Are Public Employees Overpaid?

Saturday, October 9, AD 2010

If you believe what you read on blogs or hear from certain politicians and pundits, a new kind of haves-vs.-have-nots class war is brewing across the land. Not between the rich and the poor, but between private and public sector workers, as related here.

Scandalous stories of public officials enjoying lavish or disproportionate pay and benefits at taxpayer expense, such as in Bell, Calif., and elsewhere , frequently make headlines and prompt calls for reductions in such compensation.

As with many other economic and taxation issues, the answer to the question posed in the title of this post usually depends on which side of the political spectrum you are on. Conservatives tend to answer “yes,” while liberals tend to answer “no” .

But which side is correct?

Before I delve into that question, I will first make some disclosures.  I am a full-time employee of the state of Illinois, making $35,000 per year. I do not belong to a union, and due to the nature of my job and agency, probably never will. I have only received one raise the entire time I have been so employed (nearly 4 years) due to a promotion to a slightly higher job level. I do not expect to receive any raises for the foreseeable future; in fact a pay cut is a distinct possibility. Prior to that I worked 20 years in private sector employment in the newspaper field. In some instances the pay and benefits were comparable to, and even better than, my current job. In other instances they were not as good.

Now to the question: are public employees overpaid? That depends on who you ask and how one defines “overpaid”. The average pay of state and federal employees in general is higher than that of private sector workers in general. When broken down by education, profession, etc. the picture is not as cut and dried. For lower-skilled jobs requiring only a high school or vocational education — e.g. custodians, receptionists, guards — the public sector pays better, whereas for professional jobs requiring a college degree or higher (attorneys, doctors, CPAs, etc.), the private sector pays more — often a lot more. These articles from Kiplinger and from Governing.com explain the differences in greater detail.

Two of the biggest reasons for these disparities are that 1) public employment tends to have a greater percentage of jobs requiring a college education or beyond and 2) public sector jobs are more likely to be unionized.

Public employee unions are a favorite bete noire of fiscal conservative politicians and candidates at the moment, and much of the public seems to agree with them. The fact that public employees continue in many (though not all) states and localities to enjoy benefits most private employees no longer have, such as regular salary increases, defined benefit pension plans, and caps on health insurance premiums and co-pays, arouses resentment among ordinary citizens who are forced to pay for such benefits via taxation.

Although many officeholders and candidates talk a good game when it comes to reining in public employee benefits, in practice the most frequent targets of budget cutting measures such as layoffs, furlough days and pay cuts, are lower or mid-level non-union employees. They often end up being punished for the sins (real or perceived) of their higher placed or unionized colleagues, simply because they are the easiest targets — not protected by either union contracts or political/personal connections.

The biggest problems on a state and local level are pension deficits — the growing gaps between the amount of money in public pension funds and the amount of benefits those funds are expected to pay in the future. According to this report by the Pew Center on the States, pension shortfalls are fiscal time bombs that threaten to devour entire state and city budgets if nothing is done to defuse them before it is too late.

How did the situation get that bad? In most cases it was due to a variety of factors — yes, generous union contracts played a part, but so did repeated failure on the part of lawmakers to invest properly in public pension funds, demographic changes (aging of the Baby Boomers, people living longer), and investments tanking due to the recession. No one factor can be singled out, and the entire blame for the pension crisis cannot be laid at the feet of one person or group of people. But regardless of who is or was to blame, the problem has to be dealt with, not swept under the rug.

Private sector employees are quick to point out that while they have to support public employee benefits with their taxes, public employees are not forced to do the same for private employees — they can choose whether or not to do business with a private company.

I agree, and this is in my opinion an argument that should be taken most seriously. For that reason, public employees are by necessity accountable to the public and will always be subject to various restrictions and considerations that do not apply to private employees (e.g., their salaries being public information).  This is not “unfair” or unequal, but simply part of the deal one signs up for when working for a government body.

Another claim often made by private employees is that government workers, by virtue of the pay, job security and benefits they enjoy, are artificially insulated from the realities their privately employed neighbors face — the constant threat of being fired or laid off, lack of retirement security, worry about medical bills, etc.

That might, perhaps, be true of top officials/administrators with strong political connections who make six-figure salaries, whose spouses have equally high-paying positions, and whose children or other family members are completely healthy. Otherwise, I am not so sure.

Many public employees, particularly non-union ones, are regularly threatened with layoffs or missed paychecks (most often at the end of a fiscal year). Given the poor financial standing of many public employee pension funds, combined with the fact that some public employees don’t get Social Security, I’d say many of them (including myself) who are 10 years or more away from retirement are just as worried about their retirement as you are.

