Probably every candidate who has ever run for President has claimed to be running to improve the future. This is especially true about this election cycle because so much has gone horribly wrong over the last eight years. The idea that our children should have better lives than we ourselves have is part of the American mythos. Unfortunately, Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post points out in today’s commentary (Promises They Can’t Keep) that the candidates in this election are talking the talk, but singularly failing to walk this particular walk. The reason? Not a single electable candidate has proposed any solution to the coming tax increases and/or budget cuts.
The future of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are such that these three programs will dominate the federal budget within a few decades. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, about 40% of the federal budget already goes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (with SCHIP included). Samuelson points out that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that to grow to 70% of the budget by 2030 due largely to demographic shifts and longer lifespans, along with some abuses of disability payments by people who could work with accommodations but who choose not to. The problem is that this growth is unsustainable without heavily taxing the very children that the candidates supposedly support, draconian cuts to public safety net spending that will also affect our children, or major cuts to those very same programs themselves.
While I’ve criticized Paul Krugman of the NYTimes in the past for not taking seriously the need for significant repairs and changes to social security, Medicare, and Medicaid, that’s not ultimately the point here. Samuelson’s point is that none of the politicians selling hope believe their own rhetoric – it’s all hypocrisy. There’s a mass transfer of wealth from the young to the same seniors who destroyed the system for the young in the first place coming, and unless they’re actually working to change that transfer of wealth via Social Security, Medicare, and to a lesser extent Medicaid, then the candidates are lying.
And to have the “hope” and “change” candidate, Senator Barak Obama, not doing anything to address the practical crises that he will face as President doesn’t engender much hope in me that he’s anything but a political insider and a cynical manipulator – the very thing he accuses his opponents of being.