The New York Times has an article today about all the rural red-state conservatives who criticize the welfare state while relying on government benefits. Although the article does not say so directly, it implies a level of hypocrisy from someone who advocates changes to these programs while also accepting payments from them.
[Gulbranson] says that too many Americans lean on taxpayers rather than living within their means. He supports politicians who promise to cut government spending. In 2010, he printed T-shirts for the Tea Party campaign of a neighbor, Chip Cravaack, who ousted this region’s long-serving Democratic congressman.
Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice.
There is little poverty here in Chisago County, northeast of Minneapolis, where cheap housing for commuters is gradually replacing farmland. But Mr. Gulbranson and many other residents who describe themselves as self-sufficient members of the American middle class and as opponents of government largess are drawing more deeply on that government with each passing year.
The article goes on to explain how more and more safety net money is going towards maintaining the middle class. This makes sense, since Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are growing every day, all while eating larger percentages of the federal budget. These programs are cited frequently in the Times article.
The ostensible point of this article is to showcase examples in which real life gets in the way of ideology (at least, that's what it seems when the interviewed subjects concede that life would be difficult without assistance, and maybe higher taxes are needed after all). But buried in page three is another point, one that I wish the article emphasized more:
Medicare’s financial problems are much worse than Social Security’s. A worker earning average wages still pays enough in Social Security taxes to cover the benefits the worker is likely to receive in retirement, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. Social Security is still running out of money because the program must also support spouses who do not work and workers who earn lower wages. But Medicare’s situation is even more dire because a worker earning average wages still contributes only $1 in Medicare taxes for every $3 in benefits likely to be received in retirement.
A woman who was 45 in 2010, earning $43,500 a year, will pay taxes that will reach a value of $87,000 by the time she retires, assuming the money is invested at an annual interest rate 2 percentage points above inflation, according to the Urban Institute analysis. But on average, the government will then spend $275,000 on her medical care. The average is somewhat lower for men, because women live longer.
The government, in that case, would be spending more than three times as much on a person's medical care than the person put in. The (slightly) good news about this is that it indicates that we have a prosperous society-the more prosperous and healthy a country is, the more expensive people become to treat since they live longer and require more healthcare as they age. But it isn't mathematically possible to go on like this forever, or even much longer. Defense cuts won't cover it, and all the tax increases a politician could want won't cover it. If these programs aren't changed, then this will be one of the last generations that is fortunate enough to receive that much government assistance.
President Obama's 2013 budget proposal is set for release on Monday, and it is chock full of new fees, tax hikes, and spending projects. Here are a few snippets of what to expect tomorrow, courtesy of ABC News:
The White House is focusing on re-election themes such as jobs and public works projects in President Barack Obama's new budget blueprint while relying on familiar but never enacted tax increases on the wealthy and corporations to reduce future deficits after four years of trillion dollar-plus shortfalls.
Obama's 2013 budget, set for release Monday, is the official start to an election-year budget battle with Republicans. It's unlikely to result in a genuine effort to address the $15 trillion national debt or the entrenched deficits that keep piling on to it. But it will serve as the Democrats' party-defining template on this year's election stakes.
The president's plan is laden with stimulus-style initiatives: sharp increases for highway construction and school modernization, and a new tax credit for businesses that add jobs. But it avoids sacrifice with only minimal curbs on the unsustainable growth of Medicare even as it proposes a 10-year, $61 billion "financial crisis responsibility fee" on big banks to recoup the 2008 Wall Street bailout.
In addition to infrastructure spending and the 'financial crisis responsibility fee', the budget will include a 'takeoff fee' for airplanes (including private jets), and a ten month extension of jobless benefits and the payroll tax holiday. As a means of paying for all this, the budget proposes implementing the Buffett Rule and $1 trillion in war savings. Unfortunately, both will turn out to be gimmicks. $476 billion of 'war savings' is already supposed to pay for infrastructure projects. As for the Buffett tax, good luck getting Congress to pass it.
So it looks like instead we will get more of the same spending without any means of paying for it. If Obama's budget were passed in its existing form, it projects a $1.3 trillion deficit in 2012 and $901 billion deficit in 2013. I will say this for the President, however: at least he is still proposing budgets. This is more than can be said for the Senate which is currently punting on spending for a third year in a row.
