Sunday, July 31, 2011

An Excellent Entitlement Chart

A lot of people think that America can solve it's deficit problems without making major cuts to entitlements. A lot:

A majority of Americans believe the federal budget can be balanced without touching either Social Security or Medicare, a new poll found.
Close to six in 10 in the AP-GfK poll thought Social Security did not need to be cut as the government looked to get its books in order, while 54 percent said Medicare could be left alone.
Other polls have found similar sentiments.  These findings aren't depressing because they stand in the way of some evil conservative plot to kill grandma, they're depressing because entitlement cuts are genuinely necessary in order to balance the budget.  Worse yet, its depressing because it seems Americans hold contradictory views.  A 2010 Gallup poll captured the confusing problem well:

More than three in four Americans believe the cost of the government's major entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, will create major economic problems for the U.S. in the next 25 years if no changes are made to them. At the same time, Americans do not provide a mandate for raising taxes or cutting benefits to address the situation.
One of the things I've noticed just by looking through comments on news stories is that a lot of people think we can solve the majority of budget woes by cutting foreign aid, the salaries of elected officials, and cutting out the ever vague "wasteful spending" (indeed, one could argue that all government spending is wasteful).  What people don't seem to understand is that while these are all decent ideas to certain varying degrees, they won't even begin to put a dent in the deficit.  In 2011 we had a 1.5 trillion deficit.  To put that in context, the government only brought in 2.17 trillion in revenue to begin with.  In other words, we borrowed almost as much as we "earned".  That should be a good indicator that there is a major problem with our budget currently, and that major steps need to be taken to fix it.  Conservatives argue that entitlement programs represent that major problem, and that the entitlement problem is only going to get worse as time goes on.

That brings me to the chart that I mentioned in the title.  The folks over at the Heritage Foundation put this together, and it really emphasizes how badly we need to deal with entitlement programs.

Spending varies year from year, so don't expect this to be a mirror image of how we've spent every year, but it does put things in perspective.  Entitlements are a major part of our budget, while cutting out foreign aid would do virtually nothing. Pretending that we can maintain entitlements without drastically raising taxes on all classes of Americans, or that the problem can be solved by cutting foreign aid; is ridiculous and counter productive.  Everyone should be fully aware of the mess we're in, otherwise we can't really deal with it.

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