Liberal fairy tale embraced

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Udall pitches fear while analyzing the situation

By Harold Morgan

Words matter.
This week we consider 17 words from Sen. Tom Udall. We will consider what he really said (not much), his being wrong, and his continued embrace of the liberal Democrat fairy tale that is a huge obstacle to dealing with the coming national financial disaster.
Note that conservatives have their fairy tale — no tax increase at all — but it’s Udall for this column.
Udall was commenting on a proposal to change cost of living adjustments on federal entitlement programs to a chain-weighted approach. In early November he told the Albuquerque Journal, “While I would consider reasonable changes to the cost-of-living adjustment, pushing our seniors into poverty is a nonstarter.”
As compared to the regular consumer price index, the chain-weighted approach gets complex, but produces better numbers, as I understand it. The Ogden, Utah, Standard-Examiner (www.standard.net/authors/tom-philpott) straight forwardly explains the approach. (Thank you, Google.)
An index change wouldn’t matter much to start but would produce major savings over time. To make the change seems obvious, especially because it wouldn’t change policy or the moral and philosophical basis of the programs, it would only change arithmetic.
To be fair to Udall, outgoing Sen. Jeff Bingaman didn’t like the proposal. Nor did Reps. Steve Pearce (the delegation’s only Republican), Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan. The three cited the usual social victims: Pearce, “many seniors;” Heinrich, “most vulnerable seniors and women;’’ Lujan, “seniors and low-income families.”
Politicians are trained to talk in specific-sounding, code-laden generalities. (Think “working families.”) Udall has been a politician a long time. He’s part of a political family. In becoming a lawyer, he got academic training in obfuscation. In other words, Udall is good at this stuff.
Udall’s statement has two parts that don’t relate beyond the attempted rhetorical seduction. Udall didn’t specify what would be “reasonable changes,” allowing him to appear reasonable without committing to anything. Cute.
Then there was the phrase, “pushing our seniors into poverty.” Shudder in fear.
Udall didn’t say he was talking about all seniors, though that seems the implication.
For sure, he also didn’t say, “some” seniors, which would have opened him to the question of which seniors might be pushed.
For him to cast the specter of “all” seniors being pushed into poverty gets into demagoguery. It ain’t gonna happen. Of course such a notion is a nonstarter. Raising it ought also to be a nonstarter.
“Poverty” is hardly a precise concept. The Census Bureau just changed the definition and ignored some things. The poverty definition changes were a PBS Newshour topic Nov. 7.
Ron Haskins of the liberal-leaning Brookings Institute said the elderly, especially low-income elderly, get more Medicare benefits than they have in income, including Social Security. Haskins said the Medicare benefits are “totally ignored. So we’re still spending billions and billions of dollars on the elderly to help them with their medical problems. But because they still have out-of-pocket expenditures, it increases their poverty rate, and we ignore the Medicare that we’re spending on them, not to mention that we don’t say a thing about their wealth, which is probably 20 times greater than that of children.”
While political talk deals with excess—how else does one get attention—there comes a time to back off and look for solutions. Refusing to entertain change to entitlements, the Democratic mantra, means retreating into a fairy tale, as Robert Samuelson, Washington Post columnist, has suggested. I don’t know Tom Udall well, but he is smart and decent. He should look within his mega-liberal approach to the world and find solutions. Entitlements must change. And yes, Republicans, there must be a few new taxes or loophole closings or whatever they are called.

Harold Morgan
New Mexico News Service