The Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson took a scorched-earth approach on Monday to what he sees as out-of-control entitlement spending, criticizing unrealistic liberals and hypocritical conservatives.
Referencing President Barack Obama’s recent charm offensive, Samuelson wrote that what is really needed is a candor offensive.
“The budget debate’s central reality is that federal retirement programs, led by Social Security and Medicare, are crowding out most other government spending,” he argued. “Until we openly recognize and discuss this, it will be impossible to have a ‘balanced approach’ — to use one of President Obama’s favorite phrases.”
Entitlement spending is already crowding out other areas of the federal budget, he noted. The Army is to be cut by 80,000 troops, the Marines by 20,000. As a share of national income, defense spending ($670 billion in 2012) is headed toward its lowest level since 1940. Even now, the Pentagon says budget limits hamper its response to cyberattacks.
“Domestic discretionary spending,” he added, “a category that includes food inspectors, the FBI, the National Weather Service and many others—faces a similar fate. By 2023, this spending will drop 33% as a share of national income, estimates the Congressional Budget Office. Dozens of programs will be squeezed.”
And whether or not politicians deal with it is of little matter; decisions will be made.
“Choices are being made by default. Almost everything is being subordinated to protect retirees. Solicitude for government’s largest constituency undermines the rest of government.”
This is an “immensely important story,” he noted, and one almost totally ignored by the media.