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Topics: CBO

Media parrots repeat Democratic shutdown spin

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Larry Elder,Columnists,Barack Obama,Obamacare,Republican Party,Democratic Party,Tea Party,Harry Reid,Health Care,Medicare and Medicaid,Entitlements,Ted Cruz,Analysis,Budgets and Deficits,CBO,Government Shutdown

A national network reporter, during an interview about about the government shutdown, actually told me: "Democrats believe government should do some things. Republicans don't believe government should be doing anything." Where had we heard that characterization of the GOP?

"'Anarchist'? Why in the world wouldn't I use the term anarchy?" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a CNN interview. "That's what they are. They're anarchists. They don't believe in government — at any level. ... They're anarchists, just like they were at the beginning of the 20th century. ... They're not blowing up buildings and they're not killing people. But they're throwing monkey wrenches in the wheels of government." That a reporter parroted the line almost verbatim explains why President Obama and the Democrats believe they will win the PR battle over which party voters will blame for this partial government shutdown.

Well, forgive Tea Party Republicans, elected to stop Obamacare, for actually going to Washington, D.C., to try to stop Obamacare. Politicians literally attempting to fulfill campaign promises. Imagine.

Ted Cruz, the brash new Republican senator from Texas, believes, as do many economists and most doctors, that Obamacare is a bad idea and will undermine, not improve, our health care system.

Cruz believes that America's fast-growing debt imperils the nation's future. The Congressional Budget Office thinks so, too. In a recent report, the CBO calls America's spending and borrowing levels "unsustainable":

"The gap between federal spending and revenues would widen steadily after 2015 under the assumptions of the extended baseline, CBO projects. By 2038, the deficit would be 6 1/2 percent of GDP ... and federal debt held by the public would reach 100 percent of GDP. ... With such large deficits, federal debt would be growing faster than GDP, a path that would ultimately be unsustainable."

Even Obama once used the very same term. "The long-term deficit and debt that we have accumulated," the president told a Rio Rancho, N.M., town hall crowd in 2009, "is unsustainable."

And many economists say America's true debt is higher than the often-cited $16 trillion. America's real debt — including unfunded liabilities and entitlements like federal loan guarantees, deposit insurance, Medicare and Social Security obligations — is closer to $70 trillion. To this, the Democrats want to add Obamacare, described by Forbes columnist Peter Ferrara as "the biggest single spending bill in world history."

Look at the shape of the other three major entitlement programs:

– Social Security: Ten years after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the original act, more than 40 workers supported each retiree. Soon, the number of workers per retiree will be 2.5-to-1. We still refuse to allow workers to invest their Social Security money in the stock market. Chile and some 30 other countries have allowed their workers to put their money in market-based investments, with much better returns for retirees.

– Medicare: In 1965, the projection for its cost in 1990 was $3 billion. ($12 billion in 1990 dollars.) The actual 1990 cost was $98 billion, higher than estimated by a factor of 8. The unfunded liability for Medicare, according to the 2013 Medicare Trustees' report, is $43 trillion — a $7 trillion increase over their 2010 report.

– Medicaid: This program, begun in 1965 and run jointly by the federal government and the states, provides health and long-term care coverage to the poor. For many states, it is the fastest-growing budgetary item. Enrollment in Medicaid grew 2.5 percent in 2013, but is expected to grow 8.8 percent in 2014.

Economist Milton Friedman long advocated simply giving the money directly to the poor. He called it a "negative income tax" — or a direct payment to poor families. When you look at the amount of federal and state aid per poor family — more than $60,000 per year — it would be cheaper to simply cut a check for every poor family.

Republicans like Cruz believe Obamacare will reduce healthcare quality and increase — not reduce — the cost of health care and add another program whose projected costs are as likely to be as wrong as the projections were for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. More important, Tea Party Republicans, like Cruz, believe that health care and health care insurance, however desirable, are not rights, let alone "rights" paid for with someone else's money.

At one time, a brash young senator took then-President George W. Bush to task over the rising U.S. debt: "The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents. Number 43 added $4 trillion dollars by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back — $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic!"

Today, Reid would call that young Illinois senator -- and future president, Barack Obama -- an "anarchist."

Larry Elder, a Washington Examiner columnist, is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.
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