The White House envisions a series of stages bringing us closer to fiscal sustainability. I hope that’s right. But if Congress couldn’t make a single tough decision under these circumstances, why should we think it’ll make any further down the road? More likely, there will just be more squabbling and brinkmanship, more posturing and punting, which would not only poison future budget talks but also prospects for immigration reform, tax reform, gun control and many other projects.
Whom should we blame for this? Again, we should not blame Obama and Boehner. In their different ways, they and a number of other people in the Congress are trying to find a politically palatable way to deal with these hard issues. They got what conditions allowed.
Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money. Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way.