Mr. President, Think of the Children

In his press conference, President Barack Obama said that we must close the deficit by tackling everything—naturally, with as many contradictions as possible—including entitlements, though we must still “keep faith with seniors and children with disabilities.”

It sounds grand and noble, but the problem is that if Obama decides to “keep faith” with seniors, he’s going to have to do that by vigorously screwing over the next generation. As Professor Lawrence J. Kotlikoff of Boston University points out in a recent Bloomberg column, we’re broke. (Yes, I know that’s his schtick. But he’s absolutely right.)

How big is the fiscal gap? By my own calculations using the CBO data, it now stands at $211 trillion — a huge sum equaling 14 times the country’s economic output. To arrive at that figure, I assumed that annual noninterest spending, as well as taxes, would grow indefinitely by 2 percent a year beyond 2075, the point at which the CBO’s estimates end.

Most of that comes from entitlement spending, which was where Cato policy analyst Michael Tanner came up with the $119.5 trillion in the hole figure just a few months ago. Obviously, it’s getting worse all the time.

Obama’s statement that we must keep faith with seniors, though, highlights what most libertarians really find odious with big government: one group must be sacrificed for another. A win-win solution is impossible in a government context, but is the norm in an environment based on voluntary associations, otherwise these associations wouldn’t happen. Ironically, in this case, the group being sacrificed is the one that most liberal politicians always try to pretend to protect: the children. (As well as the many college students who voted for Obama in 2008. I wonder how they like being thrown under the bus by their savior.)

Those children are entering a world without jobs, having no savings and burdened with large piles of debt, mostly incurred through college. How they are expected to pay off that $200+ trillion I have no clue. I would be very interested if there is a plan, being in that category myself. Seniors should be too, since they’re becoming increasingly dependent upon us.

The only proper way Obama can keep faith with seniors is if he gives them the straight dope now, that these programs are unsustainable and need to be reformed. Naturally, that will imperil his reelection—and since he’s acting more like a candidate now than a president, that’s foremost on his mind—and thus cannot be raised. But as long as he’s honest, he will still have kept faith; only if he suddenly blindsides them will he have not. However, if he persists in his current idea of keeping faith, then by 2020 whomever sits in the Oval Office then will have to do it, with the budgetary equivalent of a comet.

Obama’s plan is impossible. It simply cannot be done. And moreover, he’s hurting the next generation that will have to contribute to his retirement (I’m sure even rich ex-president’s would collect Social Security in some fashion) in addition to current seniors. Think of the Children, Mr. President. Keep faith with them too. The decision is hard, but all the right ones are.


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