GOP needs to act immediately on entitlement reform

posted at 2:30 pm on January 18, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

In my column today appearing at The Week, I look at the prospects of serious budget cuts without taking on entitlement spending — and come away more convinced than ever that entitlement reform has to be addressed now, regardless of whether Democrats choose to engage or not.  With a stunning national consensus that taxes and the debt ceiling should not be raised to address the budget deficit, the math dictates that entitlements have to get addressed immediately:

Entitlement reform has to be part of any serious reform, especially if conservatives want to avoid deep cuts in defense spending. Mandatory spending combined with debt payments already comprise 63 percent of the proposed 2011 budget. Discretionary spending, which includes defense and Homeland Security, amounts to just over $1.4 trillion, with the rest going to debt service ($251 billion). The projected deficit comes to $1.267 trillion, which exceeds security outlays by almost 30 percent ($895 billion), and is more than twice the non-security discretionary budget ($520 billion).

Clearly we can’t get to fiscal equilibrium by focusing on non-security discretionary spending. Even cutting the security budget in half and wiping out all other discretionary spending entirely only reduces the budget by $968 billion, which leaves a need to borrow another $300 billion for this budget year. The only way to get to a balanced budget in the short term is to seriously reduce mandatory spending. And that means Social Security ($730 billion), Medicare ($491 billion), and Medicaid ($297 billion).

Even apart from the budget crisis at hand now, any serious budgetary reform for the long term has to include restructuring entitlement programs. In six years, the White House projection for Social Security in 2011 shows outlays will increase 37 percent to just over a trillion dollars in 2017. Medicare outlays — assuming ObamaCare, mind you — will increase 64.8 percent in the same period, according to the same White House projections. Without serious structural changes in entitlement programs, mandatory spending combined with interest payments will comprise 72 percent of the 2017 budget, which increases from $3.834 trillion to $4.872 trillion. Waiting only makes the reforms more difficult and puts us deeper into the hole from which we must climb.

Earlier today, Tim Pawlenty discussed this very problem with me in our live show from his book signing.  He offered a solution to the debt ceiling issue by advising Republicans to pass a sequencing law that requires the US to meet obligations to debtholders first before any other funding gets spent, which would allow us to avoid default for a short period while we look at ways to reduce the budget.  However, Pawlenty agrees that we cannot get the budget reduced enough without entitlement reform, and strongly urged the Republicans in Congress to start that process immediately:

As Pawlenty says, it’s eighth-grade math. The budget isn’t so mystifying as to hide the fact that we cannot correct a $1.27 trillion deficit by attacking only $450 billion in spending. Either we get serious about budget reform and lead, or toss out the national consensus that has provided this rare opportunity to get it right.


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Let’s go GOP…Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way…

SHARPTOOTH on January 18, 2011 at 2:35 PM

We are all Socialists Illinois now.

WashJeff on January 18, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Pawlenty doesn’t get it. He is not the one to fight the left and fighting the left is exactly what has to happen before ANYTHING can be done. He whined about how unfair it was to attack conservatives…say what?

They arent being unfair…THEY ARE FIGHTING to eliminate us….and our beliefs. Unfair what a clueless buffoon.

Sorry but I want a fighter not a kisser…I want someone who understands that the MSM press isn’t wrong, the MSM press is on the other side.

And I want someone who fundementally understands that the left is not interested in comprimise. There is no such thing as working with the left….there is only accepting just a bit more of their nonsense. Pawlenty does not get it.

Sarah Palin does…

PierreLegrand on January 18, 2011 at 2:41 PM

I learned to spend less money than I make in the 8th grade. It was around the time that they taught me the real-life applications of math through the tedious process of balancing a fake checkbook.

Mord on January 18, 2011 at 2:41 PM

If our side had a majority of Sarah’s in dc with her guts, we would get things done for our nation. She stands up for the truth and would stand up to the d’s! She fights for what is right.
L

letget on January 18, 2011 at 2:44 PM

The problem is: Do we have the pols that have the cajones to take on entitlements???? My heart wants to say yes, but my head says no. See: Lugar, DICK as an example.

search4truth on January 18, 2011 at 2:44 PM

The GOP can’t address entitlements until they have the senate and the presidency. It’s going to be two years before that’s a possibility. They then will have to win the public argument, and the media will make it a parade of kids and grandmas. Entitlements aren’t going anywhere until something happens.

