I use that phrase almost as much as the NYT columnist Gail Collins talks about Mitt and his trip to Canada with the dog strapped to the roof of his car.
I think it is fair for Harper to be raising this issue. We need to talk about this. All of these entitlements – from health care to public pensions – are taking up an increasing share of national income and will only accelerate in the coming years.
In New Brunswick, health care is something like 40 percent of the budget (less debt servicing) and there is about 19 cents in government transfer income to persons per every dollar of employment income.
I think it is fair to ask if there is an upper boundary on that and what it might look like.
I raised the idea of tying health care spending growth to GDP growth a few years ago – as a hard cap – allowing that individuals would likely go out and spend as much as their own private income on health care as they would like. This doesn’t go over well, of course, but at least it is an idea.
I have talked about raising the age people can access public pensions – remember any all protection should be put in place for those in real need – poverty reduction should not be tied to age – but I am talking about people collecting pensions and other benefits who could/should work longer in life or who have enough private income to sustain themselves.
There is normally a lot of backlash to this kind of talk because people read into it what they will. It’s like a Rorschach test – if you don’t like Harper – you will see this as part of his evil plan – if you like him – you will say it is a sensible time to have this dialogue.
In the end, people need to realize that all of the entitlement spending crowds out spending on other important things such as education, research, infrastructure – and even other important social programs.