So Near, and Yet So Far

Thursday, February 03, 2011

John Stossel says he can balance the budget now.

As the bureaucrats complain about proposals to make tiny cuts, it's good to remember that disciplined government could make cuts that get us to a surplus in one year. But even a timid Congress could make swift progress if it wanted to. If it just froze spending at today's levels, it would almost balance the budget by 2017. If spending were limited to 1 percent growth each year, the budget would balanced in 2019. And if the crowd in Washington would limit spending growth to about 2 percent a year, the red ink would almost disappear in 10 years.
Stossel concludes that, as easy as reaching a surplus is on paper, "Only politics stand in the way."


On some level, Stossel knows otherwise, and even half-admits that politics isn't the only obstacle when he refers to the big, budget-busting entitlement programs as "untouchable" and even concedes privatizing social security "for now," since "our progressive friends won't like that." One need only ask why such programs are untouchable -- and why progressives like a government-run pyramid scheme so much -- to being to understand.

Hint: It's for the same reason we don't need (even) more data to show that socialized medicine is a bad idea, and that if we had that data, we'd still end up with socialized medicine, all other things being equal. The political ideas that people espouse and use as a basis for choosing elected officials arise at least in part from their moral convictions. When "Help others," is regarded as the right thing to do -- to the point that most people equate altruism, a type of morality, with morality -- and there is a conflict between reaching a balanced budget and what is regarded as helping others, the balanced budget will lose. That is because we will have elected politicians who regard helping others as what's really important.

That part of the picture fleshed out, I do find Stossel's column encouraging for two reasons. First, he mentions the Unmentionable. We will have to back out of entitlement programs to avoid national bankruptcy, and he does bring up that very idea. Second, Stossel's relatively modest proposals show that even a modicum of progress in this direction can buy our country time -- for the intellectual spadework that substantive and lasting change will require.

-- CAV

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