As the American people age, a pernicious paradox has taken hold of the federal budget: "We are slowly dismantling the federal government, even as its spending is growing larger," observes Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post. With every budget, lawmakers are slashing into discretionary spending, but with Social Security and various health entitlement costs rising, government spending is growing anyway. The result: "Governmental competence is being systematically degraded. … We are spending more and getting less."
By 2024, current projections show that all spending on non-entitlements will be just 7.4% of GDP—the lowest share since 1940. Cuts are hitting everything from the military (sort of) to medical research to the federal courts. Yet political debates never focus on this dynamic, in part because polls show the public isn't concerned. "Both liberals and conservatives are complicit in this charade," but ironically it's liberals who most refuse to discuss entitlements. Hence another paradox: "The pro-government party in rhetoric has become an anti-government party in practice." Click for Samuelson's full column. (Read more Social Security stories.)