Paying For a Decent Society

PAYING FOR A DECENT SOCIETY….My post yesterday about how little the rich pay toward social welfare programs got several replies along the lines of this: “So how high is high enough? You liberals have never met a government program you didn’t want to keep expanding forever.”

Now, that would be a fair question if tax rates and welfare programs were forever being expanded. But they aren’t. In fact, the exact opposite is true, so the real question is, “How low is low enough?” Let’s go to the tape:

  • Tax rates on the rich haven’t been going up, they’ve been going down ? while rates on the middle class have gone up to compensate. We’ve been steadily cutting tax rates on the rich in every administration since Eisenhower’s, and we’re still doing it. So how low is low enough?

  • Federal spending hasn’t increased either. It was about 21% of GDP in 1970 and about 18% of GDP in 2000. So how low is low enough?

  • Welfare? Bill Clinton promised welfare reform and delivered on that promise in 1996. Republicans, of course, weren’t satisfied. Despite the fact that the boom times of the 90s never really provided a test of the reforms, they want to keep cutting. So how low is low enough?

  • How about Social Security? Well, we’re steadily increasing the tax burden on the middle class by raising the payroll tax, and at the same time steadily cutting back on Social Security itself by increasing the minimum retirement age. But that’s not enough. Republicans want to stealthily gut the program by “privatizing” it. So how low is low enough?

That leaves one thing: healthcare. And while it’s true that most Democrats favor some kind of national healthcare program, covering the uninsured is hardly the only reason they support this. As conservatives themselves point out tirelessly, the poor in America do have access to healthcare, but because of the crazy quilt nature of our public/private/emergency room system, the cost of this care is far higher than it should be. In fact, the best argument for a national health plan ? aside from its eventual inevitability for technical reasons ? is that it would probably lower the amount we spend on healthcare, not increase it. A national healthcare plan is a bid for more efficiency, not for more government giveaways.

So given the fact that over the past 30 years we’ve been steadily cutting taxes on the rich, cutting federal spending, cutting welfare programs, and cutting Social Security, let’s ask the question again: How low is low enough? How much cutting of these programs will satisfy you?

Or will you not rest until they are gone completely?

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