Friday, April 8, 2011

Saving Entitlements

Republicans are making a tactical mistake by calling their efforts to bring spending under control anything other than "saving entitlements". For decades they have been successfully depicted as wanting to throw Granny out on the street, so saying they want to "cut" anything, even though we have to, is not going to win the critical independent vote. The only way this works is if the Republicans can successfully counterattack with the message that the Democrats are actually out to destroy entitlement programs and Republicans are working to save them.

The argument is actually pretty simple. Under the Democrat "plan" - i.e., pretend our budget is fine as long as possible - entitlements will eventually become such a burden that they really will become unsustainable. They will crowd out other government spending; we will see rising interest rates, a devalued dollar, and the crowding out of private investment. The resulting backlash will likely be draconian: people who were "promised" entitlements and paid in for most of their lives will see their benefits cut to the bone, because there really will be no money. This is the future if the Democrats get their way.

As a conservative, I'm fine with saying that entitlements should be cut. But frankly, I don't count in this calculus. Independents will decide the 2012 election, as they have every election for the past 20+ years. And they are suspectible to the Granny-on-the-street argument. The Republicans must argue - and they have the benefit of the facts on their side, so all they have to do is stick to their guns on this - that Granny will be much safer with them than with the Democrats. Up to this point I don't think they've done this.

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