Reject the Welfare/Warfare State

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Last
week’s midterm elections have been characterized as a victory
for grassroots Americans who are fed up with Washington and the
political status quo. In particular, the elections are being touted
as a clear indicator that voters demand reductions in federal spending,
deficits, and debt.

If the new
Congress hopes to live up to the expectations of Tea Party voters,
however, it faces some daunting choices. For all the talk about
pork and waste, the truth is that Congress cannot fix the budget
and get our national debt under control by trimming fat and eliminating
earmarks for “Bridges to Nowhere.”

Real reductions
in federal spending can be achieved only by getting to the meat
of the federal budget, meaning expenditures in all areas. The annual
budget soon will be $5 trillion unless Congress takes serious steps
to reduce spending for entitlements, military, and debt service.
Yet how many Tea Party candidates who campaigned on a platform of
spending cuts talked about Social Security, Medicare, foreign wars,
or bond debt?

With regard
to entitlements, the 2010 Social Security and Medicare Trustees
report tells it all. It paints a stark picture of two entitlement
programs that cannot be sustained under even the rosiest scenarios
of economic growth. No one, regardless of political stripe, can
deny the fundamental problem of unfunded future liabilities in both
programs.

We should understand
that Social Security was intended primarily to prevent old widows
from becoming destitute. Life expectancy in 1935 was only about
65, when there were several workers for each Social Security recipient.
The program was never intended to be a general transfer payment
from young workers to older retirees, regardless of those retirees’
financial need. Yet today Social Security faces an unfunded liability
of approximately $18 trillion.

First, Congress
needs to stop using payroll taxes for purposes not related to Social
Security, which was a trick the Clinton administration used to claim
balanced budgets. Second, Congress should eliminate unconstitutional
spending — including unnecessary overseas commitments —
and use the saved funds to help transition to a Social Security
system that is completely voluntary. At some point in the near future
Congress must allow taxpayers to opt out of federal payroll taxes
in exchange for never receiving Social Security benefits.

Medicare similarly
faces a shortfall of $30.8 trillion in unfunded future benefits.
The Part D prescription drug benefit accounts for approximately
$15.5 trillion, or half of the unfunded Medicare liability. Congress
should immediately repeal the disastrous drug benefit passed in
2003 by President Bush and a Republican Congress.

Fiscal conservatives
should not be afraid to attack entitlements philosophically. We
should reject the phony narrative that entitlement programs are
inherently noble or required by “progressive” western
values. Why exactly should Americans be required, by force of taxation,
to fund retirement or medical care for senior citizens, especially
senior citizens who are comfortable financially? And if taxpayers
provide retirement and health care benefits to some older Americans
who are less well off, can’t we just call it welfare instead
of maintaining the charade about “insurance” and “trust
funds”?

Military spending
and interest on the national debt similarly represent large federal
expenditures that Congress must address by rethinking our foreign
policy and exercising far greater oversight over the Federal Reserve
and the Treasury department.

I have for
a long time criticized our interventionist foreign policy and the
Fed, and I will continue to do so. It’s time for Congress to
face the fundamental problems that affect Social Security and Medicare,
and show the courage necessary to make real changes to both programs
by rejecting the welfare/warfare state.

See
the Ron Paul File

November
12, 2010

Dr. Ron
Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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