The sequester cuts are starting to hit multiple groups and programs but so far Congress has only moved swiftly to address a few of them. Two of the biggest are making sure meat inspectors didn’t get furloughed and recently stopping airport delays. What these two changes have in common is that they affect both regular people and the very rich.
If there aren’t enough meat inspectors it would hurt regular people who would see higher meat prices at the store. Importantly, it would also hurt the factory owners, big grocery store chains, and rich farmers. Similarly, airport delays hurt any regular person who is flying but it also hurts airlines, first class travelers, and private jet owners.
Sadly, the current nature of American politics is that you often only see a problem quickly addressed when it impacts the rich and the middle class. This is what makes President Obama’s proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security so dangerous.
Obama’s budget calls for heavily means-tested entitlements. By making the programs no longer truly universal over the long term, Obama could destroy the political support for them. If better off Americans feel like they are getting a bad deal from a heavily means-tested Medicare they are not going to have a personal incentive to defend it. Programs that are viewed as only for the poor and middle class instead affecting everyone simply don’t have the same support in Washington.
Photo by schnaars under Creative Commons license