Democrats controlling the Senate appear unlikely to offer a budget at all, for a third straight year. Instead, they are already planning to use last year's budget pact to determine the size of the pie and divide it into 12 annual appropriations bills that set the day-to-day budgets for Cabinet agencies. The move allows 16 Senate Democrats facing re-election to avoid having to make difficult votes on taxes and spending.
The Greek Parliament is voting on austerity measures today, in exchange for another eurozone bailout. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos warned that failure to pass the deal will lead to Greek bankruptcy and expulsion from the Eurozone.
Athens, Greece (CNN) -- The parliament in Greece is expected to vote Sunday on austerity measures demanded in return for a new eurozone bailout of the debt-stricken country.
In a speech Saturday evening, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos urged the Cabinet to approve the deal, warning of "social explosion, chaos" if it fails.
"The state will not be able to pay salaries and pensions or import basic goods" such as medicine and fuel, he warned, adding that "unemployment, which is currently unacceptably high, would increase even higher."
This announcement was, of course, accompanied by protests.
On Saturday, some isolated scuffles broke out as protesters rallied in Syntagma Square, in front of the Parliament building, but the mood was calmer than a day earlier.
Friday's protest dispersed after youths smashed pavements and began throwing stones and pieces of marble, as well as Molotov cocktails, at the police, who responded with stun grenades and teargas.
Nobody wants it to be this way, with violent protests and Greece selling state assets. Germany even suggested that Greece sell the Acropolis and the Parthenon to meet its obligations. Let's hope that after this vote, Greece is able to get its financial house in order.
As Townhall readers are well aware, we spent the last three days at CPAC, talking to conservative icons, speaking on panels and promoting Townhall material. There are a lot of friendly faces at the annual conference, but this time the Occupy folks were just outside the hotel to greet us as well. Lucy Steigerwald at Reason talked to several of them. Not surprisingly they support Obama and hate Republicans, in spite of his statist approach to governing that reminds us of George Bush's worst policies on steroids. (Questions about his support for the bailouts was met with insistance that it was the Republicans fault.) Ms. Steigerwald also challenged some CPAC attendees to explain why their candidates of choice supported various big government programs.
With 84% of precincts reporting, Governor Mitt Romney managed to eke out a victory in Maine. It is the second victory of the day for him, coming off a win in the CPAC Straw Poll. No delegates will be awarded tonight (that doesn't happen until May), but it still must be a welcome end to a rough week for the campaign.
Romney thanked voters in a press release saying, "I thank the voters of Maine for their support. I’m committed to turning around America. And I’m heartened to have the support of so many good people in this great state."
Ron Paul finished in a close second, with 36% of the vote to Romney's 39%. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, neither of whom campaigned in Maine, received third and fourth place with 18% and 6%, respectively.
Some good news for Team Romney tonight-after losing three primaries in one night, he is the winner of this year's CPAC Straw Poll. 3,408 votes were cast in total. The full results are:
Mitt Romney -- 38%
Rick Santorum -- 31%
Newt Gingrich -- 15%
Ron Paul -- 12%
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a press conference Thursday that Republicans are using religious freedom as an excuse to change the law in a way that will be harmful to women's health. This was in regard to the pushback against Catholic employees being required to cover birth control and abortifacients, which violates Church doctrine.
“And so this is an issue, 98 percent of Catholics, they tell us, use contraception, overwhelming numbers of people in our country support the president’s decision, including, they tell us, at least you all tell us, a majority of Catholics,” said Pelosi. “So I support it. If it comes to the floor we’ll use this as a welcome debate to talk about the importance of women’s health.”
“And it’s not just about the women,” Pelosi said. “It’s about their children and the health of their families as they make serious decisions and use contraception to determine, as I said, the size and timing of their families. That will be a debate that we welcome.”
“It’s a sad one,” she concluded. “We shouldn’t have to be to a place where people are saying—when the overwhelming practice is going in favor of women’s health—‘we want to pull that back.’ And use the excuse of religious freedom, which, of course, this is not.”
