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Taxes, benefits, class warfare

Nothing better to inspire a little class warfare among our Readers Who Comment than a suggestion from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke that either taxes are going to have to be raised or entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare are going to have be cut if the United States is going avoid huge deficits and stifle economic growth.

The story about Bernanke's speech ignited several themes, including one we're seeing more and more often in reader comments: can we justify the cost in both dollars and lives of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? There are also calls for repealing health care reform, eliminating the safety net for the least fortunate, soaking the rich, or cutting Medicare and Social Security.

As Neil Irwin and Lori Montgomery write, "the economic downturn -- with tumbling tax revenue, aggressive stimulus spending and rising safety-net payments such as unemployment insurance -- has driven already large budget deficits to their highest level relative to the economy since the end of World War II. This has fueled public concern over how long the United States can sustain its fiscal policies."

We'll start with poescrow, who wrote, "The reality is that every working American paid into SSI and Medicare benefits to which we are entitled. The reality is that there was a surplus capable of sustaining the ranks of present and future recipients, except, our government dipped into those reserves for purposes for which it was not intended. The stark reality is that our government robbed Peter to pay Paul and were never held accountable."

greeenmtns said, "The budget Obama has most recently submitted [for Fiscal Year 2011] includes over $700 BILLION for the pentagon. That is nearly enough to fund universal health care in the US for 10 years. I am so sick of you lying warmongers who would rather pay for murder than health and wellbeing of the people..."

And linda_521 asked, "How about stop paying for the illegal, immoral, unethical murders in Iraq and Afghanistan first. See what that does to the fiscal responsibility. I am not willing to finance them before taking social responsibility for less fortunate in the united states. Hey Ben, give us a figure after the war spending is subtracted. Citizens are stupid enought to think that is a separate item, dummy it comes outa the same pocket."

Bernanke said, "But unless we as a nation demonstrate a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility, in the longer run we will have neither financial stability nor healthy economic growth." This caused rcoveringdem to write, "NEVER happen. An entire segment of society belives they're 'entitled' to the fruits of others labors just because they happen to have exited the womb in the US. We deserve the financial cataclysm that's coming."

NewThoughts, noting that Bernanke also said that reducing the deficit immediately would be "neither practical nor advisable" because of current economic conditions, observed that "Contrary to popular opinion, I don't see anyone arguing for unnecessary spending but I do see one party constantly advocating more tax-cuts. Funny, they are the same people screaming about the deficit?"

jimmernick wrote, "The best, most logical and economically sound move would be to eliminate these costly, ineffective and useless programs entirely. Then, repeal the "Health Care" fiasco, and let people accept the fact that the Government is not there to provide them with every comfort, but to act in their defense should someone try to prevent them from fairly obtaining what comforts they can earn."

greatgran1 seconded the motion, saying, "Obama and his little thugs have pushed this pathetic massive expensive government healthcare takeover and then have the nerve to stand up there and tell us that entitlements are killing our economy. Are they this stupid? I guess so. Wake up American before they totally destroy us."

cathyjs asked, "Why does the government continually target Social Security and Medicare when of all the entitlement programs it's the only one paid into by the beneficiaries.[?] Welfare, food stamp, section 8 and Medicaid recipients pay no taxes, cut those programs before you cut Social Security and Medicare. This gimmee free for all, money for nothing has got to stop-you're killing our country."

But cne123 wrote, "So again those of us who are on the lower levels of the economy will be expected to shoulder the majority of any efforts towards paying off the deficits. When are the folks that reap the greatest benefits going to start feeling the pain of paying for the wars, giving up their tax breaks and, dare I say it, pay tax on the portion of their income that has been exempt for nearly 30 years? At age 72 I am still working and if Mr Bernanke has his way, I guess I will need to continue doing so until I drop, for I will not be able to count on Social Security to cover my basic necessities."

motorfriend, tongue firmly in cheek, suggested that "The housing bubble would not have burst yet if we had simply followed Warpresident Bush's plan to turn over our Social Security to Goldman Sachs. They could have made billions in bonuses by issuing credit default swaps based on the fund's likelihood of survival. Sure, the economy would have eventually collapsed, but at least we wouldn't have those bothersome monthly retirement checks."

twm1 wrote, "My belief is that the Fed Chair already has too long a term and too much power. He is a non-elected, appointed official, after all, whose power over economic policy rivals that of any elected official. This Chair is clearly a very knowledgeable and intelligent person. Still, I believe it is completely inappropriate for him as Fed Chair to lecture the elected president and congress concerning policies which are their responsibility and not his..."

To which Ombudsman1 replied, "He is just another voice added to the millions tell[ing] the Democrats that they're spending way too much too quickly. Stop taking offense and start listening to what they're saying. They're all telling you the truth."

Yogi8 wrote, "This is classic Republican nonsense. Hey, Ben, did you complain about the Bush tax cuts for the rich while two wars were going on? Any complaints about the bailouts? No, the deficit is only a problem in connection with social security and medicare (old age pensions and health care), which most other civilized countries support better than the U.S."

moore732 said, "...It has been shown time and again that raising taxes slows the economy and lowers revenue to the government. Lowering taxes gets the economy going and money moving, yes even by those bad ole rich people and guess what? Revenues to the Fed increase. Any libs that don't believe this should just do a little research and listen to a couple of JFK's speaches on the subject..."

MTgrassland wrote, "Tax the rich. The reason they are rich and we are poor is that they take our money. Taxes are a good way to get it back."

rteske suggested that "Mr. Bernanke should add to the choices a reduction in the size of government. Consideration must and should be given to reduce the size and scope of our bloated federal government starting with a 20% pay reduction for all employees salary and benefits followed by a 20% reduction in number of Federal departments and agencies."

We'll close with cautious, who wrote, "Now that everything is back to normal, with hedge fund managers pulling in their billion dollar salaries and Wall Street Execs and Bankers with millions of dollars in bonuses and after crushing savers with negative interest rates so that the stock markets could regain their losses ... its back to the business as usual. Blame government subsidies to the elderly and disabled as the cause of all the worlds problems. I Hope there is nice hot place in Hell waiting for these pillars of society."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  April 8, 2010; 7:28 AM ET
 | Tags: Bernanke, Defense Spending, Economy, Medicare, Social Security  
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