In an otherwise strong and credible call to arms on the risk of congressional Republicans walking away from the Budget Control Act, Stephen Moore and Andrew Wofford devote only one line to the matter of Social Security (“Testing Republican spending restraint,” Web, Nov. 13). The authors abruptly dismiss the topic, stating that benefits should be exempt. This is unfortunate and requires greater justification.
Social Security is the government’s single largest expenditure, surpassing $1 trillion, more than the entire federal budget within the past 30 years. The program has had an 82-year run of unchecked growth, accompanied by political demagoguery that drives the cost upward. It has long passed the mythical role of rescuing a destitute population group from acute poverty and misery; its beneficiaries are overwhelmingly of above average income.
If the prospect of a $20-trillion debt isn’t sufficient to focus the mind, what is? The authors of the op-ed correctly note the near impossibility of cutting spending. Republicans have their hands full just cutting taxes. But taking one-fourth of spending off the table cements public ignorance, reinforcing the myth that curtailing foreign aid or maybe implementing punitive tariffs can solve our fiscal woes. It obscures the cost of government when all programs need scrutiny. The “third rail” has deterred many and defeated a few, but it eventually wrecks the economy altogether.
There is never a good time to cut spending. Republicans may lack the appetite, but duty requires their guarding the national interest. This role is unglamorous but critical. It begins with truth about the numbers and the source of our largest spending item.
GREGORY C. MCCARTHY