Also, most public employees do not live in a bubble or a vacuum. Most used to work in the private sector at some time in their lives, and many are married to spouses who work in the “real world” or are currently unemployed or disabled. Their grown children, their parents, their siblings, and their friends and neighbors  include private employees or unemployed persons looking for work. The only exceptions I can think of might be political “dynasty” families like the Kennedys or Daleys. Plus, public employees pay all the same taxes everyone else does — federal, state, sales, property, the whole works. If taxes go up, it cuts into their budgets too.

Just because someone has a government job doesn’t mean they have, or should have, no interest in whether private business succeeds. If factories close and move overseas, if private companies go bankrupt and abolish or raid pension funds, if high taxes drive up the cost of living, if college education becomes unaffordable without taking on ruinous levels of debt — it affects them and their families too. It is in everyone’s interest, no matter what kind of job they have, to have a fiscally sound and honest government, competent public employees, and a sustainable tax structure.

Also, do not forget that for every instance in which a public official received undeserved pay, pensions or perks at taxpayer expense one could probably cite an equally egregious case of a private business executive enjoying lavish pay and benefits at the expense of fired workers, closed factories/offices, or raided pension funds. Greed is greed no matter where it occurs, and no sector of the economy is exempt from the effects of original sin.

Finally, since this is a Catholic blog, we should approach this issue from a religious perspective as well. Christ Himself chose a public employee, Matthew the tax collector, to be one of His Apostles. He also told His followers to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” So, apparently, He did not believe that working for the government was inherently evil, unproductive or exploitive.

Some more pointed advice was given by Christ’s precursor, John the Baptist, to the public servants of his day who came to see him (Luke 3:12-14):

“Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”

John was referring to practices for which the public employees of the day were notorious — tax collectors often overcharged citizens and pocketed the “profit” they made, while Roman soldiers were known for shaking down citizens of the provinces they occupied for money, food, or other goods. Here John is telling them simply to do their duty, not demand any more of the public than the law requires, and be content with what they are paid. If today’s public officials and employees did the same, there would be a lot fewer problems.

As with most problems in a fallen world, there is no perfectly just way to balance the need for a professional, competent government workforce with that of a private sector free of unnecessary taxes and regulation. This does not mean, however, that we should not attempt to find as just a resolution as possible. However this will require people who are not to blame for the situation to help clean it up, and at considerable personal cost.

For public employees, this means more work for less pay, more out of pocket expenses, and for some, no job at all. For the rest of us it could mean higher taxes, reduced services or some combination of the two. All these things will impact thousands, even millions, of good, hardworking people who are simply doing the best they can and had no part in creating the situation. It may not be perfectly fair, but life ain’t fair.

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18 Responses to Are Public Employees Overpaid?

  • Excellent Post, Elaine!!

    But… I would like to raise a couple of points.

    Also, do not forget that for every instance in which a public official received undeserved pay, pensions or perks at taxpayer expense one could probably cite an equally egregious case of a private business executive enjoying lavish pay and benefits at the expense of fired workers, closed factories/offices, or raided pension funds. Greed is greed no matter where it occurs, and no sector of the economy is exempt from the effects of original sin.

    While I do agree that greed is a problem in some cases, I believe that there are instances where people can be too judgemental of a person who is wealthy or “rich” in the private sector who has been successful in life. Some may perceive a particular “rich” person as being greedy but in actuality that person may give to causes and foundations but we just may not know about it. Maybe, they want to donate and not have it spread across the news? Both envy and jealousy are also sins.

    In the private sector businesses usually either make it or they don’t, whereas with the public sector the workers or that particular government program can pretty much count on being bailed out, and if “needed” taxes will be raised or a new tax will be implemented without having the taxpayers consent, in most cases. Plus, the private sector doesn’t usually get bailouts as they did under Bush and Obama. And, that was only a few companies.

    Private sector jobs do not force people to patronage them like the public sector demands taxpayers to pay taxes to be subsidized by the public. Yes, the “little guy” usually draws the short straw and is the one to pay. While I believe that layoffs are a terrible thing, do you honestly think that a successful entrepreneur who started his/her own business, been in business for a number of years,and is being affected by the downturn should be the one to “pay” the consequences of downturn? The business person/owner may not be the employee who is being layed off, and probably doesn’t want to layoff any employees but in actuality he may feel compelled to layoff some employees just to keep his/her business afloat in tough economic times.

