And they're off and running! Duh-duh-dump-duh-duh-dump ... and so on: The presidential horse race so beloved by media types. Who's ahead? Who's behind? What do the polls say? Which polls? Hey — Donald Trump fired his campaign manager! How will the gun control debate affect things?
None of which is irrelevant to general concerns, but very little of which suggests the nature of the stakes in the campaign, such as the future and durability of Social Security. Credit The New York Times with trying at least to engage public attention as to what might happen, depending on the election outcome, to the look and the cost of a problem we seem unable to solve or shake off.
"President Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats," reports The New York Times, "are rallying around proposals to expand Social Security and increase benefits, a sea change after three decades dominated by concern over the program's rising costs."
Shouldn't we sit up and take notice? Here we are, being set up for a welfare expansion likely beyond the capacity of the economy to sustain, and we expend our political breath on Corey Lewandowski?
Can't wholly be helped, inasmuch as campaigns precede elections, which in turn precede legislative initiatives and the formation of majorities. Yet the point we're not grasping, given the enchantments of analyzing The Donald, is that the political helm is turning toward port — toward the shoals and whirlpools that disfigure statist policies. A country can lose its freedoms by turning life over to the central government, as per Democratic strategy.
Certainly Bernie Sanders has something of the sort in mind. Bernie isn't big on freedom. Neither are most so-called "progressives." Too much freedom, they figure, puts the people beyond the reach of their friendly neighborhood bureaucracy. The fewer choices the citizens get to make the more choices the bureaucracy finds itself entitled and encouraged to make on their behalf. Such is the Bernie Sanders philosophy — which philosophy Clinton likes more and more, it seems, or anyway gives the impression of liking, such is her need for the support of Bernie's large fan club.
Social Security is case in point. Supposedly it's a government-mandated savings program; in fact, it transfers wealth from current payers to past contributors not exactly living the life of Riley on their monthly checks. Both Sanders and President Obama want more. The president said this month he favors bigger benefits "so that today's retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they've earned."
Umm. Paid for how? Easy, the president said. We ask "the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more."
I suggest viewing that statement from several feet away to get the full effect. We define "the wealthiest" how — as hedge-fund billionaires and such like? That would be all 500 of them or thereabouts. Maybe we throw in mere millionaires — the 10 million we have, according to CNBC. And they'll contribute just "a little bit more." Why, nothing to it! The "wealthiest" will save Social Security with their pocket change, turning a contributory program into a full-blast government giveaway, at — I'm sure the president would argue — no cost to investment, job creation, the animal spirits that drive capitalism and so on.
All of which, we have to understand, is bilge and bunkum, welfarism sold as if it were granola: oh, so good for you! Social Security's own trustees — The New York Times duly reports this — give the program as presently constituted 18 years before the old-age and disability money runs out.
So, yes, of course, Hillary Clinton! And, yes, sir, Mr. President! Let's put more people on the rolls, and let's raise payments for everybody! What a party we'll have until there's nothing more to party with!
A corollary question arises: Would Trump, if elected president, do the right things as opposed to the wrong things? I have no idea whether Trump himself knows. The point is: Toward matters of this kind, voter attention needs to turn fast and smartly.
Does America want, at last, a semi-socialist government? That's one way of putting it.
William Murchison writes from Dallas. His latest book is "The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson." To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.