The Budget is Jimmy Kimmel’s Halloween Candy Sketch…Except It’s Not a Joke

Oct 17, 2013

Thomas Friedman’s column in The New York Times yesterday, “Sorry, Kids. We Ate It All,” got me thinking. What’s happening—or, more accurately, not happening—on entitlement reform is exactly like Jimmy Kimmel’s skit where parents tell their kids they ate all their Halloween candy.  

As Friedman points out, the short-term debt deal ignores entitlements and just kicks the can down the road as a matter of political convenience. It’s just too hard to deal with special interests that will throw tantrums over any meaningful reform. But the politics of expedience turns a blind eye to the collateral damage that stands about three feet tall and is going to be Minnie Mouse for Halloween this year.

Let’s look at the facts if we continue down this path, and then tell me that today’s kids shouldn’t have the same reaction as the Jimmy Kimmel kids did to their parents’ sugar thievery?

  • Not a single major entitlement program is projected to be financially solvent 20 years from now. Social Security will be unable to pay full benefits beginning in 2033. Absent legislative action, all Social Security beneficiaries would face an immediate 23% benefit cut at that time.
  • The cost to make these programs financially solvent for the next 75 years is almost $40 trillion. It’s bad enough now, but it has the potential to get much worse, requiring either economy-crushing new taxes or painful benefit cuts in the programs—or both.
  • Medicare, for example, has had a cash shortfall every year since its creation except two: 1966 and 1974. Medicare’s annual cash shortfall in 2011 was $288 billion. Social Security had a cash flow deficit of $58 billion in 2012.

Minnie Mouse shouldn’t be a casualty of today’s leaders’ inability to make hard decisions. But, according to Friedman, it might be up to her generation to force the issue:

Short of an economic meltdown, there is only one thing that might produce meaningful change: a mass movement for tax, spending and entitlement reform led by the cohort that is the least organized but will be the most affected if we don’t think long term — today’s young people.

As it stands, the candy dish of tomorrow is empty, and it’s going to be quite the toothache for the next generation. 

For more sobering facts about why kids should expect tricks and no treats, check out 4 Facts That Will Make Your Head Spin:

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