Will the GOP Cut Spending on the Old?  

A blog about business and economics.
March 5 2013 11:43 AM

Will Paul Ryan Cut Spending on the Elderly?

It looks like the Republican leadership is starting to wrestle with the problems inherent in their promise to find a way to balance the budget over 10 years with all their spending cuts. In particular, it turns out that they might need to cut spending on programs that benefit people who are old right now.

Here's the basic dilemma: Normally when Republicans want to cut spending they want to cut it right away. Sequestration reduces the amount of money available to provide healthy food to low-income pregnant women and their newborn children right now. And that's the part of sequestration Republicans like. They want to replace the part that cuts spending on the military with immediate reductions in other spending designed to boost the living standards of poor people. But the government's biggest domestic programs—Social Security and Medicare—are targeted at the elderly, and since older cohorts are whiter and more intolerant of gays and lesbians the core of the GOP electoral coalition is older Americans.


Consequently their recent budgets have included important exceptions to the principle of spending cuts right away. Their promise is that if you're getting Social Security or Medicare today, your benefits will never be reduced by one red cent. In fact, your benefits will never be cut as long as you're lucky enough to have been born before 1958. The idea is that someone who's 57 today can vote Republican, see Paul Ryan's budget pass, and then be relaxing thirty years from now at the age of 87 still enjoying full Social Security and Medicare benefits.

It's a sweet deal, but it means that the cuts to the parts of the budget that aren't Social Security and Medicare would have be really extreme to balance the budget within 10 years. Looking it over, Ryan is reportedly coming to the conclusion that he might need to trim the scope of that exemption from cuts and make people born in the mid-fifties bear some pain. This is—rightly—making Republicans from more marginal House seats nervous. The politics of present-day conservative budgeting hinge entirely on persuasiding old people that draconian cuts to programs for old people can be implemented without taking anything away from the people who are already old. Anything that calls that into question is very dangerous.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

160 Countries Host Marches to Demand Action on Climate Change


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.