There’s something about old media trying to do new media. Sometimes it works wonderfully, but usually it comes off as an editor heard about one of those “blogs” or “twitters” and asked the tech guy to set one up. The Seattle Times’ Ed Page blog falls into the later category. Infrequently updated, clearly not edited, and as biased toward the status quo as anything in print, the Ed cetera blog manages to combine the worst parts of blogs and newspapers in one convenient package.
They have a weekly feature, Civil Disagreements, where Lynne Varner representing as far left as the Times allows and Bruce Ramsey representing curmudgeonly libertarian basically agree on an issue and argue about the details. This week’s issue is the debt. Varner comes out strong saying yay for a toothless commission, I hope it recommends working the elderly to death:
The panel is expected to come up with a deficit reduction plan by Dec. 1. But the part of this commission’s charge I like best is their promise to recalibrate American expectations around money and social benefits. For example, one suggestion is to raise the age people can collect Social Security and slow the growth of those benefits. Another is raising taxes on a larger portion of the populace, those making under $200,000. It will be interesting to see what this group comes up with.
Work harder grandma! And tax increases targeted to lower income people. (I think that’s what she’s getting at, but “those making under $200,000” is a strange construction, I assume she means everyone making under $200,000.) You know liberalism. I’d prefer a 50% top marginal rate, but start it at incomes above $30 Million. These are made up numbers, of course, but something out of the range of normal Americans, or even their crazy expectations.
Shockingly Bruce Ramsey is less wrong. After pointing out that the toothless commission would probably be toothless, he says that it’s important to cut the deficit the right way. Although, it’s not a great solution either.
As for the ideas menationed [sic]: sure, some of them make sense. I’m a small-government guy, so I like spending cuts lots more than tax increases. If we keep the present Social Security system, it has to be balanced. And the best ways to do that are to allow the tax cap to rise faster and make the benefits formula less generous over time. I am not so high on raising the retirement age. It might work for desk jockeys like you and me, but blue collar workers are done by 67, and many of them well before that. You can’t expect an ironworker, a sheet metal worker, a pipefitter, etc, to work to age 70 in order to get full benefits. Anyway, if we’re going to cut payments from the government, let’s cut them to people who don’t work, not to people who worked a lifetime.
I’m not sure what exactly “it has to be balanced” means; Social Security is the largest part of the budget that isn’t swimming in red ink, it seems strange to focus on it. There is also no mention from either of them, why the deficit is more important than, say, job creation, or even desirable in a recession. Of course neither of them say if we want to balance the budget, we’re going to need to tax the people with the most money, shrink the military significantly (yes including Boeing’s contracts) and take concrete steps to grow the economy that probably include government spending in the short term.