DFCtomm on January 18, 2011 at 2:48 PM

awlenty doesn’t get it. He is not the one to fight the left and fighting the left is exactly what has to happen before ANYTHING can be done. He whined about how unfair it was to attack conservatives…say what?

They arent being unfair…THEY ARE FIGHTING to eliminate us….and our beliefs. Unfair what a clueless buffoon.

Sorry but I want a fighter not a kisser…I want someone who understands that the MSM press isn’t wrong, the MSM press is on the other side.

And I want someone who fundementally understands that the left is not interested in comprimise. There is no such thing as working with the left….there is only accepting just a bit more of their nonsense. Pawlenty does not get it.

Sarah Palin does…

PierreLegrand on January 18, 2011 at 2:41 PM

+1

pugwriter on January 18, 2011 at 2:49 PM

PierreLegrand on January 18, 2011 at 2:41 PM

+100 But Pawlenty has been one of the only ones in the GOP to actually defend and support Sarah somewhat. Gingrich is such a loser. Romney has been nothing but a back biter. We need some of the people she helped get into office to step up for her like she did for them. Where are they now when she could use some support?

shmendrick on January 18, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Why can’t social security/medicare taxes, and only these taxes, be used exclusively for their intended purpose, so as not to eat up the rest of the budget? How can you mandated to spend what you do not have? Spend what is allocated for that purpose, and if the funds run out, you stop spending.

El_Terrible on January 18, 2011 at 2:51 PM

I learned to spend less money than I make in the 8th grade. It was around the time that they taught me the real-life applications of math through the tedious process of balancing a fake checkbook.

Mord on January 18, 2011 at 2:41 PM

My students just did a lesson on figuring tax, unit price and rates. I came up with a worksheet where they choose a profession then saw how well their salary would get them through an average day as an adult with kids. It was priceless to see their faces when the very first thing they did was see how much of that salary they never would see because of income taxes.

There were several who chose to lunch on Ramen noodles, pass up dessert, and I heard such comments as “so THAT’S why we don’t go out to eat that much”!

Congress needs a few more Ramen noodle lunches, a few less trips to the dessert cart, and WAY less Chinese take out. Seems every time they borrow a little Chinese money, they are hungry for more only a short time later.

miConsevative on January 18, 2011 at 2:52 PM

+100 But Pawlenty has been one of the only ones in the GOP to actually defend and support Sarah somewhat.

shmendrick on January 18, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Wrong. He was weaseling it.

the_nile on January 18, 2011 at 2:53 PM

The problem is: Do we have the pols that have the cajones to take on entitlements???? My heart wants to say yes, but my head says no.

search4truth on January 18, 2011 at 2:44 PM

Only one that I can think of. But everyone keeps telling me I shouldn’t vote for her because she’s unelectable.

miConsevative on January 18, 2011 at 2:54 PM

I don’t give two sharts what TP has to say until he grows a spine and sets his foot down in a clear and concise manner on the continuing libel against Palin by not only the news media, but the Republican establishment as well. His softy response on rhetoric doesn’t cut it. I will give no respect, money, or support to any Rep that cannot stand up for Sara in this regard. Why? Because they couldn’t be bothered to stand up for me when I was falsely accused of murder.

Courage to stand my butt. If he hasn’t the courage to stand up to the media now, how can I trust him to have the courage when he’s got reelection on his mind? Again I say, until he calls out the media for their scandal and reaches out a helping hand to us conservatives who are being attacked he can STFU.

Pattosensei on January 18, 2011 at 2:57 PM

Possible titles for Pawlenty’s second book (should there ever be one):

Courage to Stand Down
Courage to Stand Back
Courage to Stand Aside
Courage to Bland
Courage to Shake Hand
Courage to Grandstand
Courage to Misunderstand
Courage to Evenhand
Courage to Not Reprimand
Courage to Pound Sand
Courage to Disband

steebo77 on January 18, 2011 at 2:58 PM

The time to panic has long since past…

Seven Percent Solution on January 18, 2011 at 2:59 PM

Like Sarah Palin, Pawlenty is in a position where he can talk but bear no responsibility for making anything happen.

If you want to quote people who are actually in the trenches in Congress, their opinions have meaning. At the moment, Pawlenty and Palin are as irrelevant as The Newt.

When either runs for office again and demonstrates an ability to get things done, I’ll take a lot more notice of what they say.

