Get Your Government Hands Off My Medicare

US Dollar Bill - photo by SqueakyMarmot

Can we get real for a moment? We have a massive budget deficit this year. In fact, deficits have been over $1 trillion – that’s trillion with a t – starting in 2009. Republicans love to jump all over that as proof that Obama is responsible for the huge deficit and apparently much of the total longstanding debt. It may be possible to attribute trillions of dollars to Obama but this would have happened to any president that took office in January 2009. If we are being honest about the causes we will recognize four things. 

1. Budgets Don’t Start From A Clean Slate Each Year

This should be obvious but is rarely discussed. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard it discussed in the mainstream media, although that’s not proof that it hasn’t. Not only does the federal budget not start from a clean slate each year, most of the budget consists of items that never change (other than increasing) from year to year like military and benefits spending. I choose to call it benefits and not entitlement because I don’t think you refer to things that you pay into (Medicare, unemployment insurance, etc.) as entitlements. If we aren’t willing to give up these services and we aren’t willing to make any major cuts in military spending then the only things left are tax increases and trying to improve the efficiency of government programs and cut waste. There are plenty of people who call for getting rid of “this” and “that” program but they never seem willing to give up something that they know in advance will directly impact their financial well-being.

2. The Worst Economy Since The Great Depression Is Playing A Large Roll In The Deficit

When millions of people are out of work that can mean hundreds of billions in tax revenue that is not being collected. In addition, the government is paying unemployment insurance to many that are out of work. Because many are out of work, this means some industries are not doing as well and not generating as much profit which means less business tax revenue. During a bad economy the government spends more than it would otherwise to help stimulate the economy. All of this adds up to big budget deficits during a bad economy. In addition, you also have to factor in the 2001 and 2003 tax breaks, which leads to the next point.

3. Tax Cuts That Were Supposed To Expire At the End Of 2010

The 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts had already resulted in large budget deficits leading up to the 2008 recession. Add those year after year budget deficits to the worst economy since the great depression with millions out of work and the result is massive deficits from 2009 until now.

4. Citizens Say They Want Government To Cut Spending But Never At Their Expense

I touched on this in #1. This is most prominent within Republican and conservative circles. This is why you always hear about welfare queens and people like Newt Gingrich saying that Occupy Wall Street protesters need to “get a job”. It seems there is a general assumption from the Right that tens of millions of people in this country are lazy and taking advantage of other’s hard-earned tax dollars. Rarely do you see them cite any specific facts or studies, it’s just accepted as truth among conservatives that millions of Americans are lazy freeloaders. Many of those on the Right – particularly if they are of retirement age or approaching retirement age – want to see welfare programs and other spending for those in poverty cut back but they don’t want to see Medicare or Social Security cuts. These older citizens on the Right say that they deserve these programs because they paid into them and the poor people surviving on government assistance are a drain on our country. My response to that is to have some compassion. I have no problem with government doing its due diligence to make sure people aren’t taking advantage of programs when they don’t need them but I’m not going to make assumptions that effect hard-working, honest Americans in financial hardship.

Unfortunately you aren’t likely to hear any of the above points explained in detail – even the minimal detail here – when you tune into the local or national news or watch a news network – especially not Fox News. There’s a lot of assumptions going into people’s opinions on why we have such massive deficits. People need to do a little more homework before advocating large spending cuts, condemning millions of Americans in financial dire straits.

photo by SqueakyMarmot via Flickr