What policy positions do you associate with Republicans and with Democrats. The Republicans might be “tax cuts” and Democrats might be “entitlements”. For sure there are other policies each party pursues but taxes and entitlements separate the parties, one is for, and the other against.
The tax issue is socially complex. Most everyone, members of both parties, would prefer to pay no taxes at all if that were possible. Yet most people know that government services require a source of revenue to cover the expenditures. Hence, taxes are necessary. So when Republicans call for tax cuts, they are in fact seeking to shift the tax burden to be carried more and more by lower income individuals. Conversely, when Democrats seek tax increases, they are happiest when the “progressive” tax formula shifts the burden upstream to the very rich. Both parties agree the “other guy” should pay more, whether it is an increase or a cut.
Entitlements, however, represent a real conundrum. The government is obligated to make entitlement payments even if it has to borrow money to over the costs.
Here is a list
- 529 or Coverdell
- Home Mortgage Interest Deduction
- Hope or Lifetime Learning Tax Credit
- Student Loans
- Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit
- Earned Income Tax Credit
- Social Security–Retirement & Survivors
- Pell Grants
- Unemployment Insurance
- Veterans Benefits
- G.I. Bill
- Head Start
- Social Security Disability
- SSI–Supplemental Security Income
- Welfare/Public Assistance
- Government Subsidized Housing
- Food Stamps
Each of the entitlements was once justified as an emergency fix to a social problem, sort of like applying a tourniquet. Hmmm.
Looking at this list, one must first remove Social Security – Retirement and Survivors. The entitlement is designed to provide supplemental retirement income and is funded from wage taxes workers pay during their working lives. There is no reason that this form of Social Security should represent an on-going drain on the Federal Budget since revenues received can easily be adjusted to match future liabilities.
Medicare also should be removed. Medicare is healthcare insurance also supported by wage taxes and the rate of these taxes could be set to match payouts.
For the remainder, some social situation was deemed an emergency and a government payment (including tax credits, exemptions, or deferments) were thought necessary.
So, Republicans seek to cut entitlements are in effect seeking to remove the “tourniquet” and do nothing. In real life this almost always results in a serious deterioration in health and often death. Democrats seem just as content to leave the “tourniquet” in place and continue the status quo. Removing a “tourniquet” in real life must be accompanied with some other medical action of health deteriorates. Doing nothing, that is leaving the “tourniquet” in place does nothing to alleviate the underlying conditions which made the entitlement necessary in the first place, and maintains the long term “at risk” status of those receiving the benefit. Hmmm.
Candidates or political parties which advocate for tax cuts must be called out quickly and asked (1) who specifically would receive the cuts, and (2) how would the cuts be offset (especially now that there are already deficit budgets) The answer will reveal a naked attempt at lowering income taxes for the wealthy (even if it also lowers middle or low income tax rates), or the tax cut is advertised as a result of reducing entitlements (without any review of the underlying problems which lead to the entitlement in the first place).
Candidates who are content with the “entitlement status quo” or rise to fight the first hint of “entitlement reform” or “entitlement reduction” are guilty of a different but almost as cynical sin. Emergencies by definition cannot be allowed to go on forever, otherwise they wouldn’t be an emergency. Even more significant, the conditions which lead to an entitlement in the first place will almost certainly evolve over time. Sometimes the social situation can get even worse (like with Medicaid for those who cannot afford health insurance). Other times the need for an entitlement might be better served by an entirely different method of government assistance. One might suspect the “don’t touch entitlement” politician is someone more interested in a constituent’s vote than their wellbeing.
At first it probably seems discouraging that the all too familiar political rhetoric “I’m for cutting taxes” and “I’m against cutting entitlements” are words from someone only interested in attracting a voter’s preference. Political speeches are highly crafted, purposed to attract money and votes, that it often never occurs that there is more to taxes and entitlements than cutting or raising.
The candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have attracted a significant number of voters who for various reasons are rejecting the mainstream political message. These candidacies will have been successful if voters who once having rejected the “establishment” rhetoric, begin to ask questions of the “anti-establishment” about how and why their policies are wise and appropriate.
Will Americans find a way end the Tourniquet Syndrome?