MrScribbler on January 18, 2011 at 2:59 PM

Pawlenty has been one of the only ones in the GOP to actually defend and support Sarah somewhat.

shmendrick on January 18, 2011 at 2:51 PM

The problem is the “somewhat.” Yeah, and the doctor only somewhat tried to save the patient’s life. The death was unfortunate. Due to his kinda try I’ve decided he should be my doctor.

Yeah, see my above post on my feelings on that!

Pattosensei on January 18, 2011 at 2:59 PM

I guess it’s official. HA is now the Tim Pawlenty campaign headquarters.

Knucklehead on January 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM

I like Pawlenty, and wouldn’t have any trouble voting for him whatsoever.

therightwinger on January 18, 2011 at 3:05 PM

From the way I’ve seen the GOP stand up for one of their own (Palin) I don’t think any of them, but a small few, actually have the guts to really get serious.

I think they, like the Dems, are only worried about re-election.

capejasmine on January 18, 2011 at 3:06 PM

O/T
===

Another School Shooting!

3 shot at Gardena High School; gunman still at large [Updated]

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/01/3-shot-at-gardena-high-school-gunman-still-at-large.html

canopfor on January 18, 2011 at 3:07 PM

I guess it’s official. HA is now the Tim Pawlenty campaign headquarters.

Knucklehead on January 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Them Minnesotans gotta stick together. Winter lasts a long time up there….

MrScribbler on January 18, 2011 at 3:07 PM

I guess it’s official. HA is now the Tim Pawlenty campaign headquarters.

Knucklehead on January 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Explains the Pawlenty snail mail addressed to “WashJeff” asking for campaign donations to his PAC.

WashJeff on January 18, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Them Minnesotans gotta stick together. Winter lasts a long time up there….

MrScribbler on January 18, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Especially when they have to watch the Packers and Bears play in the Midwest Super Bowl.

WashJeff on January 18, 2011 at 3:08 PM

I always ask how entitlements are going to be taken away given that politicians that take the goodies away won’t be re-elected and any serious entitlement reform will literally end in riots in the streets.

No one EVER gives me an answer. The system’s going to have to crash.

Canadian Infidel on January 18, 2011 at 3:17 PM

GOP won’t take on the big issues until conservatives adopt a 50 state strategy of tolerating the Browns/Snowes best-we-can-do types in blue states so we can nab them, Rubio-ing every single non-doctrinaire conservative in red states (not just the Hatch/Lugar types but the Cornyn/Shelby gUys who care more about getting along and having comfy lives in DC establishment than conservatism), and finding Ron Johnsons for all the swing states.

Raisedbywolves on January 18, 2011 at 3:18 PM

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

Entitlements are the greatest domestic challenge the nation faces. The middle class retirement programs, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, will cause federal spending to jump by half, from the historical average of twenty percent of the economy to thirty percent by 2033. This tsunami of spending is a major threat to limited government because it runs on auto-pilot with automatic increases locked in by each program’s governing laws.

http://www.heritage.org/Initiatives/Entitlements

canopfor on January 18, 2011 at 3:18 PM

There are plenty of ways to reform entitlements. Make continuing to qualify for ‘crazy checks’ (SSDI) subject to review every two years. Institute a copay, even just 5 bucks, on Medicare/Medicaid visits (the best way to stop abuse is to force some skin in the game). Begin adjusting the retirement age upwards. Stop stacking programs, like free school lunches + food stamps. Make food stamps only good for basic staples. Phase out defined benefit retirement plans.

None of these ideas require eliminating services, just making them more accountable and less subject to abuse.

A local ca$ino once offered a free entry tournament weekly. The idea was that people would rebuy and add-on at the break, but the tourney was quickly flooded with people that came and played their free chips and left once they were gone. You had to arrive 2 hours early to have any chance at getting in the tourney. The prize pools were small. So I suggested to management that they charge a small nominal fee of $5 to enter. They actually did it.

The field fell by half and the prize pool went up. Huh, imagine that. They even wound up spending less on free coffee and hotdogs.

‘Free’ has a magic about it, and of course it isn’t free.

GnuBreed on January 18, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Colonel Allen West on Fox and Friends
early this morning!
======================

Debt Ceiling

America’s Drowning in Debt
Jan 18, 2011-4:18

U.S. deficit is almost at $14.29 trillion limit

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4500597/americas-drowning-in-debt

canopfor on January 18, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Is this thread an infomercial?

