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Monday, March 21, 2005

Spend and Spend

Robert Novak:

In a half century of watching Congress, I have never seen anything like the unified Democratic stand against any reduction in entitlements or discretionary spending. Gregg, a flinty New England Yankee not given to exaggeration, called the Senate's action a 'disaster.' For all their lecturing about restoring 'fiscal integrity,' Democrats in both houses of Congress support only tax increases and provide no help whatsoever in cutting spending. But Thursday's melancholy developments show that Republicans, more than a decade after taking over Congress, cannot stand up against spending, either. ... The problem is the mind-set of Smith in talking about needs of "the most vulnerable people in our society" trumping the need to control government spending. Gregg responded to his colleague with blunt language: "It is absolutely critical that this year we address the Medicaid issue and why it is not going to impact any children and why all this 'wearing your heart on the sleeve' language we heard around here is a large amount of puffery." But he couldn't find 49 other Republican senators who agreed with him.
I am sympathetic to the need to care medically for those who cannot afford to take care of themselves. I can possibly even be persuaded that this should be a federal, rather than state, matter. However, we must acknowledge that the cost of these programs does matter. We have to either raise additional revenue or find ways of keeping the cost down. And we must remember that any money spent on this means it is money that can't be spent for other purposes. Medical entitlements are especially troubling, because there is no amount of care that a person would not be willing to spend if they could. Thus it requires some sort of rationing, either by a government entity or by the amount private citizens can afford. There are not easy answers to the debate, but the tendancy of politicians to promise we can have our cake and eat it too is troubling.


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