What a Difference 500 Years Makes

That's the approximate span between Michel Angelo's The Creation of Adam and Michael Ramirez's…

[The Creation of Mayhem]

Kind of a downer, that. Sorry.

Briefly noted:

  • While many people are wondering why twenty-something doofuses have access to America's classified intelligence, the WSJ is wondering about something else: Why Is America Still Flying the A-10 Warthog, a Cold War Relic? This excerpt will give you the flavor:

    Efforts by lawmakers to bring military jobs and funding to their districts and keep them there are as old as Congress itself. But they come at a huge opportunity cost at a time when the U.S. is facing its most formidable adversary since the end of the Cold War. Congress is in effect forcing the Pentagon to spend billions on programs for which it sees no role in future wars.

    Lawmakers also barred the Air Force from retiring its C-40 VIP passenger planes, which are 18 years old on average and have undergone significant upgrades, and limited the service’s authority to shrink its fleet of aging E-3 AWACS radar planes until it can replace them with more advanced E-7 Wedgetails.

    Congress protected the oldest planes in the large fleet of F-15 jet fighters, many of which are flown by Air National Guard units across the country, as well as the Air Force’s oldest F-22s, both of which the Air Force wants to replace with more advanced planes.

    (The online version of the WSJ article is very slick, and they claim that the link provided above is "free".)

    We don't have much Air Force activity around here any more, but our New Hampshire and Maine Congresscritters are on the watch to ensure that we don't have a repeat of 2005's Base Realignment and Closure scare, which oh-so-temporarily put Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on its money-saving list.

  • I fully agree with Liz Wolfe: we should Ax Government Funding for NPR.

    NPR wants to have it both ways: Its supporters say less than 1 percent of its funding comes from the government but its website claims "federal funding is essential to public radio's service to the American public." It wants to continue holding out its hands for government funding, but it also wants to brag about complete and total editorial independence—two ideas held in tension—while developing quite the reputation for lefty bias (backed up by the Knight Foundation and Pew Research Center audience polling), which leaves conservative and libertarian taxpayers' stomachs churning.

    But Tea Partiers of yore, Trumpy types today, and Musk fanboys miss that it's not that NPR is totally wrong on everything, or the enemy of the people, or a Pravda-style propaganda arm of the U.S. government. NPR has reported on the Social Security Ponzi scheme; how petty fines lead to driver's license suspensions; not to mention airing the dulcet tones of Reason's own Nick Gillespie making the case for…defunding public radio. ("The idea that we have an inalienable right to Car Talk or Sesame Street to be piped in over tax-supported airwaves strikes me as a stretch," said Gillespie in 2010.) NPR does good work at times and has shifted its funding model over the years to rely much more on individual, corporate, and foundation contributions. Its member stations ought to do the same, and all of them can succeed or fail of their own merit, the way pretty much all other publications and broadcasters do in this country.

    Liz also notes "it's tough to say exactly how much tainted taxed-away money is flowing into NPR's now-resplendent coffers." Like many government-subsidized activities, taxpayer funding is (probably intentionally) kept as opaque as possible.

  • Need some Fast Facts about Medicare and Social Security? Cato has you covered. Although if you're worried about Uncle Stupid's fiscal health, there's not a lot that will alleviate your concerns. Sample:

    • Medicare is the second largest federal government program, spending $1 trillion in 2023, or an amount equal to 3.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

      • Medicare spending will double to $2 trillion or 5.1 percent of GDP by 2033. That’s twice what the U.S. government will spend on defense that year.
      • 65 million Americans receive Medicare at an average cost for taxpayers of $12,100 per beneficiary.
      • Studies estimate that one‐​third of Medicare spending provides no value: it makes patients no healthier or happier.
      • Studies have found Medicare increased total hospital spending by 37 percent over five years.
    • Medicare is already contributing to federal deficits and facing increasing budget shortfalls.

      • Medicare will be responsible for $446 billion in deficits, or one third of the entire 2023 federal budget deficit of 5.3 percent of GDP.
      • Medicare’s trust funds hold no real assets and only Medicare Part A is funded by payroll taxes. The majority (64 percent) of Medicare spending is financed by other taxes and borrowing.
      • When the Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A) trust fund ledger goes to 0 by 2031, inpatient providers will face a reimbursement cut of 11 percent.
      • $48.4 trillion or 60 percent of the $78.4 trillion in 75‐​year unfunded obligations for Medicare and Social Security is due to spending on Medicare Parts B and D, with taxpayers on the hook for the difference between what beneficiaries pay in premiums and the benefits they receive.
      • If Congress raised payroll taxes to cover Medicare Part A’s 75‐​year unfunded obligation, a median wage earner ($44,000/year) would face an additional $700 in annual taxes.

    Cato follows up with equally fast, and equally worrying, facts about Social Security

  • So maybe we should examine (from David McIntosh) The Biden-Trump Plan to Cut Social Security.

    Joe Biden and Donald Trump agree on one thing. “I guarantee you I will protect Social Security and Medicare without any change. Guaranteed,” Mr. Biden said in March. Mr. Trump has said: “I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is.” A pro-Trump super PAC launched an ad attacking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his efforts as a member of Congress to restructure benefits.

    The Biden-Trump position may sound like a pledge to protect Social Security, but it isn’t. The law “without any change” requires a huge benefit cut in 10 years.

    Small correction: Trump's plan is actually for a yuge benefit cut in 10 years.


  • At the Hill, Shai Akabas sees possible saviors of Social Security: Finally, we have a true shot at bipartisan social security reform.

    It is thus heartening that a bipartisan group of senators is leading the effort to strengthen and modernize the program that reaches 67 million Americans each month. The effort’s success will depend on the willingness of policymakers and the public to rise above the current political rhetoric filled with unproductive absolutes such as no tax increases or no benefit cuts. Inevitably, some of the proposals entertained by the lawmakers will be more controversial than others, but critics should withhold judgment until they can be analyzed holistically. We should applaud their willingness to confront reality and put forward legislation to address the serious challenges ahead.

    Geez, thank goodness for bipartisan groups of senators, huh? Akabas doesn't name them, but links to another article that does.

    One of the ideas being floated (other than the standard tax increases, benefit cuts, retirement age bumps) is a so-called sovereign wealth fund. Which is (Wikipedia) "a state-owned investment fund that invests in real and financial assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, precious metals, or in alternative investments such as private equity fund or hedge funds."

    Yes, I'm sure nothing could go wrong there.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT