By Arnold Kling
How snowed in are we? So snowed in that we had the television on when this Charlie Rose interview with David Brooks came on. It was quite good. I agreed with Brooks on many things, and even when I did not I thought he was saying things that were reasonable.
One theme is that Brooks is impressed by the Tea Party and by the potential for mass movements in general. At one point, he suggests that old people will come forward and put entitlement reform on the table, and that will make it politically possible.
I find that notion intriguing, if perhaps implausible. But sometimes the leaders of groups are out of touch with their members–union leaders lean one way, and their members lean another, for example.
The AARP policy folks are super-aggressive about protecting every dime of benefits, for everyone from current recipients to today’s young people to the unborn (the AARP folks go ballistic if you talk about cutting benefits in 2080)
So, would seniors rally to the anti-AARP, a group that wants to give back some of their entitlements? And is there someone willing to lead the anti-AARP?
Right now, the dynamics are that if someone from one party proposes a cut in future entitlements for people aged 50 and under, someone from the other party will scare today’s seniors into thinking that they are about to lose their benefits. In the eyes of both Democrats and Republicans, seniors are ignorant, frightened misers, who will vote out of office anyone who mentions the words “reform” and “Social Security” or “Medicare” in the same sentence. Until that perception changes, our fiscal policy is in deep yogurt.