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The politics of scarcity
In The Week magazine's editor's letter, Francis Wilkinson parses competing claims on public financing  
 
Francis Wilkinson
Francis Wilkinson

This week's New Republic features Thomas Edsall's story on the coming battle over government resources squeezed by a slow-growing economy and fast-rising entitlement commitments. "If you thought our politics had grown nasty, you haven't even begun to consider the ugliness of the politics of scarcity," Edsall writes.

Oh, joy. As the federal pie shrinks, Edsall reasons, fighting over the remains will intensify, with battle lines drawn on racial, regional, and generational grounds. That fight, of course, is already under way. Youth have benefited from the Obama administration's expansion of education grants and loans. Seniors, meanwhile, are the most adamant opponents of health reform (and appear poised to punish Democrats for it on Nov. 2). A recent Washington Post poll found that three-quarters of seniors who oppose reform fear that it will lead to cuts in their own government-funded health care — Medicare. But you can play the "resource war" at any age. The other day I heard a fellow commuter complaining about the too-lavish benefits of the public dole. It's hardly a novel complaint, and schlepping to work beside her, I understood the source of her disgruntlement. But her critique of public spending seemed a bit churlish aboard a publicly subsidized bus en route to the subsidized train that takes us to the subsidized terminus from which we scatter to our jobs. I don't know what people who work at home or drive to the office think of our comfortable, taxpayer-funded ride. But in the age of grievance, I suspect they're mad as hell to see their tax dollars supporting the public transit dole.

 

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