    When I lived in MD, the property tax prices were skyrocketing ( one lady’s taxes went from $300 to $900 in one year) because of how much the teachers and government bureaucrats in the Dept. of Education were being overpaid so the taxpayers voted on a ballot initiative to limit their increases to 2% per year. I believe there needs to be a cap on the amount of pay increase that ALL public sector employees may receive each year- maybe at 2%?

  • I’m not saying that ALL private sector layoffs are evil or motivated by greed, but mainly thinking of those really infamous cases like Enron or cases that involved actual fraud or embezzlement.

    Mainly I’m just saying that I’d prefer not to see the same kind of class warfare rhetoric that conservatives find so offensive when applied to the private sector rich in general, being applied to public sector workers in general — i.e. demonizing them as all lazy, unproductive, corrupt, etc, the way liberals do to the “rich.”

  • While this post displays a sense of justice toward individuals whether they be employed by the public or private sectors it also seems to operate on the premise that their is some level of equivalency between the two.

    From an economic and social justice perspective the goal ought to be minimizing the number of government employees and maximizing the number of private sector employees. How we get there can be debated but this needs to be the fundamental premise.

  • The use of “their” should be “there” in the above post.

  • I’ve been in the civil service for 16 years. During most of that time, study after study showed us to be greatly underpaid for our work. During the Clinton Administration – a period of unparalleled economic prosperity – the Administration repeatedly sought to limit pay and benefits increases because the government sought to pay down debt. Until quite recently, getting candidates for other than starting-level jobs has been quite difficult.

    I’m not complaining. I believe that I am paid fairly for my work. However, the present complaints about civil service pay are really quite silly. Most of our jobs were scarce sought after during better economic periods. It is only during economic downturns that people are anxious for public sector employment.

    Really, this has nothing to do with pay… It has EVERYTHING to do with uncertainty. The complaint is spurred by the uncertainty of the private sector. Job uncertainty is terrifying and unpleasant and many feel that it is just not fair that the public sector has job security. I’d wager that lower wages would not make those complaining feel any better. They feel like we need to be punished. We need to suffer job uncertainty. We need to fear the loss of our station in life if “fairness” shall reign. In other words, everyone should suffer together.

    It is hardly a Christian sentiment but is surely is a human one.

  • “At a time when workers’ pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees’ average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds.
    Federal workers have been awarded bigger average pay and benefit increases than private employees for nine years in a row. The compensation gap between federal and private workers has doubled in the past decade.

    Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data are the latest available.

    The federal compensation advantage has grown from $30,415 in 2000 to $61,998 last year.

    Public employee unions say the compensation gap reflects the increasingly high level of skill and education required for most federal jobs and the government contracting out lower-paid jobs to the private sector in recent years.

    “The data are not useful for a direct public-private pay comparison,” says Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

    Chris Edwards, a budget analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, thinks otherwise. “Can’t we now all agree that federal workers are overpaid and do something about it?” he asks.”

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/income/2010-08-10-1Afedpay10_ST_N.htm

  • In my above post “patronage” is supposed to be “patronize”.

    @Donald

    You make an excellent point! Why is there so much disparity of pay between private sector and public sector jobs? And, these days much of what the government does is filled with wasteful projects, and the money could be allocated in a much better fashion.

    @Elaine

    While some government employees are not corrupt and unproductive others are indeed corrupt and unproductive ( I am in no way saying you are corrupt or unproductive). There isn’t really class warfare being engaged by those criticizing the employees pay in the public sector but rather taxpayers are wanting our monies to be allocated properly, and not wastefully used on excesses, as is happening in our government Today. When the taxpayers are responsible for subsidizing those who work in the public sector and not those employees in the private sector than it isn’t a double standard to criticize one group and not the other. There are different circumstances and relationships involved between the taxpayers and these two groups of employees.

  • I’m a private sector employee in a sea of public sector employees. On the one hand, it isn’t exactly fair to compare government workers to private employees when they are, on average, more highly educated. Something like 80 percent of the population in the DC metro area have some form of graduate degree, and obviously many of these work for in the public sector. Based on education and experience, I would say the public sector compensation is largely fair.

    That said, there is a comfort level that public sector employees enjoy that those in the private sector do not. While strictly speaking it’s not impossible to be fired, it is a bit more difficult to get the axe if you work for the government at any level. Are many public sector jobs superfluous? Yeah, and I say that as someone who had such a job back when I still lived and worked for the city of New York. We had pretty much an entire agency where five people could have done the job of the 30 or 40 of us that were there.

    I think the question isn’t whether public sector employees are overpaid (they’re not), but rather whether or not there are simply too many of them (there probably are).

