Thingish Things

“Sustainable” Government

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Apr• 05•11

There are certain words anathema to the Right. “Sustainable” is one of them.

There’s nothing wrong with the word per se; indeed, we are fond of its antonym “unsustainable,” as in unsustainable spending. It’s just that “sustainable” belongs to the environmental Left. It’s one of those overused squishy adjectives used to rationalize one sketchy government idea or another.

But Paul Ryan’s 10-year, $4 trillion spending cut proposal demands that the Right reappropriate the word. Because what Ryan is proposing to do is create a sustainable federal government. The one we have now is not even close.

David Brooks frames Ryan’s boldness well in today’s New York Times. “Today, Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, is scheduled to release the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes,” Brooks writes. “…The Ryan budget will put all future arguments in the proper context: The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on the left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract.”

Brooks goes on to note that Ryan’s proposal is certain to reframe the 2012 Presidential debate. Thank God for that. The birther talk is excruciating.

In an ideal world, the Right and Left will learn to share “sustainable.” They will reach agreement on a long-term — sustainable — government vision that will allow us to live well and within our means.

Is that sustained laughing I hear?



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  1. Your Friend says:

    Okay, I must not be serious. Dang, I always knew there was something wrong with me. I don’t consider America to be a welfare state and we wouldn’t have the deficit problems we have if three things had not happened: 1) We wasted trillions of dollars on an unnecessary war in Iraq; 2) We gave trillions of dollars in tax breaks to the most wealthy people in our nation; 3) We deregulated the financial industry to the point where that industry could blatantly steal money from poor people, collapse the economy, and get away with it.

    Maybe it’s because I came so close to being an abject failure in life, but I don’t think we need to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly and the poor. And judging by the way the 2012 Republican candidates are hiding from the Ryan proposal, even the leaders on the right seem aware that the proposal is political suicide. So what does it gain? Not much, as far as I can tell. It burnishes Ryan’s creds as a hardline fiscal conservative, but it if he’s not careful the economy while be chugging along just fine by 2016 and he’ll have missed his opportunity to truly impact the nation.

    Now, for negotiations. Social Security and M&M can be tweaked, but they cannot be radically changed the way Ryan is proposing. It will simply never happen. How much did you pay in Social Security taxes last year? Don’t go online to find the max payout, but I’m betting you don’t even know what it is, most people don’t. Likewise, we don’t know the exact salary after which you stop paying the tax. Is it $110k this year? Something like that. My point is that you could marginally raise both of those numbers (the rate and the ceiling) and incrementally raise the benefits ages (over a period of two decades, 62 moves to 65, 65 moves to 67). This would largely solve the Social Security “shortfall” (which is mostly an illusion, but I’m tired of fighting that). That can be done. Lower the corporate tax, I’ll give you that, but they actually have to pay it, so close the corporate loopholes. How are we doing, are we solving the deficit problem yet? How hard is this? Why can’t we make real progress instead of palying the political game all the time?

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