Will it happen, can it happen? Well it’s happening in Britain, perhaps for the first time ever. The Tory-Liberal coalition government is reducing welfare payments. The message sent, one that will surely be read in the developed welfare states of Europe as well as in America, is that unchecked, universal welfare benefits cannot continue indefinitely.
Up until now while it is generally agreed that huge government deficits could only be reduced in one way, by reducing entitlements, in effect by coming back from the generosity of past administrations, no one believed that such would or could ever happen.
For not only are entitlements where the money is, they also represent the votes that return the holders to office, for there are few who vote who are not themselves benefit recipients.
In this country the present shouting match is between those who would keep entitlements as they are, that which is not possible given the size of the budget deficits, and those who would reduce the deficits, also keeping the entitlements as they are, that which is also not possible.
Will others follow Britain’s lead? Is this an example of that in our time most rare virtue, courage? In Britain some 1.5 million middle class families with incomes in excess of $70,000 will no longer receive the weekly child benefit payments.
And that has to be only the first shoe dropping, representing an amount less than one percent of the budget deficit. What will the second shoe bring?
To take something away, a privilege or benefit that has been given but for which the money is not longer available, seems to be the only way out of our present indebtedness. Yet almost no one in our country, other than perhaps the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, is proposing to do so.
And on him the votes have not been cast.