Weighing costs and benefits
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:02 AMThe latest TIME profiles Douglas Elmendorf, the Congressional Budget Office director whose staff — when doing its job correctly — spoils politicians’ recurring dreams of offering free lunches to voters.
Here’s one of the more interesting passages:
The latest dose of reality from Elmendorf's CBO: a forecast that the federal deficit will reach $1.35 trillion this year — $4,400 for every American. All that red ink means the overall debt will rise to $8.8 trillion by the end of 2010, or about 60% of gross domestic product — the highest level of public debt since 1952. "There's a fundamental disconnect between the level of benefits that people want the government to provide, particularly for older Americans, and the amount of resources that people want to send to Washington to pay for those benefits," Elmendorf says. "To make the fiscal policies sustainable will require some resolution of that fundamental disconnect."
That assessment makes sense. It’s unfortunate that statist politicians are unwilling to allow political debate to focus on the choice Elmendorf’s statement implies: the choice between an expensive government with lots of “benefits” and a leaner government that offers fewer “benefits.”
One suspects that most people place a higher priority on spending their own money in ways they choose than on funding government programs that sound good only when someone else is footing the bill.
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