First, in answer to several inquiries as to the absence of posts since March 27th, I have been dealing with some personal issues that caused this hiatus, not the least of which was a tree falling through our house one month ago today during the first wave of recent tornadoes that swept across Arkansas and the south. With recovery well under way, my hope is to resume postings again on a regular basis, but as I have said here before, events will always trump intentions.
Now, to the current issue at hand which was addressed by both David Brooks and Paul Krugman on the very same page of last Friday's New York Times - i.e. the budget debate raging in congress. Not surprisingly, Mr. Brooks in his own unique way has boiled the solution down to a marriage between "spending caps" which the Democrats hate, and "deficit caps" which the Republicans hate, as the former would drastically change Medicare as we know it, and the latter would trigger tax increases. To get around this divide, if substantial spending cuts could be negotiated between both parties, then that would open the door for support for a tax reform package that would raise major tax revenue through closing various loopholes, but leave tax rates in place to conform with a Republican pledge never to raise. It really just gets down to semantics, as the end result is exactly the same, tax revenue is increased which is essential to any successful future budget plan.
Right next door to Mr. Brooks' column is Paul Krugman's slant on the budget question which takes an entirely different tack in that he views any reduction in spending created by "spending caps" would severely reduce funding the very social programs like Medicare on which an ever increasing number of Americans will come to rely. To illustrate his point, if you take the proposed spending cap of 20% of GDP bantered around in both Mr. Brooks' and Mr. Krugman's columns and apply that to health care for our older population that is expected to increase from 20.9% of Americans 65 or older per 100 members of the working population in 2007 to 31.7% in 2025, a 52% increase, and then compound that with ever increasing costs of that health care, there will be a multitude of older Americans who would be devastated by that loss of support. However, he also points out that the older population represents a mighty powerful voting bloc which should cause the Republicans some real heartburn as they attempt to drastically curb spending on very popular social entitlement programs like Medicare.
And then there is the looming issue of using approval of a raised debt limit by both sides as their wedge to achieve their respective objectives. Some say not raising it would trigger an economic Armageddon, others say it really will have little effect. Frankly, I have no idea who is right, but I do know that it's not a risk I would be willing to take were I a voting member of congress. Having suffered through one of the worst economic periods since the great depression that is still in a fragile recovery, I would think most Americans would have little patience with those who would make that irresponsible gamble with our future, as well as a very long memory should the catastrophic theorists be correct.