Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reason Magazine Advocation Of Means Testing Entitlements Politically Naive

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1/30/1882 to 4/12/1945) the 32nd president of the United States (3/4/1933 to 4/12/1945). Excerpted from his 1/11/1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union.

The following is an excerpt from the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, 2/1/2012, which I edited for brevity and clarity. Thom and Matt Welch (the editor in chief of Reason Magazine) discuss the social safety net and entitlements.

Matt Welch: I happen to agree that we should have a saftey net, but where I disagree with you, probably, is that entitlements are ruining the saftey net. You have to choose between one of the two so that Warren Buffett is not on Medicare, but his secretary is [a mangled metaphor, since I highly doubt Warren Buffett's secretary would qualify, but you get the point... Matt Welch is in favor of means testing].

Thom Hartmann: Well, then I'd suggest that you're politically naive. The history of programs that are defined as welfare... that are programs for poor people... is that they're very easy to cut. Even supposedly Progressive or Liberal politicians like Bill Clinton ended "Welfare as we know it". It was fine during a boom time... all the restrictions that Clinton put on Welfare... you can't be on it more than 4 years (I think), and you've got to jump through all these hoops... even if you're a single mother with a couple of kids.

But now that we're 4 years into the bush great depression that isn't working so well for a lot of people in this country. If you start means testing Social Security and Medicare, they're going to turn into welfare programs, and mark my words, someone's going to come along and say, "Oh, yea, people who have income over $200 thousand shouldn't get Social Security. Let's cut that down to $40 thousand... let's cut that down to $10 thousand... and then, finally, let's do away with it".

Matt Welch: I think that's a very interesting objection and one that I'm going to take into consideration. Reason Magazine is going to have an upcoming story on entitlements versus the welfare state. It's true that the vision for Social Security, after people started living longer... the concept was that it would retain it's politically popularity if we spread it among people who don't need it as much.

Thom Hartmann: It's a very small number of people.

Matt Welch: But that's what is sinking our finances. That's the problem.

Thom Hartmann: No, it's not. You know, if you took the cap off Social Security, so that everybody making over $106 thousand paid on all of their income... the Social Security program would be solvent forever. In fact it would have a massive surplus, larger than the 2.6 trillion it's got right now.

Matt Welch: You might get agreement from some of my [committee].

My Commentary: I'm not sure about that last word, "committee"... I listened to the audio several times, but I couldn't discern exactly what Matt Welch said. In any case, I'm pretty sure he indicated that some of his fellow Libertarians might agree with the argument in favor of lifting the cap (in regards to high wage earners not paying Social Security tax on income over 106k). That's interesting. I'd have been positive before that Libertarians would be strongly against raising (or removing) the SS tax cap in addition to being strongly in favor of means testing.

In my opinion Republicans are in favor of means testing because they want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare, and means testing is the first step in accomplishing that goal. I mentioned this on the blog of a self-described "Moderate", and he called it a "conspiracy theory". He also said lifting the cap would amount to the largest tax increase in American history and he would vociferously oppose it. A Libertarian leaning blogger ridiculed the argument against means-testing, saying it amounted to "bribing" higher income people to gain their support for the programs.

But here is a Libertarian, and the editor in chief of the top Libertarian magazine no less, voicing some agreement with Thom Hartmann. I must say that Matt Welch's Libertarianism sounds at least a little more reasonable then Ron Paul's... this is an individual who thinks allowing an uninsured person to die represents "freedom". I'm with FDR in opposing this kind of "freedom". A necessitous man is not a free man. Perhaps enacting FDR's proposed Second Bill of Rights should be a goal of the 99 percent movement? At the very least we need to STOP the talk of "reforming" (cutting) entitlements that even our "socialist" president seems to be gung-ho for (with his "grand bargain").

Thom Hartmann Postcast Info: If you are a subscriber to the Thom Hartmann program podcast, the location of this segment of audio can be found at 7:30 to 9:37 of Hour 2 on Thursday February 2 of 2012.

Video: Ron Paul was serious when he said (to audience applause at the 9/12/2011 CNN Tea Party debate) that society should allow uninsured people to die.

SWTD #109

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