The Washington Post's editorial board remarks that cutting entitlements is "basic political realism." Why? Because Republicans "control ... the House" and hold "45 votes in the Senate."
The rationale seems to imply that if Democrats controlled the House and held 45 seats in the Senate--the above's converse--then cutting entitlements would not be basic political realism. Or, looked at from another angle, a Republican House and Senate minority are assumed to compel entitlement cuts, whereas a Democratic Senate and House minority are presumed essentially impotent.
These are peculiar equations. Any divided Congress favors entitlement cuts by virtue of its division, although no divided Congress favors entitlement protections by the same measure. It is simply assumed, as a kind of constant, that Republican control of either legislative chamber means that Republicans will have their way. It's "basic political realism."
It's also a backward-looking realism that ignores the new reality of Republicans--and, accordingly, Republican "ideas"--having been stomped at the polls.
What's more, it subordinates fresh policy ideas. Various methods of whacking entitlement programs are always vigorously entertained, yet little mention is ever made of introducing sturdier supports. Raising the income cap on Social Security payroll taxes, for instance, would virtually eliminate the program's distant deficits.
As for Medicare, what would a modest, across-the-board increase in its payroll taxes accomplish? I haven't any idea. Why? Because no one bothers to calculate such things. One "fix" that WaPo does mention is raising Medicare's eligibility age to 67, which "would save roughly $150 billion over 10 years." Yet what about lowering Medicare's eligibility to 60 or 55 or even 50? By what 10-year amount would all those additional premiums from much healthier Americans buttress Medicare?
But, ask not what creative options can do for your country--ask instead just how painful Republican realism must be. Why? Well, that's the way it is.