Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2010

Ireland may be in a recession (caused in large part by misguided housing subsidies), but there are two things worth admiring about the Emerald Isle’s public policy. Many wonks already know about the first policy, the 12.5 percent corporate tax rate that helped transform Ireland from the “sick man of Europe.” But it seems that Irish policymakers are reading Chris Edwards, because the second admirable policy is that lawmakers actually cut civil service compensation by 13.5 percent. And these are real cuts, not the type of phony gimmick you find in Washington, where something is called a “cut” simply because it didn’t increase as fast as previously planned. A columnist writing in the UK-based Times wonders why Irish bureaucrats did not go nuts with public protests and speculates that maybe they actually understand that they have a sweetheart deal compared to their brethren in the productive sector of the economy:

Because of the budget deficit, shrinking economy and untenable level of national debt, all public service salaries will be cut by an average of 13.5 per cent, with immediate effect. The charges will appear on your payslip as “government levy”, and will apply to frontline public workers in health, education, transport and local services and also to MPs, Ministers of State and the Attorney-General. …Couldn’t happen, could it? Actually it has, and close to home. …public sector pay in the Republic has been cut. Not frozen, sharply cut. …although the payslips have been changed for many months now, the schools are open, the hospitals treat the sick, rubbish is collected and paper pushed around briskly enough in public organisations. Belts are tight all right and pips are squeaking; but the country whose public pay once led the EU league has not imploded into the chaos of suicidal strikes, unburied bodies, closed schools and garbage mountains, which the UK or France would expect as a matter of course if a government did any such thing. …Yet the pay cuts — I say again, 10 to 15 per cent cuts in pay, real and immediate holes in the family budget — have not caused the enraged citizenry to pull down the pillars of the temple around their own heads and everybody else’s. They just haven’t. Why? …unlike the self-righteous whiners who speak for British public service unions, middle-Ireland still knows that a secure and pensionable job is a privilege: that working in the public sector is not an altruistic gift to the nation, but a damn lucky break. I saw a spirited, self-mocking sketch performed by 12-year-olds in a village hall entertainment the other night about “Marty Matchmaker O’Donoghue, where every ould stocking will find an ould shoe”. The girl being advertised to the men is talked up by the matchmaker as having “a Government Job! A clerk at the council office — I tell ye, she’s a laying hen!” Friends confirm that it’s an old saying: “Marry a teacher or a nurse, you’ve got a laying hen.” It does not seem that way in boom times, but even in the UK it is becoming true.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/libby_purves/article7070306.ece

Read Full Post »

Since we’re already depressed by the enactment of Obamacare, we may as well wallow in misery by looking at some long-term budget numbers. The chart below, which is based on the Congressional Budget Office’s long-run estimates, shows that federal government spending will climb to 45 percent of GDP if we believe CBO’s more optimistic “baseline” estimate. If we prefer the less optimistic “alternative” estimate, the burden of federal government spending will climb to 67 percent of economic output. These dismal numbers are driven by two factors, an aging population and entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. For all intents and purposes, America is on a path to become a European-style welfare state. 
If these numbers don’t depress you enough, here are a couple of additional observations to push you over the edge. These CBO estimates were produced last year, so they don’t count the cost of Obamacare. And as Michael Cannon repeatedly has observed, Obamacare will cost much more than the official estimates concocted by CBO. And speaking of estimates, the long-run numbers in the chart are almost certainly too optimistic since CBO’s methodology naively assumes that a rising burden of government will have no negative impact on the economy’s growth rate. Last but not least, the data above only measures federal spending. State and local government budgets will consume at least another 15 percent of GDP, so even using the optimistic baseline, total government spending will be about 60 percent of GDP, higher than every European nation, including France, Greece, and Sweden. And if we add state and local spending on top of the “alternative” baseline, then we’re in uncharted territory where perhaps Cuba and North Korea would be the most appropriate analogies.
 
So what do we do? There’s no sure-fire solution. Congressman Paul Ryan has a reform plan to reduce long-run federal spending to less than 20 percent of GDP. This “Roadmap” plan is excellent, though it is marred by the inclusion of a value-added tax. Bill Shipman of CarriageOaks Partners put forth a very interesting proposal in a Washington Times column to make the federal government rely on states for tax revenue. And I’ve been an avid proponent of tax competition as a strategy to curtail the greed of the political class since it is difficult to finance redistribution if labor and capital can escape to jurisdictions with better tax law. Any other suggestions?

