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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

See that train a comin'

For the well-duh file. USA Today and Gallup discover that 22 percent at one end of the spectrum want government out of their lives and 20 percent at the other end endorse ever-expansive government, and most people in the middle "endorse government activism on a range of issues . . . but doubt the competence of government to deliver results effectively and efficiently."

The philosophical debate over what the government should do may soon be joined by a practical debate over what the government can afford to do. A report is due Dec. 1 from a bipartisan commission charged with addressing the deficit, including the costs of Social Security and Medicare. The costs of those benefit programs are expected to explode as the huge Baby Boomer generation retires.

Most of those surveyed acknowledge a disconnect: 56% say most Americans demand more from the government than they are willing to pay for with taxes.

More than three of four also see a day of reckoning approaching. They predict that the costs of entitlement programs will create major economic problems for the United States in the next 25 years if no changes are made.

Recognizing the issue isn't the same as reconciling it, however. Raise taxes to address it? Fifty-six percent say no. Cut benefits instead? Sixty-six percent say no. Just 12% say both steps should be taken.

A showdown on the size and role of government may come next year when the federal budget is debated between the Obama White House and a Congress that is likely to include new members elected on a promise to reduce the government's reach.

You know the old saying, "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die." The stuff we've been arguing so far is just the preliminary sparring. When the real, practical "this problem must be solved" moment comes, we'll find out who's who.


William Larsen
Tue, 10/12/2010 - 1:16am

Leo, we have a real problem to face. Social Security provides income to 55 million total (43 million on OASI and 12 million on disability). 160 million workers pay for these benefits and each year these 160 million receive a Social Security benefit statement stating they cannot pay promised benefits. 56% say no to raising taxes. 60% say no to cutting benefits.

We could assume the 55 million will vote to continue their benefits by voting for tax increases over benefit cuts. But when push comes to shove, will the 55 million actually be able to get the other 160 million to give up more of their wages?

The war between generations is about to begin. I stand with my children. What side do you stand on?

tim zank
Tue, 10/12/2010 - 8:49am

Unless you are braindead or a politician (I know I digress) it's painfully obvious this can't go on forever.

Average Americans (the ones with regular jobs and families) are beginning to understand clearly the similarities between a household budget and a national budget, i.e. when you have no money left and your credit cards are maxed out you can no longer spend. Our nation is broke. Those that are living off of the government don't see it and don't care.