Cheat-Seeking Missles

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Entitlements: The Commanding Issue In 2012?

Whoever becomes president in 2008 will put his or her hand on the Bible (not a Koran ... yet) a couple days after the oldest Baby Boomers qualify for Social Security. In their third year as president, these same Boomers will qualify for Medicare.

As the other CSM puts it, "Then the entitlement demands will take off."

Already, entitlements consume two-thirds of the budget, so it's hard to imagine how innovative new programs will be funded for the twenty years or so that the Boomers will be getting their pay-back from the System they once railed against.

Incoming Dems and 2008 Dem presidential hopefuls are endorsing expensive programs -- cuts in college loan interst rates, college cost tax deductions, middle class tax cut extensions and the big daddy, universal health care.

Congress can't do that and fight a war on terror. In fact, by 2015 or 2020, it won't be able to do that and fund the entitlements without pushing the deficit far beyond its current historic lows.

That will leave entitlements as the only real budget game in town. Who will have the strength to pierce the thick hide of this herd of sacred cows? Don't immediately assume it'll be the GOP, since they've become as fiscally undisciplined as the Dems.

Eventually, death will to thin the financial draw and voting power of the Boomers, and a new fiscal playing field will emerge. But until then, the power will belong either to the sleight of hand artist who will lead the nation to fiscal ruin, or the charismatic budget hawk who will finally lead America away from entitlements and back to a small federal government.

I won't be tottering down to the mailbox for my Social Security check quite yet in 2012, but I'll be eligible. Even so, my vote will be for the budget hawk.

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