliminate the deficit and still give everyone their Social Security check or their disability check or their Medicare reimbursement? The answer is no.
I have a modest proposal. Nobody should be allowed to talk about reducing government spending without specifying what spending they want to reduce. Government spending is not some kind of bogeyman that we can use to mean whatever it is that people are afraid of. Because the truth is that we don't agree on what kind of spending we think is bad. One person might think that Medicare spending is a waste, while another will defend Medicare to the death. One person thinks there is a lot of waste in the Pentagon, while another thinks we need to spend more to support our troops. If there were a rule that no politician were allowed to talk about reducing spending without telling us what spending he wants to reduce, we could have a lot more honest debate about the budget. President Obama is helping make the debate more honest by reminding us that government spending is actually something that all of us want, at least when it takes the form of a benefit that we receive.