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A Quasi-Real Plan

Kash's praise for the Kerry economic agenda as "a real plan" is well-taken, but still only semi-reserved. The fly in the ointment here is the deficit. 'Tis true that Kerry's tax proposals, when combined with PAYGO, discretionary spending caps, and a few other things, will give us substantial deficit reduction within a four-year time horizon. But this is a cleverly gerrymandered time horizon which disguises the fact that Medicare (and, to a lesser extent, Medicaid) costs are going to explode and blow the whole thing apart in about five years. That's on top of a Social Security problem that, while quite manageable, does need to be actually managed and not just endlessly deferred until a period where the need to handle the Medicare thing starts drastically curtailing our available options. So while this is far, far preferable to what Bush is doing and probably represents the limits of what can be proposed in a manner consistent with a desire to win an election, that goes to show the need to expand the horizons of our political discourse. Only some combination of large tax increases, significant cutbacks in the defense budget, or a major overhaul of the health care system can actually get us back on track. The idea that scaling back pork-laden highway bills or lobbyist-driven tax loopholes will solve our problem is but a convenient goo-goo fantasy.

September 15, 2004 | Permalink


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