Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Where to cut?

Michael Gerson on the continuing struggle with state and federal finances:

The cost of maintaining government structures is making it impossible to maintain government functions. To fund commitments made to the providers of services, services must be cut. So piles of money go to government pensions and benefits instead of roads, education or mental health services. This is one of the primary reasons the public resists tax increases. A tax increase used to provide an actual public service might have a shot at support. But a tax increase to prop up a system that consumes endless resources while cutting services is a harder sell.
But events in Madison are also a preview of the federal debt debate. On the continuum of pain, Obama has targeted home heating oil subsidies for the poor and Teach for America. House Republicans' reductions have been broader but included foreign aid and low-income housing. Few protesters have emerged to scream and chant. But these cuts are distractions from the problem of unsustainable entitlement obligations to the middle class and the wealthy, which threaten to eventually consume the other functions of the federal government. Structural change is required - reforming benefits to reduce costs while focusing benefits on those in the greatest need. 
What are they doing in Illinois? Cutting state funding to drug and alcohol abuse programs. Druggies do not demonstrate, state union workers do.

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