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May 11, 2011

Toomey: My Plan Is To Balance The Budget Without Touching Entitlements

A modest proposal. The nine-page sales brochure for the plan is here.

The "don't touch Medicare" is both a big plus and a big minus. We have two deficits in this country, both growing, both exacerbating the other, because there's only so much you can borrow.

The first deficit is our current operating budget. This is the deficit Toomey wants to cut.

The second deficit is our rapidly-growing gap between entitlement pay-outs and entitlement take-ins. Not only is health care becoming more and more expensive -- it costs more now than it was ever projected to, when the older people were paying taxes into it in their younger years -- but demographically, there simply are a whole lot of aging Baby Boomers and a comparatively small number of Gen Xers, Gen Yers, and Gen Zers.

Toomey's plan is to ignore that deficit and kick the can down the road.

The trouble with that is that can has been kicked down the road for 30 years and now we're actually very near the end of the road.

The good thing about this is that politically, kicking the can down the road has always been wildly popular. That's why we've done it for 30 years. Every year the country has chosen the action-adventure roller-coaster thrill ride of the Summer -- Kicking The Can Down The Road: Part 22: The Revenge.

While we talk up the Ryan plan, and it's good to talk up, there is actually no chance whatsoever it can be passed with any sort of Democratic input into government. I don't even think we can do it in 2012, assuming we capture the presidency and the Senate too, because the Democrats can still filibuster.

I'm conflicted on this because while I think the Ryan plan is a good one, the fact of the matter is, I do not know under what circumstances it could possibly actually be enacted into law. I do not see the route by which it goes from a plan to a law.

We seem to have little chance of actually passing it, and yet we get all the political downside of a seniors' revolt, even though, really, I don't even think this could happen (and wouldn't effect seniors anyway, but they seem to be suspicious of that, and seem to vote for the idea that "if we protect everyone, even those 55 and younger, then there's no chance they can come after us later -- those 55 and younger are a tripwire to protect current seniors").

On the other hand, there's Toomey's plan, which fails to deal with the problem, and invites a coming fiscal catastrophe. Which is... what the public seems to strongly desire.

Toomey's plan also includes something that I doubt could ever be enacted, at least not with Democrats' in possession of a filibuster -- he can get us a surplus by 2021, but only if we limit spending, almost immediately, to 18.5% of GDP. We're currently at 23%, and the most aggressive plans (apart from Toomey's or Rand Paul's) usually shoot for 20% or so. Going even further to 18.5% is almost as politically difficult as Medicare reform.

As Toomey says, his plan is not in competition with Ryan's. It's not an either/or. We can do Toomey's (or try to) and the later also pursue Ryan's.

The deficit is so enormous we need an All of the Above approach. All of it.

The trouble with "doing Ryan's later" is that we never actually do these things later. That's why we're in our current fix.

But politically, since we can't do any of this until 2012 at the earliest (and, alas, probably not even then), there is a certain sense in pushing Toomey's plan and downplaying Ryan's.

If you don't mind the "coming fiscal catastrophe" part of it.

Which, again, is incredibly popular. America really seems hot for this "coming fiscal catastrophe" thing.

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posted by Ace at 02:26 PM

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