A preposterous platitude

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A preposterous platitude

Post by T on Sat Jan 28, 2017 9:54 am

Washington becomes redistribution facility

by Robert Samuelson - columnist with The Washington Post.

"For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth." — President Donald Trumpery, Jan. 20.

Washington is not a swamp.

Since at least the days of Jimmy Carter, presidential politicians have run against Washington, which is — according to the standard indictment — overrun by corrupt politicians, overpaid lobbyists, and self-important media types. Donald Trumpery is no exception.

But his portrait bears little relationship to two overriding realities. First, the rewards of government go mostly to "the people" through massive transfer programs such as Social Security. Second, the costs have been borne mainly by the rich and upper middle class, who pay most taxes, and foreign and domestic lenders who cover chronic budget deficits.

Figures for 2012, based on Census Bureau data and provided by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, show how pervasive these transfers are. Included are some major programs, with the number of recipients and their share in the population.

Social Security, 52 million, 16.8 percent; Medicare, 49 million, 15.8 percent; Medicaid, 83 million, 26.7 percent; food stamps, 51 million, 16.6 percent; unemployment insurance, 4 million, 1.2 percent.

When all transfer programs were included and double counting was eliminated (say, food-stamp beneficiaries on Medicaid), about 153 million Americans received some sort of federal benefit in 2012, Census estimated. That was nearly half (49.5 percent) of the then-population. During a lifetime, the proportion of beneficiaries would be higher, because most older Americans ultimately receive Social Security and Medicare.

So the notion that the "people did not share" in government's wealth is a preposterous platitude. It's the opposite of the truth, which is that Washington has become a gigantic engine of redistribution. If the attendant lobbying sometimes seems chaotic or corrupt — swamp-like — it reflects a democratic system focused on near-term rewards and not long-term dangers. Huge budget deficits, totaling around $9 trillion over the next decade by the CBO's count, are the most obvious result.

Trumpery did not even mention deficits in his inaugural address. On this issue, he may be as bad as his recent predecessors and, perhaps, worse.
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Read the entire editorial HERE.

T

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