What Is the Best Budget Outcome in the Current Standoff?


In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, columnist Holman Jenkins describes “The Best Budget Outcome: Tax Reform”.  His point is that the only way we can possibly continue to pay for our rapidly growing entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is by speeding up the growth of our economy.
All of the various fiscal reforms of these programs which have been suggested such as means testing for Medicare, raising the Social Security wage base ($113,700 in 2013), changing the way the COLA is computed, raising eligibility age limits for both Social Security and Medicare, and block granting Medicaid to the states, can at best slow down the growth of their costs.  This is because the number of retirees is growing so rapidly as well as the number of eligible recipients for Medicaid.
Most sensible people know that we have to do a much better job of controlling the cost of entitlement programs, even though it is tough in practical terms to agree on specifically which costs to rein in.
In addition to holding down the growth of government spending, the other way to shrink the deficit and slow down our soaring national debt, is by speeding up economic growth.  The best way to do this is by lowering tax rates (offset by closing tax loopholes) in order to encourage more entrepreneurial investment and risk taking.
But too many people are ideologically opposed to lowering tax rates because they think that it increases economic inequality.  As Mr. Jenkins says, such people would rather “see the lives of the young and unskilled be blighted by a slow-growth economy than approve a reform of rates and loopholes that …(could be mislabeled)… as a tax cut for the rich.”
In other words, the two sides in the budget debate can probably hammer out some reasonable ways to rein in entitlement spending.  But they probably will not be able to agree on sensible tax reforms which would grow the economy faster and put more people back to work.  What a shame!

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