Clueless Times

We could of course run a daily feature—probably several—on clueless stories in the New York Times, but today’s front page offers up a meandering story about government social spending that “buries the lede,” as the newsroom saying goes, by trying to suggest that our social spending programs are somehow inadequate because more and more middle class people are finding themselves in need of them even as these very same recipients say they hate the welfare state.  Hmm, seems to me this story could be turned inside out into a vindication of the perennial conservative theme of creating deliberate dependence on government.  If only these stupid bitter clingers would get over their anti-government sentiments and just accept their paternalists like those well-adjusted Greeks northern Europeans.

But the real buried lede is in two of the many useful charts the Times graphics people produced to accompany the story.  The first shows how inflation-adjusted spending for entitlement programs on all levels of government has soared from under about $1,000 per capita in 1960 to over $7,000 today.  If you want to know why we have huge deficits look no further.  The Times story offers little insight on these two fascinating bits of trend data.

The second notable chart is the one that ought to be a wake up call for liberals (yeah, yeah, I know, you can’t wake the comatose): the proportion of entitlement spending going to the poor has fallen from half to about a third.  So increasingly we’re taxing the middle class to pay themselves their own money, minus a large commission to Washington DC.  More stark is the inter-generational aspect–we’re taxing relatively poorer young workers to benefit relatively much richer elderly.  But just say “means testing” to a liberal, and watch them react like vampires to garlic.

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