Read Full Post »

This topic seems very pedestrian since we just took another in a long series of steps in the wrong direction on health care, but the bloated civil service is a major reason why we are heading toward a Greece-style fiscal meltdown. This story from California is shocking. More than 30,000 teachers, including about 1,000 that are failures, yet over a 10-year period the school district was able to fire four teachers. No wonder California schools do such a bad job. Here’s the relevant part of an expose from LA Weekly:

Los Angeles Unified School District, with its 885 schools and 617,000 students, educates one in every 10 children in California. It also mirrors a troubled national system of teacher evaluations and job security… Recent articles in the Los Angeles Times have described teachers who draw full pay for years while they sit at home fighting allegations of sexual or physical misconduct. But the far larger problem in L.A. is one of “performance cases” — the teachers who cannot teach, yet cannot be fired. Their ranks are believed to be sizable — perhaps 1,000 teachers, responsible for 30,000 children. But in reality, nobody knows how many of LAUSD’s vast system of teachers fail to perform. Superintendent Ramon Cortines tells the Weekly he has a “solid” figure, but he won’t release it. In fact, almost all information about these teachers is kept secret. But the Weekly has found, in a five-month investigation, that principals and school district leaders have all but given up dismissing such teachers. In the past decade, LAUSD officials spent $3.5 million trying to fire just seven of the district’s 33,000 teachers for poor classroom performance — and only four were fired, during legal struggles that wore on, on average, for five years each. Two of the three others were paid large settlements, and one was reinstated. The average cost of each battle is $500,000. During our investigation, in which we obtained hundreds of documents using the California Public Records Act, we also discovered that 32 underperforming teachers were initially recommended for firing, but then secretly paid $50,000 by the district, on average, to leave without a fight.
http://www.laweekly.com/2010-02-11/news/lausd-s-dance-of-the-lemons/

Read Full Post »

Greece’s fiscal disarray is a visible manifestation of Europe’s future, but the most appropriate symbol of what’s wrong with the continent comes from Brussels, where there are three “presidents” fighting over the right to represent Europe at international gatherings. The contestants include the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council, and the European Union President (which rotates every six months among different national leaders). While these three personalities fight over who gets to sit where and shake hands first, the real problem is that they all agree that government should be bigger, taxes should be higher, and power should be more centralized as part of the effort to create a superstate in Brussels. Inside this gilded cage, insulated from actual voters, Europe’s technocratic elite is content to enjoy a parasitical existence while the welfare states of member nations slowly but surely collapse and lead to social chaos.

Promises by EU leaders that the Lisbon Treaty would herald a new era of clarity have been shattered after attempts to settle a major internal power feud resulted in a typical Brussels fudge. Bureaucrats have decided to send not just one president and his entourage to global summits but a tax-draining three. Only four months after the fanfare of Herman Van Rompuy’s appointment as European Council president, his most jealous and powerful rival in Brussels has persuaded allies to allow him to muscle in too. José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, has succeeded in his demands that he should also go to diplomatic summits, such as the G20, after insisting only he has the expertise to deal with specific policy matters. At certain summits there will even be a third representative – the leader of the country holding the EU’s rotating presidency. This seems to justify criticism that the Lisbon Treaty would add to the EU’s murky waters and not be a move towards transparency. …Since the Lisbon Treaty came into force at the end of last year, arguments have raged in Brussels over which department does what. Mr Van Rompuy, the former Belgian prime minister dismissed last month by Ukip MEP Nigel Farage as a “damp rag” and a “low-grade bank clerk”, is the permanent president of the European Council.
http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/164195/Now-EU-will-send-three-presidents-to-summits

Read Full Post »

The Wall Street Journal has a good editorial today lauding the new Republicans governors of New Jersey and Virginia, both of whom are reducing spending. But unlike in Washington, where a spending cut is so loosely defined that politicians can increase spending and simultaneously claim to be cutting spending (so long as they increase spending by less than previously planned), Governors Christie and McDonnell actually are proposing to spend less next year than is being spent this year. That hasn’t happened in Washington since 1965 – and it certainly won’t happen under Obama’s phony spending freeze:

