It may seem a bit strange, but I wrote to my Congressman recently telling him to reduce my Social Security benefits. There's a catch to it, of course. I wanted the benefits reduced by the same percent that the federal budget was reduced. I would gladly get by on 10 percent less in Social Security benefits, if the federal government's budget was reduced by 10 percent.
This isn't really out of character for me. Back in the 1960's, I went to college after I got out of the Navy. I lived at home and worked part-time as a security guard. Legislation was being considered by Congress called the Vietnam Era GI Bill. It would have put about $100 a month in my pocket as an education benefit. I wrote to my Congressman, Charles Gubser, telling him that as much as I would appreciate the money he should vote against it if it would help balance the federal budget. Gubser wrote back saying that if voting against it would balance the budget he would consider it, but that the cost of the bill wasn't enough to make much of a dent in the budget deficit.
I wonder whether there is a lesson in this. How many little things add up to something big? How motivated are people who benefit from one of those little things to raise the roof if it might be eliminated compared to how interested those who don't benefit from it are in eliminating it.
I hear radio advertisements from a committee opposed to cutting Social Security. I almost have to laugh at the line about how Social Security didn't cause the problem. For decades Social Security taxes have produced a surplus and Congress promptly spent that surplus while giving Social Security an I.O.U. That, by any definition is deficit spending. The money was spent on all those neat things that now need to be cut, but Congress doesn't have the will power and/or the guts to make the cuts. Too many highly motivated small special interest groups are clamoring (and paying lobbyists) to protect them.
Perhaps that's what's new and different about the Tea Party movement and why it poses such a threat to the establishment. The Tea Party is demanding spending cuts without regard to whether the cuts hurt.
The bottom line is that we can't go on this way much longer. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the national debt are becoming such a huge proportion of the budget that they must be reduced to avoid financial Armageddon.
It would be better to make reasonable, well thought out reductions now than to wait until it is too late and draconian cuts must be made in a panic.