Budget Non-Sequiturs

Posting about our coming entitlement problem generates some non-sequiturs masquerading as incisive political commentary.

  • Conservatives have "no credibility" on budget deficits because George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan ran big deficits  You are missing a Republican president in the middle:  George H. W. Bush, who bravely enacted a whopping tax hike in order to close the deficit, helping to ensure that he would not be re-elected in 1992; by most metrics, Bush I deserves about as much credit for closing the deficit as Clinton does.  But even if this weren't a highly selective misreading of history, so what?  Are we going to drive our government over a fiscal cliff because George Bush and the Republicans who enabled them were grossly irresponsible, and some of the commentators were hypocrites?  That'll show 'em!!!
  • You can't talk about deficits in regard to health care spending because the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were really expensive.  Item:  wars, and stimulus spending, are the kind of thing that are traditionally done on deficit spending, all the way back to the American revolution.  That's because they're temporary, and it often makes sense to amortize the cost over a number of years.  Item #2: Lumping in Afghanistan, when almost everyone in the country supported that, is pretty silly.  Item #3:  Entitlements are not supposed to be funded on deficit spending, because they're not temporary.  It's the same reason that it's okay to take out some student loans to pay for medical school, and not okay to take out a home equity loan to pay your mortgage.  You can say that we should never have gone into Iraq, and I'll agree; it's entirely possible that we should stop spending money there, and in Afghanistan, ASAP.  But the problem with our entitlements is not their ten year cost; it's that their costs keep growing and growing.
  • The deficit can't be that big, because Iraq and Afghanistan are costing $600 billion and counting  Umm . . . what?  You're comparing a ten year cost to a one year deficit of $700+ billion.
  • Every other industrialized country has a national health care system  Which will fix our structural budget deficit how, exactly?