Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pork The New York Times

I read an editorial in The New York Times, Spare the Pork, but Dish Some Candor, published: March 15, 2008.

As usual, The New York Times spared the candor.

The Times noted correctly that politicians posture over pork while spending like drunken Democrats – OK, The Times never used those words – The Times as usual felt that the biggest spending problem was that President Bush cut taxes “on the rich” and spent money fighting terrorism – OK, that President Bush spent money on the Iraq War, which The Times thought was fighting terrorism until it looked like George Bush became too popular after Baghdad fell, at which point The Times changed their editorial minds.

Since when is cutting taxes equated with pork spending? The answer, of course, is it always has been at The New York Times.

Are the editorial writers of The New York Times surprised tax cuts benefit the wealthy? They shouldn’t be, since it is well known that the “top 1 percent of taxpayers, ranked by adjusted gross income, paid 34.3 percent of all federal income taxes (in 2003). The top 5 percent paid 54.4 percent, the top 10 percent paid 65.8 percent, and the top 25 percent paid 83.9 percent.”

Possibly the all-seeing, all knowing editorial writers of The New York Times don’t know this common knowledge, or at least don’t know it when it is inconvenient to the point they are making.

They probably also know, but choose not to let on they do, that the percentage of federal income taxes paid by the highest earners has increased steadily, while the share paid by the bottom half of all taxpayers has steadily shrunk to less than five percent of the total.

But in all New York Times candor, isn’t there something missing from their analysis of government spending? A hint. Aren’t the editorial writers for The Times ignoring the vast majority of government spending?

If I were to ask Democrats-in-the-street what George Bush is wasting all the government’s money on, their answer would be “his illegal war!” (A war that was authorized by Democrats and Republicans, and was raging three years ago when President Bush was reelected. But I digress).

Defense costs

Defense vs entitlements

While defense spending as a percent of GDP has fallen to half of its level in the 1950's and 1960's (including the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan), entitlements spending (now eight percent of GDP)has quadrupled and is now twice as large as defense spending and growing at a phenomenal rate. The tax cuts and Iraq spending are not driving the growth of the deficit, it's Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Where in The Times "candid" analysis of pork and government spending did their editorial staff divulge the simple facts that Social Security and Medicare will be overwhelmed by Baby Boomer retirements and the needs of our rapidly aging population? They didn't, because they haven't figured a way to blame the Baby Boomer demographic disaster on George Bush - yet.

Regardless of taxes cut or not, or the continued expense of Iraq, Social Security will be bankrupt within a decade, and Medicare and Medicaid already are.

How can that be, you ask?

Simple. Medicare and Medicaid are now paying out more than they are taking in. In less than a decade Social Security will be doing the same. Since The Times didn't candidly tell you about the real porky problem, they also didn't tell you what it means to your future, again regardless of what President Bush or any other president has done or will do about tax cuts or the Iraq War.

Once again, it's quite simple. Entitlement benefits will have to be cut and/or postponed, and payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare will have to be increased.

It's as simple as that. The huge Baby Boomer population, which for decades has been shoveling huge mounds of payroll taxes into a hole of steadily expanding benefits, will now be drawing those benefits out, but the hole is empty.

No matter what sort of shell-game explanation is attempted to explain the Social Security Trust Fund, the simple truth is that Social Security and Medicare are pay-as-go programs. Current workers pay current recipients, and any excess is applied to the cash-flow demands of other government programs. When entitlements programs operate at a deficit, fund will have to be taken from other government programs.

Compounding the problem, the worker base contributing payroll taxes is steadily shrinking in proportion to the benefit receivers, but at the same time recipients are living longer, and benefitting from better and more expensive medical care.

Thanks to The New York Times and other liberal enablers, all of our attention is being directed towards the irrelevant and inconsequential and not at the looming disaster before us.

Read The Times article yourself. I linked to it at the beginning of this post. Have The Times editors in any way or form measured and analyzed the truly significant aspects of government spending? If taxes were not cut, would the deficit go away? Or would the deficit grow because higher tax levels reduce economic activity resulting in lower tax revenues?

Don't laugh. Even a Democrat, President Kennedy, noted that paradoxically it was necessary to cut taxes to stimulate economic growth and thereby increase total tax revenues.

If The New York Times editorial staff would read history with candor they might learn the wisdom that JFK and the Democrats once had. But then they couldn't blame Bush for everything.

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