Can the federal government’s spending spree last forever? Of course not. Even when economic growth is strong (hardly the case now, of course), it’s foolish to keep spending more than we take in. Congress is going to have to make some serious cuts. Otherwise, we’ll face a day of serious financial reckoning -- and sooner than we think.
But you know the charge common sense like that opens you up to from some on the Left: You’re heartless. You’ll gut the social safety net. Toss poor people and seniors onto the street. “They don’t want to make Medicare sustainable,” writes New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, “they want to destroy it under the guise of saving it.”
According to this playbook, it’s immoral to suggest restraining the growth of entitlement programs.
Or is it? A recent exchange of letters between Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) sheds a very different light on the matter.
His committee’s proposed 2012 budget “is not just about numbers,” Ryan wrote the Catholic prelate, “but about the character and common good of the American people.” Indeed, he said, it takes into accounts the Church’s social teaching regarding the poor.
Who, after all, will suffer the most if government spending continues to soar unabated? “The weakest will be hit three times over,” Ryan wrote, “by rising costs, by drastic cuts to programs they rely on, and by the collapse of individual support for charities that help the hungry, the homeless, the sick, refugees and others in need.”
Look at what’s happening in many European nations. They’re weathering financial crises brought on by years of overspending. So they’re being forced to make “drastic cuts in benefits to the retired, the sick, the poor, and millions of public employees,” Ryan noted.
What irony. If we take the Left’s proposed tack -- cosmetic cuts, no real reform of entitlement programs -- seniors and the poor will take a real hit down the road.
But the committee’s budget, Ryan wrote, “better targets assistance to those in need, repairs the social safety net, and fulfills the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans.”
Yes, some groups would see their welfare end -- “entrenched corporations, the wealthiest Americans,” according to Ryan. Without that the kind of reform, our ballooning federal budget will never get out of the red.