Quote of the Day: January 10, 2012
What Is Wrong with Economists?

Stan Collender Thinks Robert Samuelson Is a Reason the Washington Post Should Shut Its Doors Immediately


Robert Samuelson's Incredibly Misguided View Of The Federal Budget: The Washington Post published a column by Robert Samuelson on December 30 that has been troubling me ever since it appeared in print…. My complaint is about this incredibly incorrect paragraph:

But given an aging baby-boom population and increasingly high health costs, spending on the elderly is already crowding out other important government programs and threatening steep tax increases on working Americans. I plead guilty to making this point repeatedly. Annual spending on Social Security already exceeds defense spending; Medicare is approaching the level of “non-defense discretionary spending,” a catchall of everything from highway spending to foreign aid to education.

There are several big problems with virtually everything here.

First, there is no evidence that spending on the elderly is crowding out other "important" programs. The federal budget is not a zero-sum game.… There is also no indication that these other "important" programs are a higher priority to a majority of Americans than Social Security and Medicare…. Second, saying that annual spending on Social Security "already exceeds" defense spending implies that the Pentagon should always spend more and it's somehow wrong or inappropriate when that doesn't occur…. Third, the same can be said about Samuelson's statement about Medicare: The fact that it may be "approaching the level of non-defense discretionary spending" is a completely meaningless warning. Would Samuelson be happier if non-defense discretionary spending was increased so that it was greater than Medicare? Finally, what in the world does Samuelson mean when he says that spending on the elderly is "threatening steep tax increases on working Americans"? Isn't Pentagon spending and interest on the national debt just as responsible for the deficit as other programs? And if there's a demand for these programs by working Americans (and you can see in any poll that there is), shouldn't they be asked to pay for at least part of them?

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?