Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An interesting perspective

Matt Yglesias makes a good point:

And on the politics, it’s a mess. Right now we have conservatives simultaneously calling for huge spending cuts and also getting the line’s share of old people’s votes even while the vast majority of non-security spending is on old people. In essence, by first separating the domestic budget into “discretionary” and “entitlement” portions and then dividing the entitlement programs up into “what today’s old people get” versus “what tomorrow’s old people will get” the political class has created a large and vociferously right-wing class of people who are completely immune from the impact of their own calls for fiscal austerity. In my view, that reality is the biggest driver of our current political dysfunction.

I had not thought about things like this but it is a really good point. I dislike the idea of revising benefit levels because people plan their lives around these benefits and it seems unfair to change things mid-stream.

However, I had completely overlooked the political point involved. Social Security, Medicare and CHIP are 41% of the budget. Veterns and retirees are another 7%. This makes about half of the budget being focused on people over 55/60 years of age.

So I think I agree that this is a better point than the moral one. The conversation about the budget becomes a lot more sane if there is not a "protected class" of citizens. It's not a conclusion I like but I think it might be correct.


  1. I agree entirely but one quibble: CHIP is for children - what percentage of the budget is that? I don't think it's really part of the budget aimed at older adults unless we live in some sort benjamin button world!

  2. About two thirds of the 21% goes to Medicare, specifically; meanwhile, 12.9% of Americans are over the age of 65.