If the government has the opportunity to give more freebies to people, then sure, why not, right? Pelosi seems to think that because she desires a particular outcome, there is no reason that the government shouldn't provide it (or force others to). I'm pretty sure that no one in America who wants contraception has had trouble getting it, and yet the above statement makes it sound like birth control is impossible to obtain on ones own. There's a difference between being left alone to obtain whatever goods and services a person desires and being given everything as though we are all incapable of finding things that we want or need without help from the government. Creating new rights (like a right to birth control) will of course trample on someone else's right to be left alone. Fortunately in this country we have a First Amendment to protect our original rights, as Senator Mitch McConnell pointed out.
“Our founders believed so strongly that the government should neither establish a religion, nor prevent its free exercise that they listed it as the very first item in the Bill of Rights,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in response to the Democrats’ actions. “And Republicans are trying today to reaffirm that basic right. But Democrats won’t allow it. They won’t allow those of us who were sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution to even offer an amendment that says we believe in our First Amendment right to religious freedom. .... I’ve spent a lot of time in my life defending the First Amendment. But I never thought I’d see the day when the elected representatives of the people of this country would be blocked by a majority party in Congress to even express their support for it.”
More great news from the Gingrich camp-GOP Candidate Gingrich wouldn't participate in any debates moderated by reporters. At least that is what he told the crowd at a Pensacola rally today:
"As your nominee, I will not accept debates in the fall in which the reporters are the moderators," Gingrich said at a rally in Pensacola. "We don’t need to have a second Obama person at the debate."
The threat is in keeping with the scorn with which the former House speaker has treated the press throughout the campaign, particularly at debates. Gingrich most notably won a standing ovation by angrily dismissing a question at a South Carolina debate having to do with extramarital allegations made by an ex-wife.
Well, the debate schedule for the general election has already been set to three in October. So much for those long Lincoln-Douglas debates (which Obama would never agree to anyway). I'm not sure who would moderate if not reporters, and applause will not be allowed. For a candidate whose biggest selling point is debate skills, his stipulations seem rather stringent. One hopes that this is another grandiose, yet empty threat.
It's that time again, for another Republican debate, and the stakes are higher than ever. Fresh off Newt's upset in South Carolina, tonight could either augment his frontrunner status or check his momentum. Here's how the candidates stack up:
Newt Gingrich: Newt Gingrich is fresh off of his South Carolina win. Provided he doesn't flub the debate tonight, he will be a serious contender in Florida. As demonstrated in Thursday's debate, he can turn tough questions (even about the more unsavory parts of his personal life) into an answer that receives thunderous applause. We all know what kind of treatment frontrunner status earns a candidate though. In a state with the seventh highest foreclosure rates, watch out for attacks on his ties to Freddie Mac.
Mitt Romney: You don't need us to tell you that tonight will be critical for Mitt. The latest poll (Gallup, this afternoon) shows him ahead by all of one point, with Gingrich climbing rapidly over the past three days. Unless he gives a killer performance tonight, you can bet that those numbers will be reversed and then some tomorrow. Then there is the problem of his primary results thus far. A short while ago, it looked like Mitt would sweep the first three contests in the nation and have a historically easy time clinching the nomination. Now he is one for three, with Newt Gingrich's win in South Carolina and the recount in Iowa putting Rick Santorum over the top. Going on the offensive again, he'll be focusing on the housing crisis and Newt Gingrich's ties to Freddie Mac.
Rick Santorum: Rick Santorum doesn't have a lot left going for him. The Iowa recount should have been a boon, but it didn't improve his standings in South Carolina, and he did not impress the voters as a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. It looks like most of the values votes are moving towards Newt Gingrich, and Santorum's economic record leaves something to be desired. In the past he has defended his own earmark spending, voted in favor of foreign aid and suggested that Social Security payments should be used to pay down the national debt.
Ron Paul: Ron Paul's plans to partially skip the Sunshine State won't endear him to many Floridians. It is a particularly expensive state to campaign in, and Paul's campaign plans to spend more time and money in less expensive states. That said, he will participate in debates, and we can expect more fantastic answers on fiscal questions and foreign policy ideas that are less than pleasing to conservatives. It will be interesting to see if the TSA becomes an issue tonight. Paul's son, Senator Rand Paul made headlines today when he was detained after refusing a pat down.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!
Some sad news today. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) has suffered a stroke, and rumors are swirling about the extent of the damage. He checked himself into a hospital on Saturday, where doctors found a carotid artery dissection. The senator underwent surgery this morning, and his office released a statement saying that doctors expect a successful recovery.
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