  • A good analysis of the comparison of public and private compensation:

    http://reason.org/news/show/public-sector-private-sector-salary

    I think differing education levels between public and private employees are somewhat misleading. I have a secretary who has been with me for 25 years. She is a high school graduate. She is also bright, hard working, a superb organizer and an excellent learner. She manages my office and assists me with the litigation portion of my practice. During the past 25 years she has attained a good practical grasp of legal procedures. I have no doubt that if the roles she fills were staffed according to federal job procedures, I would have at least two employees, one with an Associates Degree and the other with a BA. In the private sector my secretary has the skills and the jobs but not the educational credentials.

  • I think the question isn’t whether public sector employees are overpaid (they’re not), but rather whether or not there are simply too many of them (there probably are).

    Paul’s conclusion is correct. I recently began working for the federal government, and the problem isn’t so much that federal workers are overpaid and lazy, but that there are way too many statutory requirements driving their workload.

    Let me give you an example:

    A story hits the newspapers; the Dept. of Defense paid $700 for a screwdriver. Never mind the fact that this is probably mostly a fluke of cost averaging in some account ledger; Joe Q. Taxpayer is outraged! Our Congresscritters listen; they pass a law called the Defense Acquisition Workers Improvement Act (DAWIA – Google it, if you’ve never heard of this lovely). Henceforth, all federal civilian workers in the defense contracting field must take five bazillion hours of training in How Not To Pay $700 For A Screwdriver. Congratulations, America – you’re now paying $100,000 to save $695 on a screwdriver.

  • I think NRO recently looked at this. As noted public employees tend to be better educated. Part of this is certain govt. programs that reimburse for classes thus encouraging better education. Controlling for better education (as well as a number of other factors noted) public employess still make about 12% more than private sector employees.

  • “Henceforth, all federal civilian workers in the defense contracting field must take five bazillion hours of training in How Not To Pay $700 For A Screwdriver.”

    The running joke of the last few years among State of Illinois employees is the so-called “ethics test,” an online training tool in Q & A format which all workers have to complete once a year. When you complete it, that fact is registered electronically and you also have to print out a certificate to sign and present to your supervisor.

    Many of the right answers are or should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense and honesty, and it could easily be completed in about 10 minutes by experienced State employees who are familiar with the subject matter, questions and answers. However, there have been cases of employees “flunking” the test — not being registered as having completed it — because they completed it that quickly. In order to avoid this, many workers resort to dilatory tactics such as taking coffee or bathroom breaks in the middle of the “test” so they don’t finish it too fast.

    Of course, the biggest irony surrounding the ethics test is that it was instituted by Governor Hairdo as a way of demonstrating his commitment to reform in state government.

  • This is a very good article and discussion.

    With regard to education, we have a big problem in this country revolving around discrimination law. An employer doesn’t look for the best person for the job; he looks for the person he can document is the most qualified person for the job. The bigger the organization, the greater the priority on quantifiable credentials. The open secret is that degrees don’t make you a better worker. But HR isn’t looking for better workers.

  • Oops. Let me finish that thought. I’d like to see less consideration of a person’s academics in determining his wages. Under our current thinking, it’s reasonable to have the best-educated workforce the government can get, and it’s reasonable that they should be paid more on the basis of their education. But that way of thinking is wrong. Ultimately, it’s unjust.

  • Elaine,

    The economic consequence of this kind of legislation (whether it’s your ethics example or my DAWIA example) is that it takes time away from doing actual work. Unless there’s a corresponding return on that training investment (which I strongly doubt), it’s spending more dollars than dollars saved. Marginal cost exceeds marginal benefit. And it requires that the government hire more FTEs for the same amount of work.

    Why not do a better job of screening new hires in the first place? In my experience, that’s what the private sector does better. They don’t require their employees to take hundreds of hours of training because they’re confident that they’re getting people with the right experience or, at the very least, are smart enough to figure out their new jobs. My #1 complaint (so far) working for the government is, they don’t treat their people like adults. Sometimes that attitude is deserved, but for most of us, it’s insulting and wastes our time. I have graduate degrees and 12+ years of professional work experience; do I *really* need to take that course in report writing???

  • I’d like to see less consideration of a person’s academics in determining his wages.

    Ideally, public sector wages would have some relationship to value marginal product of labor. But how do you measure government “output?” If the federal agency that employs me were eliminated tomorrow, the Earth would go on turning just fine. However, it’s also likely that we’d see fraud, waste, and all sorts of bad outcomes creep up over time if went to a completely self-policing regime. So our “product” is probably worth something more than $0 and less than the hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted for it.

