Don’t Blame New-Deal Entitlements:

The Great-Society Welfare State and the Fiscal Crisis Ever since Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, released his daring deficit-reduction plan in April, policymakers and policy experts have been touting “entitlement reform” as the key to controlling run-away federal spending. Even before the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in January, President Barack Obama’s own “fiscal responsibility and reform” commission—representing the political establishment—released its report in December 2010 including recommendations that call for reforms of public health-care spending and the Social Security system.[1] Although Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” avoids discussion of Social Security, his budget plan calls for turning Medicaid into a “block-grant” program and Medicare into a voucher system in 2022, when retirees would start buying health insurance in the private market. Components of the Ryan plan may be controversial, especially among Democrats, yet “entitlement reform” has remained a part of the discussion since, and especially during the political wrangling this past summer over the raising of the federal-debt ceiling. The final debt agreement made no changes to entitlement programs, even as President Obama at one point appeared willing to accept “cuts” in such programs. Moreover, the congressional supercommittee, created by the final debt-ceiling agreement and charged with trimming $1.5 trillion in spending over the next decade, is expected at least to broach some elements of entitlement reform when it releases its recommendations for reducing the federal deficit. Yet much of the current preoccupation with “entitlements” as the main driver of federal deficits is misguided. As Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner has noted, the blowout budgets of President Obama—which have driven federal spending to 25 percent of GDP and created bu
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