Are We Even ABLE to Be Rational about Entitlements?

29 Aug

Thomas Sowell’s latest column, titled simply “Entitlement Reforms”, carries a more troubling sub-message regarding the rationality of human beings.  I interpret the message to be that either we are easily duped (not as smart as we think we are), or not nearly the rational thinkers we perceive ourselves to be.

 Dr. Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. 

 The full column can be found at http://www.creators.com/conservative/thomas-sowell.html

 Excerpts:   [Bolding is mine]

For those of us who like to believe that human beings are rational, trying to explain what happens in politics can be a real challenge.

For example, that segment of the population that has the least to fear from a reform of Medicare or Social Security is the most fearful — namely, those already receiving Medicare or Social Security benefits.

It is understandable that people heavily dependent on these programs would fear losing their benefits, especially after a lifetime of paying into these programs. But nobody in his right mind has even proposed taking away the benefits of those who are already receiving them.

Yet opponents of reforming these programs have managed repeatedly to scare the daylights out of seniors with wild claims and television ads such as one showing someone — who looks somewhat like Paul Ryan — pushing an elderly lady in a wheelchair toward a cliff and then dumping her over.

There are people who take seriously such statements as those by President Barack Obama that Republicans want to “end Medicare as we know it.”

Let’s stop and think, if only for the novelty of it. If you make any change in anything, you are ending it “as we know it.” Does that mean that everything in the status quo should be considered to be set in concrete forever?

If there were not a single Republican, or none who got elected to any office, arithmetic would still end “Medicare as we know it,” for the simple reason that the money in the till is not enough to keep paying for it. The same is true of Social Security. 

.  .  .   .

It is today’s young people who are going to be left holding the bag when they reach retirement age and discover that all the money they paid in is long gone. It is today’s young people who are going to be dumped over a cliff when they reach retirement age, if nothing is done to reform entitlements.

Yet the young seem not to be nearly as alarmed as the elderly, who have no real reason to fear. Try reconciling that with the belief that human beings are rational.

 

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