Translate

Saturday, February 19, 2005

In the Midst of Budget Decadence, a Leader Will Arise

Note: This NYTimes editorial is a message to our young/younger leadership. We should all be concerrned about these directions that policy is taking at the national level. -Angela

By DAVID BROOKS

Published: February 19, 2005

here's going to be another Ross Perot, and this time he's going to be younger. There's going to be a millionaire rising out of the country somewhere and he (or she) is going to lead a movement of people who are worried about federal deficits, who are offended by the horrendous burden seniors are placing on the young and who are disgusted by a legislative process that sometimes suggests that the government has lost all capacity for self-control.
Advertisement

He's going to be set off by some event like what is happening right now with the Medicare prescription drug benefit. He's going to look at an event like that one, and he's not only going to be worried about the country's economic future - he's also going to be morally offended. He's going to sense that something fundamentally decadent is going on.

And he's going to be right.

In the past months we have learned that the prescription drug benefit passed last year is not going to cost $400 billion over 10 years. The projections now, over a slightly different period, are that it's going to cost over $700 billion. And these cost estimates are coming before the program is even operating. They are only going to go up.

That means we're going to be spending the next few months bleeding over budget restraints that might produce savings in the millions, while the new prescription drug benefit will produce spending in the billions.

That means that as we spend the next year trying to get a grip on one entitlement, Social Security, we'll be launching a new one that is also unsustainable.

Over the next few months we will be watching a government that may be millions-wise, but trillions-foolish. We will be watching a government that sometimes seems to have lost all perspective - like a lunatic who tries to dry himself with a hand towel while standing in a torrential downpour.

And much of this new spending will go to people who have insurance to pay for their drugs.

In Congress, some are taking a look at these new cost projections and figuring that maybe it's time to readjust the program. In the House there are Republicans like Mike Pence and Jeff Flake (whose predictions of this program's actual cost have been entirely vindicated by events). In the Senate there are people like Judd Gregg and Lindsey Graham. These fiscal conservatives want to make the program sustainable.

Perhaps the benefits should be limited to those earning up to 200 percent of the level at the poverty line. Perhaps the costs should be capped at $400 billion through other benefit adjustments. These ideas are akin to what the candidate George Bush proposed in 2000.

But the White House is threatening to veto anything they do! President Bush, who hasn't vetoed a single thing during his presidency, now threatens to veto something - and it's something that might actually restrain the growth of government. He threatens to use his first veto against an idea he himself originally proposed!

Have we entered another world, where up is down and rationality is irrational?

Every family and business in America has to scale back when the cost of something skyrockets. Does this rule not apply to us as a nation?

We may as well be blunt about the driving force behind all this. The living and well organized are taking money from the weak and the unborn. Over the past decades we have seen a gigantic transfer of wealth from struggling young families and the next generation to members of the AARP. In 1990, 29 percent of federal spending went to seniors; by 2015 roughly half of all government spending will go to those over 65. This prescription drug measure is just part of that great redistribution.

But what can't last won't last. Before too long, some new sort of leader is going to arise, especially if we fail to reform Social Security this year. He's going to rail against a country that cannot control its appetites. He's going to rail against Republicans who promise to be virtuous - but not just yet. He's going to slam Democrats who loudly jeer at Republican deficits but whose own entitlement proposals would make the situation twice as bad. He's going to crusade against the interest groups who are so ferocious on behalf of their members that they sacrifice the future.

It won't be a green-eyeshade economic crusade this leader will be launching. It will be a moral crusade, and it'll be quite a show.

E-mail: dabrooks@nytimes.com

5 comments:

  1. Last year for my birthday I got a paid subscription to the New York Times. I enjoy this publication immensely. Since I have been a reader, I have grown fond of the Op-Ed page and all of it's contributors, among them is Mr. David Brooks.
    Since I have been reading him I have noticed a generally right leaning, "I told you stupid liberals this was going to happen" type of journalism being practiced by Mr. Brooks and other darlings of the right. (Liberal Media my ass, excuse me....) It was quite shocking to see him deny his president like the apostle Peter did the night they dragged Jesus off to his death. This piece on budget decadence reads like a born again sudenly seeing the light, "my God! the drug benefit is going to cost how much? But you told us it.....But we forced this one on a lot of people...YOU LIED TO US".
    Now Mr. Brooks hopes that some smoothie Libertarian hit man with an axe to grind will come and rid us of both pesky Democrats and irresponsible Republicans. Give me a break, this guy knew all along that the people he represented were yanking our collective chain and now he is embarassed by the excessive actions of the people he helped put into power?
    I suppose it is a good thing that respected, right wing journalists are starting to treat the president like a mentally deranged relative, but ask any Democrat or person with a true stake in this country and they will be the first to tell you, "I told you so". The Romans had a phrase "Caveat Emperator" Look it up and while you are at it read Mr. Shakepeare's, Julius Ceasar, I see something similar happening in Washington D.C. right now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Alot of interesting comments on this blog, I was searching for some doctor related info and some how cam across this site. I found it pretty cool, so I bookmarked. I'll really liked the second post on the front page, that got my attention.

    My site is in a bit different area, but just as useful. I have a mens male enhancement reviews related site focusing on mens male enhancement reviews and mens health related topics.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice Blog!!!   I thought I'd tell you about a site that will let give you places where
    you can make extra cash! I made over $800 last month. Not bad for not doing much. Just put in your
    zip code and up will pop up a list of places that are available. I live in a small area and found quite
    a few. MAKE MONEY NOW

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the info, I added you to my favorites.
    If you are interested in work at home business
    , I have a work at home business
    site.
    Feel free to drop by and tell me what you think.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You have an interesting blog here. Some of the things people put are kind of strange. Another cool site I like is a affiliate marketing associate program site that is about information marketing and a little other stuff.

    Anyway, I like your blog and will proably be back.

    Take care.

    ReplyDelete