We the American people, oldsters as well as youngsters, have a choice to make about the future structure and financing of government entitlement programs such as medicare, medicaid and social security. Public education, too.
Will we choose to continue these benefits provided by the New Deal and Great Society programs and agree to finally fund them fully? If so, it will necessitate higher taxes for not just the 2% of the top earners but for the 40%+ of the population in the middle class as well.
Middle class is hereby defined as those 40% of the taxpayers earning between $50,000 and $140,000, the normal definition, as well as those above that $140,000 level but not included by the Democrats as part of the targeted group of $250,000 earners and higher, or the top 2% of earners.
In other words, tax increases for all earning more than $50,000 annually will be required to actually "fix" the problem of entitlement underfunding. And if we really want to solve the problem while not changing the benefits, the necessary tax increases will be big ones. The "rich" simply don't have the numbers to fix the problem all by themselves. The solution of big problems requires the participation of big numbers of people.
Or will we choose to reduce or revise entitlements by rejecting or at least minimizing higher taxes while adopting changes to the programs such as raising the eligibility age for benefits, means testing recipients or somehow embracing market based reforms in lieu of the current one-size-fits-all welfare scenario.
Whatever we choose to do, it will be the end of the farcical notion that we are and all along have been "earning" these entitlement benefits with our taxes or "contributions." We will thereby acknowledge that there is no tooth fairy or some kind of magic insurance or money stashed somewhere within the government vault. There is no money in the vault.
Johnson and Roosevelt Legacies at Stake in Fiscal Fight discusses the political implications of this until recently unexpected but now upcoming donnybrook between the Remocrats and Depublicans. For a long time, it seemed like we would never confront this enormous financial problem.
Now we're apparently being forced to do so. Of course, the politicians may manage to duck it again this time, or at least not fully address it. If so, that would be too bad for all of us.
It's long past time to get serious about the future makeup of America and the role of government relative to our individual rights and responsibilities. Virtually everybody realizes that our ongoing fiscal deficits and accumulated debt issues must be dealt with sometime soon.
As a catalyst, President Obama's proposed $447 billion American Jobs Act may well bring these entitlement issues to the forefront. If we continue to elect not to deal with these financial problems, we're being extremely unfair to future generations of Americans.
After almost eighty years of the New Deal and sixty years after the adoption of the Great Society programs, it's time to vote on fully paying for our promises or revising those promises to what we are willing to provide financially. I'm anxious to see what we do, and which choices we make.
But most importantly, I hope we choose to do something meaningful and of a lasting nature. Then we can move on to the many other issues which urgently need addressing.