The Neoliberal imperative must prevail: and that was first enunciated by columnist Jay Bookman ( 'The New World Disorder Evident Here, Abroad') in a Baltimore Sun piece in late 1999:
"The global economy has been constructed on the premise that government guarantees of security and protection must be avoided at all costs, because they discourage personal initiative. In times of crisis, however, that premise cannot be sustained politically. In times of trouble it is human nature to seek security and protection and to be drawn toward those who promise to provide it. That is how men such as Adolf Hitler, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin came to power, with disastrous consequences."
Clear enough? It is the first part that the Neolibs and their fellow travelers in the corporo-media (like Fareed Zakaria) heave to as a normative principle, but it is the last two sentences that they overlook to their peril - and have throughout recent history. And hence, because social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security guaranteee a measure of security and protection, they must be all out attacked so that "personal initiative" can prevail. (Never mind that in a corporate -rigged Corporatocracy, personal initiative means next to nothing. The only real "personal initiative" one has is to buy, and buy and buy whatever product is on offer.)
Therefore, it's not surprising that in this latest piece ('The Baby Boom and Financial Doom', TIME Dec. 24, p. 22) Zakaria goes on a real bender trying to convince us that "entitlements must be cut" or we are all for the high jump. He writes, concerning Social Security and Medicare, for example:
"In 1975 Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid made up 25% of federal spending. Today they make up a whopping 40% and within a decade these programs will take up over half of federal outlays."
At no point does Zakaria process or note several things that logically would lead to a much larger proportion on those programs: 1) The increased population, expanding from 180 odd million to over 310 million, 2) the collapse of the middle class income earner - which has seen income essentially static since 1973, and 3) the increasing numbers of those approaching or in old age hence qualifying for the Social Security -Medicare programs. (Well, he does note that: "in just 18 years 1 in 5 Americans will be over 65".)
But short of mass-killing all those over 65 what is the solution? In the end, it can only be to slice military spending which has DOUBLED as a proportion of GDP since 2004, and which former Pentagon defense analyst Chuck Spinney has described as "an effective attack on both Medicare and Social Security". Why? Because if you are plowing 58% of the current federal budgets on guns, you cannot also have enough for 'butter'. If you have already squandered over $3.8 trillion on two "wars" you will naturally wish to defund social insurance to compensate. But nowhere is Zakaria honest enough to acknoweldge this.
Instead, he feeds the reader with Neoliberal bromides as well as outright disinformation. including - get this - that Peter G. Peterson of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, is not "really" a deficit scold (as described by Nobel Winning economist Paul Krugman) but rather neutral in these deficit matters. (Never mind that author Donald Gibson, in his book "Battling Wall Street: The Kennedy Presidency", has documented Peterson's yen to upend Social Security since the late 1980s and early 90s. This in his final chapter on the Clinton Presidency.)
"We have postponed the problem by borrowing heavily for three decades and there is a limit to how long we can keep increasing debt, which now stands at 100% of GDP. "
Actually the debt is nowhere near that level, more like 60%. As for the heavy borrowing he frets over, well you can trace that to: a) Ronnie Reagan running up a $2.1 trillion defense credit bill (including his looney Star Wars bunkum) in the 1980s, and b) two unpaid for occupations - Iraq and Afghanistan - coming to over $3.7 trillion. (Another reason, after a dismal Pentagon report has been issued, we need to get out of Afghanistan ASAP). THERE is where your borrowing is, and most from Chinese bankers! Meanwhile, there's been no external borrowing for Social Security, indeed, those monies have been raided in order to make the deficits from Reagan's and Bush Jr's military spending appear lower!
Zakaria goes on to write:
“The left must ask itself why it is tethered to a philosophy that insists that government’s overwhelming responsibility is for pensions and health care even when, as an inevitable consequence, this starves other vital functions of the state. Is insurance for the elderly the only important function of government? Above education? Above scientific innovation? Above investments in infrastructure and energy? Above poverty alleviation?”
But the man is too clever by half. First, the elderly are the most indigent of any age group, even moreso than Gen Y'ers. These stats haven't been disclosed often enough, but far more seniors are at the poverty level or below than any other age group. THIS is why they are a compassionate government's first charge! Unless one would wish to throw them to the wolves, say like Peter G. Peterson.
Meanwhile, the question about denying other "vital functions of the state" is posed in terms of a false dichotomy: either pensions-medical care for the elderly OR ignoring education, infrastructure, science, etc. No, Mr. Zakaria, the answer is not to rape Medicare and Social Security to pay for those latter, but to CUT the monstrous defense budget! See, e.g. http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-military-industrial-complex-still.html
Imagine, just imagine if you will - if the nearly $6 trillion pissed away on military bullshit, occupations and toys since the Reagan era had been used instead for education, infrastructure maintenance and science innovation! We'd have not seen our college kids suffering with vast debts - since state universities (having received enough state funding) would not have had to increase tuition to stratospheric levels, nor would we behold our roads, bridges, water mains and sewer lines crumbling like a third world nation's!
At the same time, our schools would be in states of upkeep and repair as opposed to being shuttered as habitation hazards, while we'd have surely completed the Super Conducting Super Collider that was canceled in the 1980s, along with the Solar Optical Telescope which those like myself had depended upon to further our solar research.
Oh, and by the way, we'd have surely had lunar bases and gone to Mars by now - as opposed to being reduced to hitchhiking for rides to the Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz craft! I mean cheeze Louise - how low can you go! NONE of this was due to seniors getting too much, but over spending on excessive military-Pentagon bullshit, like 'Star Wars' anti-missile laser systems, "Stealth" bombers that failed to activate when it rained (e.g. stealthing) and occupying (for over 10 years) a nation (Iraq) that had nada to do with 9/11. Oh, but that occupation did massively enrich the coffers of corporate parasites like Halliburton, Bechtel etc. as well as a vast corps of Pentagon-hired private military contractors.
Does this nation have a single brain in the mainstream media left? Well, maybe not if one goes by Zakaria's piece!
In the end, what will correct our debt problem is the same thing that willl enable other "functions of the state" to flourish: cutting the overbloated military industrial -waste complex down to size! Those 2, 300-odd F-35s they're building now at $0.3 b each ? They could enable construction of more than 40 elementary or secondary schools. Oh, and fund development of a real propulsion system capable of getting us to Mars!