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Politics

The 'progressives' are to blame, too

Robert J. Samuelson on

(As share of GDP)

2016 2035

Social Security 4.9 percent 6.2 percent

Medicare 3.2 4.4

Other health 2.3 2.8

Other entitlements 2.8 2.3

Defense 3.2 2.6

Other domestic 3.3 2.8

Interest 1.3 2.4

TOTAL SPENDING 20.9 23.5

TAXES 17.8 20.5

DEFICIT 3.1 3.0

There's a gigantic gap between what Americans can expect from the government and what, based on existing policies, it can deliver. Governmental services, including defense, are slowly being degraded, because Democrats are determined to protect spending on the elderly and Republicans feel the same way about their tax cuts. They are both living in self-serving fantasy worlds that subvert the national interest.

A change in public opinion -- a change that accepts higher taxes and recognizes that an aging society needs to be more discriminating in subsidizing the old -- seems the most obvious escape from this political cul-de-sac. But there's a Catch-22. Opinion won't change until political leaders reject long-standing partisan taboos, and they won't do that until they sense opinion has changed.

We will probably muddle through for the time being, though the system's contradictions suggest it's not permanently stable. We've used government carelessly, and someday, the carelessness may bite us. We may face steep spending cuts and tax increases to curb runaway debt.

Big government may be its own worst enemy.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

 

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