Duncan Black has concluded that the best way to demonstrate your vast intellectual superiority over your political opponents is to knock out a series of glib one-line responses to serious policy questions, prefacing each with a condescending “Uh,” to indicate how very, very obvious your answers should be to anyone with a functioning prefrontal cortex.* But I’m not even sure the combination of views he’s expressing is coherent.
On the one hand, you’d have to be an absolute moron to want to encourage people to store money in Health Savings Accounts specifically for medical spending (instead of just making such expenditures tax deductible) or if you favor making personal savings accounts part of Social Security (duh, we already have banks). On the other hand, means testing is no good, and Social Security should be defended as a kind of universal, mandatory “insurance” rather than a straight-up aid program for people who are simply incapable of saving for themselves.
So… which is it? I get the more libertarian view that (at least) people who can afford it should be both free to make their own decisions about how much to set aside for healthcare or retirement and responsible for doing so. I get the more paternalistic view that people should be prodded, and perhaps forced, into such saving because people are bad at preparing for improbable but costly eventualities, are biased toward the near-term, and so on. What I don’t get is the view on which massive government programs are somehow necessary to provide all these things for the non-poor, but any more modest attempts to get those people to make the same provisions for themselves are just ludicrous, because folks with the necessary means will (presumably) just do that all on their own. I will resist the temptation to append an “um…” phrase here to underscore the seeming inconsistency.
* As a commenter points out, the primary point of Duncan’s “Um”-ing here may just be that these are not exactly “gotcha” questions to deploy against Democrats, insofar as the Dem position on most of these issues is relatively popular. That’s clearly not his only point, but I’ll roll back about 28 percent of my snark in consideration of that.