NEW YORK, Sept. 4 (DPI) — Hundreds of online comments trailed a classic Wall Street Journal op-ed forum on the growth of entitlements and their impact on the nation’s character.
An op-ed by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute – and a counterpoint by Brookings Institution’s William A. Galston — triggered an avalanche of comments from readers. Galston’s column — “Entitlements are Part of the Civic Compact” — defending entitlements drew 272 comments. Eberstadt’s column prompted 812 as of midday Wednesday.
The consensus among readers is that the entitlement mess — the unsustainable growth of Medicare and Social Security — is the defining issue of this fall’s presidential election, as it is an even greater threat to the nation than the lack of job creation and high unemployment.
Further, a steady theme in reader comments — that people are living much longer, and adjustments to benefits must be made accordingly — appeared across the political spectrum.
(Theodore Monjure, Four Recommendations) “… As more elderly people have succeeded to a life without financial worry, their numbers have increased (they just live longer). Financial worry and deprivation used to shorten lifespans many years back, as did absence of medical care. As elderly people are taken care of, this postpones death, and implies a longer flow of resources to them.
The merits of the discussion might then come down to this: should we be investing in being elderly?
The article gives the unstated impression that all this growth in entitlements is somehow explicitly piled on by specific politicans, year after year. In fact the bulk of the enitltements were created and have snowballed since the 1960′s on the original legislation. These entitlements tend to be automatic. Any attempt to constrain them requires political efforts to cap the entitlements… something neither party has been willing to consider at all.”
The column by Bookings’ Galston generated more critics, partly because WSJ readers are more conservative. But many readers pointed out that entitlements create an unhealthy political pact with elected officials who promise ever more benefits.
(David Cearley, five recommendations)
“While Mr Galston introduces the term Reciprocity, there is none to be found in our entitlement system. What we have is redistribution. The biggest problem with redistribution by the government is that over time, politicians learn to use the system, and other people’s money to buy the loyalty of constituent blocks, a game played well by Democrats and their strategy of identity politics. Moral duty and the civic compact sound wonderful, but one line in Mr Eberstadt’s essay undermines your entire argument, namely that entitlement spending, adjusted by population and inflation, has risen 727% in the past fifty years.”
“Sadly this administration has done more to undermine that civic compact through their strategy of shaming the payers who prop up the whole system, helping give rise to the Tea Party and the (justified) backlash of tens of millions of taxpayers. No political party can dole out money primarily to favored groups, attack the people who’s pockets they are stealing from, and then whine because they don’t trust them with the checkbook anymore.”