The “floating a trial balloon” process has been around about as long as politics. It’s simply a method of anonymously putting out an idea which may be controversial, unpopular or maybe it’s a plan to change some long-standing institution or direction of government. It’s a common political tool used by all.

But when Pres. Obama sent up a “balloon” the other day, leaders of his own party – and a lot of his more liberal base – reacted as if he’d stepped on all their toes. No, make that “stomped.”

Through a couple of spokesmen, the Prez was said to be “open” to making some changes in entitlement programs: Medicare – Medicaid – Social Security. Nothing specific. Just “open” to the idea.

BOOM!!! Within minutes, Democrats in Congress were fighting to get in front of TV cameras, red-faced and choking with emotion. They were alternately indignant, angry, frustrated and wanting to send the White House a message that there would be no way – NO WAY – any changes to any of the three would get past them! No, Sir!

Well, in this scribe’s humble opinion, they can bluster and posture for the folks at home ‘til Hell freezes over. But changes there will be. Because changes there MUST be. Congress has made that an inevitability: Democrats by loading up the three programs with all sorts of goodies; both parties by taking money out of those dedicated funds to finance other government spending. Both have used dollars set aside for specific purposes to pay for other things or to create a phony balanced budget appearance. There have been many, many hands in the till.

Medicare and Social Security are two very successful government programs of pure socialism. If you examine the books for each, you’ll find they’ve brought in more than enough dollars to be self-sustaining and both have provided exactly the benefits for which they were created. Hundreds of millions of Americans have been greatly assisted by both. The fact is it’s been congress after congress creating shortfalls and red ink which have made both programs appear economically unjustifiable as designed.

Congress has also spent too much time finger-pointing when talk of mismanagement or fraud comes up and has been unwilling to go after those abuses – and abusers – with the full weight of government. Mismanagement and fraud there are and the buck for weeding them out stops on Capitol Hill.

But some changes are necessary. Eligibility age is one. When Medicare and Social Security were created 40+ years ago, Americans were retiring in their 60’s and dying in their 70’s. Both numbers are higher now. Entry age needs to be indexed upward. Slowly. Gradually. But up.

Need is another eligibility factor that should be modified. Warren Buffett, Ross Perot, George Clooney and other millionaire-billionaire types don’t need government support in their later years. But they get it. They shouldn’t. Medicaid is already “means tested.” That’s just a process of determining assets and other abilities to pay and adjusting the benefit amount. More assets – less subsidy. Fewer assets – more subsidy. That’s how it was supposed to work. Social Security and Medicare need to be indexed the same way.

The idea that once some social concept is put on the books it must stay the same forever is ludicrous. Keeping these three programs exempt from changing with the nation’s demographics means some who need assistance aren’t getting it and others who are receiving benefits don’t need them. If liberals serving at the pleasure of voters at home can’t see that and can’t make their supporters understand both the logic and necessity of amending the basics, they ought to be replaced by politicians up to the task.

If the president is really open to change, good for him. There are changes that make sense. Politically and economically. If the voices of outrage are just ass-covering theater, knock it off!

Comments are closed.