Gene Steurle's article is excellent policy analysis but, as noted by Lancelot, DOA politically. Steurle writes from the point of view of a social planner with a budget contstraint. Policy is made by politicians under political constraints. I don't think that cutting middle class benefits is a way to have more money to help the poor. I tihnk that politicians can aid the poor only by linking aid to the poor to middle class benefits (I recall a heated discussion with you about this in the greenhouse cafe in the science center some decades ago).
A tinhat paranoid view is that somewhere there is a right of center advocate of directing benifits towards the poor who is just trying to trick progressives into implementing a good policy which is politically doomed so as to get to no social welfare state at all.
Now if you want to help the poor more someone has to lose. You can try to soak the middle class and you will get nowhere. If you try to soak the rich, there will be no problem.
Mark Thoma said...
It seems as though the right has begun to acknowledge the need for social insurance, either explicitly or implicitly through the annuity plan they have for those entering retirement. The claim now seems to be that the insurance is much too good. The argument is now that Social Security functions as a personal retirement savings entitlement program rather than a social safety net.
If the debate is to be about the level of government provided retirement insurance, not the need for insurance, that is fine. If right would like their mother or grandmother who outlives her family and her assets to live just above poverty for her waning years or decades, that is their choice. But personally I am not willing to go back to the cat food days (though I hear cat food now costs more than tuna…).
I believe we owe something back to those who toiled before us and left us bridges, airports, dams, educational institutions, and so on from their hard work and saving. They left us a functioning "farm" and now that it's out turn to supprt them with the fruits of our inheritance. We can do better for our senior citizens than a promise of pennies more than abject poverty.