Republicans Chris Christie (New Jersey) and Bob McDonnell (Virginia) were elected in November in states that had seen years of tax increases and explosive spending growth. Mr. Christie inherited a $2.2 billion deficit in 2010 and it is expected to grow to $11 billion in 2011. Mr. McDonnell is confronting the largest deficit in Virginia history—$4.2 billion for fiscal years 2011 and 2012, out of a $32 billion two-year general fund. This week Mr. Christie proposed his first budget, calling for a 9% cut in the state’s $32 billion annual general fund. He is not talking about phony Washington-style “cuts” against a baseline that automatically increases each year. The governor is asking Trenton to spend $2.9 billion less in 2011 than it did in 2009, shrinking the budget to $29.3 billion, which he admits will be “painful, but what other choice do we have?” …Mr. Christie deserves special applause for his willingness to battle government employee unions. His office calculates that New Jersey’s unionized employees have carved out health-care benefits that are 41% higher than the typical Fortune 500 company offers. A teacher who has contributed $62,000 toward her pension, and nothing toward medical benefits, can retire and receive over her lifetime a $1.4 million retirement package and an additional $215,000 in health-care payments. …Meanwhile, Mr. McDonnell is preparing to sign a 2011-12 budget of $14.5 billion that will reduce state spending below 2006 levels ($14.8 billion). The $2.3 billion in cuts include a reduction in state employee pay, halving arts funding, selling off state-owned liquor stores, and cutting Medicaid payments by $300 million and aid to school districts by $700 million. Mr. McDonnell argues the cuts are fair because school spending has risen 60% in the last decade, while Medicaid is up more than 75%. He has already signed legislation to allow off-shore oil drilling, which the state says could raise $5 billion in revenues over the next 30 years. (Are you listening, California?) Both governors are under attack from liberal interest groups and the media for not raising taxes, but the public wants government to restrain itself the way families have already had to do. New Jersey’s property tax rates are the nation’s highest and its top income tax rate is close to the highest at 8.97%. Mr. Christie will have to negotiate his way through a legislature that is dominated by Democrats who answer to the public unions, but as he told them: This “is what the people sent me here to do.” Virginia Democrats raised taxes twice in six years and should consider New Jersey’s punishing rates and fleeing taxpayers an example not to emulate.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704743404575127851689870446.html

Read Full Post »

 If nothing else, the Obama Administration at least is consistent. Not only do they want higher taxes in America, but they also want other nations to pursue ruinous class warfare policies. Here’s an excerpt from Tax-news.com:

 US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, wants Pakistan to review the tax treatment of the country’s most affluent taxpayers to ensure that they are fairly contributing to government coffers. …In testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Clinton said that “well-off Pakistani’s do not pay their fair share for the services that are needed.
http://www.tax-news.com/news/US_Wants_Pakistans_Rich_To_Pay_More_Tax_41966.html

Read Full Post »

Very funny column, but the underlying message is quite depressing:

Last Thursday, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted to set up a committee to examine whether condoms should be required on all pornographic film shoots. California has run out of money, but it hasn’t yet run out of things to regulate. For a government regulatory hearing, the testimony was livelier than usual. Porn star Madelyne Hernandez recalled an especially grueling scene in which she had been obliged to have sex with 75 men. The bureaucrats nodded thoughtfully, no doubt contemplating another languorous 18-month committee assignment looking into capping the number of group-sex participants at 60 per scene. The committee will also make recommendations on whether the “adult” movie industry should be subject to the same regulatory regime and hygiene procedures as hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. …If you’ve ever been in the filthy wards of Britain’s National Health Service, it may make more sense after the passage of ObamaCare to require hospitals to bring themselves up to the same hygiene standards as the average Bangkok porn shoot. …Hard to believe there will be California bureaucrats looking forward to early retirement on gold-plated pensions who’ll be getting home, sinking into the La-Z-Boy and complaining to the missus about a tough day at the office working on the permits for “Debbie Does The Fresno OSHA Office.” Meanwhile, ObamaCare will result in the creation of at least 16,500 new jobs. Doctors? Nurses? Ha! Dream on, suckers. That’s 16,500 new IRS agents, who’ll be needed to check whether you — yes, you, Mr. and Mrs. Hopendope of 27 Hopeychangey Gardens — comply with the 15 tax increases and dozens of new federal mandates about to be “deemed” into existence. …Obama is government, and government is Obama. That’s all he knows and all he’s ever known. You elected to the highest office in the land a man who’s never run a business or created wealth or made a payroll, and for his entire adult life has hung out with guys who’ve demonized such grubby activities. Obama’s Cabinet has less experience of private business than any in the last century. What it knows is government, and government’s default mode is to grow, and grow. Look around you, take it all in. From now on, it gets worse. If you have kids, they’ll live in smaller homes, drive smaller cars, live smaller lives. If you don’t have kids, you better hope your neighbors do, because someone needs to spawn a working population large enough to pay for the unsustainable entitlements the Obama party has suckered you into thinking you’re entitled to.
http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=527933 

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: