The arguments -- as usual, reduced to meaningless sound bites -- over "income inequality" are pretty damn annoying, and I think Ds and President Obama are more to blame for the indigestion than the Rs. The latter are framing it -- would you believe? -- entirely dishonestly and cynically; and the Ds -- who could be surprised? -- are doing it with disorganized ineptitude. So the Fox "news" version, the Romnified reductio ad absurdum, is swallowed whole by the right with little or ineffective resistance from the left: Obama wants to end capitalism, envies success, wants to punish success, is waging class warfare.
In the Washington D.C., speech where he laid out his budget vision, he said “we’ll need to find almost $500 billion in savings a year in 2016.” But Romney has not given many details on what that would entail. ... Perhaps that's because the impact of these cuts would scare the bejeezus out of some people.
Taking half a trillion dollars out of $3.6 trillion works out to a 14 percent reduction. (To be precise, it would be 14.1 percent.) Applied equally to all non-defense spending, that would mean approximately $130 billion less for Social Security and about $90 billion less for Medicare, just in 2016 alone. To give you a sense of context, the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act amount to around $50 billion a year in 2016. And those cuts, unlike Romney's, are largely offset by expanded spending on Medicaid and subsidies for private health insurance, thereby cushioning the blow on the health care system.
Of course, Romney could decide to exempt Medicare and Social Security. But then the cuts for other programs would have to be much higher: 25 percent, on average. And when I say “other programs,” I mean every other non-defense thing the government does: Education, transportation, environmental protection, safety net programs, law enforcement…you get the idea. Can we afford to spend a quarter less on highways? How about the Centers for Disease Control and the FBI? Or Head Start, food stamps, and Pell Grants?
... These cuts would be in addition to the automatic cuts already set to take effect in January, 2013, now that the deficit super-committee has failed to reach a consensus. ...
What’s more, the above calculations – which I ran by several budget experts, just to make sure I had them right – are probably on the generous side. They don’t account for the impact of interest, which (for reasons I can explain in a separate post) are likely to require larger cuts. In addition, this is just a snapshot of 2016. The cuts to the big entitlement programs, particularly Medicare and Medicaid, would become larger in future years.
Still not convinced? Then keep in mind that Romney also supports a balanced budget amendment, which would likely require even steeper cuts than these calculations suggest, particularly if Romney were to cut taxes as promised (and thus reduce federal revenue).
There's the bottom line: the Rs all-but-designated hitter has announced (so have all of them) plans for taxes and budgets so skewed toward dismantling government in order to keep wealth sequestered with the wealthy that, if enacted, they'll effectively end our ability to maintain (let alone improve) our country. That's what this talk of income inequality is about. That's what's really at stake in this election. Willingness to spend money to have a future. It's not about simply taking money from some and handing it over to others (you know, Newt's welfare cheats, his rants against whom get standing ovations from his aggrieved and ill-informed audience.) It's about balancing capitalism and its profits with reasonable commitment to paying for obvious needs.