Geochelone on January 18, 2011 at 3:31 PM

When I said before that “at least Pawlenty supported her somewhat” I was referring to the occasional times he actually defended her. Not much, not enough for my book but way better than someone like Gingrich who took another shot at her today. People like him really disgust me.

I’m 100% for Sarah. She is the only real leader we have. G-d protect her and help her prevail against this encroching darkness.

shmendrick on January 18, 2011 at 3:35 PM

Is this thread an infomercial?

Geochelone on January 18, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Quack Quack

Knucklehead on January 18, 2011 at 3:39 PM

Eddy and Timmy sittin’ in a tree….

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on January 18, 2011 at 3:51 PM

When I said before that “at least Pawlenty supported her somewhat” I was referring to the occasional times he actually defended her. Not much, not enough for my book but way better than someone like Gingrich who took another shot at her today. People like him really disgust me.

I’m 100% for Sarah. She is the only real leader we have. G-d protect her and help her prevail against this encroching darkness.

shmendrick on January 18, 2011 at 3:35 PM

I read you right. That is why I used the doctor example. TPaw isn’t serious about his defense so I can’t be serious about him. I like what he’s saying on other topics, but words are fleeting. We’re on the same page, just my anger is at 10 after reading about the Newt.

Pattosensei on January 18, 2011 at 3:55 PM

First, make some substantial cuts to the size of government, by defunding. That will encourage many people receiving “entitlements” to be willing take cuts.

GaltBlvnAtty on January 18, 2011 at 3:58 PM

my anger is at 10 after reading about the Newt.

Pattosensei on January 18, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Me too. This is the unprincipled jerk who at first backed Dede Scozafoobar.

shmendrick on January 18, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Agreed: I have had enough with Newt, having given him multiple chances. He has reached the end with me and my wife, both of us having gone to high school with him in Germany.

GaltBlvnAtty on January 18, 2011 at 4:06 PM

Sounds a little “YAY PAWLENTY!” to me :)

But seriously, I agree with you ED, and T-Pawl, completely on entitlement cuts being the only serious cure to our budget woes in the short and long term. But unfortunately, I fear that before any of that happens, DoD spending will be slashed to Euro-weenie levels; notwithstanding the inconvenient truth that they have only been able to do so because the US has maintained a strong defense for them.

I personally want to see the GOP get on board with many of Ryan’s ideas from his Roadmap.

RocketmanBob on January 18, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Obama will say, Fine! I’ll go along with entitlement reform, I want an increase in Social Security taxes on “the rich”. The rich will be defined as anyone making more than whatever the threshold is now ($75,000?). This after he doled out a temporary 2% payroll tax cut which takes money directly from…Social Security.

Anyhoo what time frame are you and Pawlenty advocating? I advocate a gradual change to entitlements – changes which insure that we have economic growth. Sudden shocks to the system and increased FICA taxes is the wrong way to go. A complete revision of our tax system (flat or fair tax), tax cuts, and gradual cuts to entitlements make sense to me. We can’t possibly balance the budget immediately without causing harm, but the short term goal of returning to 2008 levels is doable. Paul Ryan’s road map is gradual enough for me.

Buy Danish on January 18, 2011 at 4:10 PM

IMO, 2008 levels are still way too high.

Midas on January 18, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Is this thread an infomercial?

Geochelone on January 18, 2011 at 3:31 PM
==============
Quack Quack

Knucklehead on January 18, 2011 at 3:39 PM

Knucklehead:Ack….Ack(D*mmitt,couldn’t find a Mars Attack
soundbite)

Geo(Kidding)

canopfor on January 18, 2011 at 4:19 PM

In six years, the White House projection for Social Security in 2011 shows outlays will increase 37 percent to just over a trillion dollars in 2017

We need to have a little reflection here. Before we lurch into reforming SS we need to make very damn sure that every citizen knows backwards and forwards that SS is premised on a lie. That basically we and our employers have been pay many thousands of dollars EXTRA in taxes. That is, the income tax rates have been substantially UNDERSTATED. We been paying huge amounts of our income in taxes so that the crooks in DC can party down.

All that money has gone to current expenditures. The Treasury notes are coming due, and we’ll either have to roll them over, or raise taxes.

The Rs should not participate in this fraud by using nice words…the Dem dream is a fraud, premised on a lie. Ponzi is the correct term and we’re running out of suckers.

r keller on January 18, 2011 at 5:24 PM