Times’s Leonhardt misrepresents Social Security, Medicare

David Leonhardt, along with Matt Bai, is part of the New York Times’ center-right Washington tag team. So it’s no surprise when he mourns Congress’s failure to “rein in” entitlements. But every so often he goes a bit too far.

In today’s column, he makes the legitimate point that cutting discretionary spending as part of what’s become a bipartisan drive to reduce the deficit, isn’t such a good idea.

Discretionary spending let the Defense Department build the Internet. It let the National Institutes of Health finance life-saving research. It has helped make possible the semiconductor, the broadband network, the highway system and airports.

True enough. The private sector has never been the fount of creativity that free-marketeers would have us believe. But Leonhardt goes too far when he lumps in defenders of Social Security and Medicare with Republican foot-in-the-door opponents of tax hikes. Continue reading Times’s Leonhardt misrepresents Social Security, Medicare

The Truth Behind “Managed Decline”

“Managed decline” is one of the favorite catchphrases of the American right. Briefly, it’s an accusation that Democratic politicians and the Obama administration – i.e., the “extreme left” – have decided to let the U.S. decline economically and militarily, with government “managing” that process to protect special interests like unions and public employees.

This argument is now heard everywhere on the right, from radio talk-show hosts to semi-respectable academics to the text of Rep. Paul Ryan’s House budget resolution. Stripped to its specific public-policy recommendations, it’s an appeal to cut Social Security, Medicare, and other social spending and shift those resources to the military.

Let’s tale a closer look at the rhetoric. Because I’m going to make the case that there is some reality behind the notion of managed decline – just not the one most often fed to us. Continue reading The Truth Behind “Managed Decline”