  • Most of us know public sector and private sector employees who are overpaid and others who are underpaid. It is people who may or may not be overpaid.

    Recalling E.F. Schumacher somewhere in Small Is Beautiful, only something like 4% of modern society actually produces something tangible of real worth. The remaining 96% of us sell it, warehouse it, advertise it, account for it, legislate about it, sue about it, transport it, broadcast about it, blog about it, keep tabs on it, deal with warranty claims about it, stock and shelve it, scan it, accept payment for it, put it on layaway, display it, and on and on. Most of us work in a world of electronic digits. Actually productive citizens are few and far between, says Schumacher. I think he’s dead right.

  • Update: New Washington Post poll shows majority of Americans believe federal employees to be overpaid and less hard working than private sector workers:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/17/AR2010101703866.html?wpisrc=nl_politics

Chrysler UAW Workers Caught Drinking on the Job

Friday, September 24, AD 2010

Less than two months after President Obama visited the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit to highlight the billion dollar government bailout of Chrysler, Chrysler UAW workers were caught on tape drinking alcoholic beverages on a 30 minute lunch break.  Not to mention what looks like marijuana joints in between swigs of grog and then littering a public park with the empties.

That’s a nice liquid lunch… if it were a public holiday!

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10 Responses to Chrysler UAW Workers Caught Drinking on the Job

  • Given the future they have to look forward to under a government owned Chrysler, I can’t say I blame them.

  • Drinking beer at lunch? Not so bad… being drunk very bad… Smoking a jot ummm… WTF?? My stance is alcohol is fine only if not getting drunk or impairing the ability to perform. The Jot thing is a gov’t issue they should be going to jail it is illegal??? Although I do beleave we should legalize it .. still illegal at the moment… and doing that on the job is a def no no …

  • It’s okay! They work for the government.

  • I worked for the government in a Summer internship during college, and boy this stuff is minor to what else occurs “on the job”!

  • Yeah. Going out for a beer isn’t a big deal (as long as one isn’t impaired from doing one’s job or driving), but smoking joints and drinking a lot is a problem. While I doubt this means much for Obama, it is kinda embarrassing.

  • Think about this, If any one of those people in the video would have in anyway gotten hurt on the job and needed to go to the medical dept. in the plant, they would have been tested for drugs and alcohol!!! Wow if it should (would have)come back positive for either no workman’s comp. and immediate termination.
    So who’s the fool here the drinking pot smoking workers or the UAW for protecting them?

    I personally think if I where upper management in today’s UAW I’d vote to cut them loose from the union so that union could protect the image of the truly good loyal workers and to say the New UAW doesn’t tolerate that kind behavior any more!!!!!
    How many people do you think would be happy to come work in this economy for 1/2 the pay those guy’s where making?????
    I’m Proud to be an auto worker but not with fools like that.

  • Not to defend these workers for what they did — it was stupid and (as far as the pot smoking and littering) illegal — but… how is it that a bunch of blue collar workers drinking a beer or two at lunch is any worse than a bunch of white collar executives having a three-martini “business” lunch?

    If they were not impaired in their ability to do their jobs, the beer drinking should not have been an issue. The pot smoking and the littering are another matter.

  • Elaine, I agree. But for what it is worth drinking at lunch among white collar workers is pretty rare in most cities. Companies have policies against it, and customs have just changed.

  • As Mike said, the days of a three martini lunch are pretty much history. Even if it weren’t I don’t think the comparison holds up. I worked in factories for over 20 years and have recently transitioned to a corporate job. The difference is that if someone in a factory is impaired or even a little off their game (overly tired, hangover, etc.) people can die or get maimed. The white collar guy might make a mistake that costs millions of dollars but at the end of the day everyone went home to their families. Not saying it’s okay for the white collar guy or trying to set a double standard, just pointing out that the consequences can be quite different.

    The large modern factories are spectacular and the safety measures in place are very impressive, but they’re still not foolproof and never will be. One of the biggest challenges a factory supervisor faces is complacency. Trying not to keep people from taking safety (and quality, but that’s another story) for granted is a never ending battle. Someone pounding a couple tallboys or smoking a joint at lunch is just asking for trouble. We have a responsibility to not endanger our coworkers even if we’re too shortsighted about our own well-being. That is why these policies are in place and why they should be enforced. The unions should of course welcome rules like this, but they lost their way over a generation ago.

  • When I was in college I spent a summer working on a die press in a truck body plant. I kept counting the ways people could lose fingers or limbs if someone got careless. Anyone doing that type of work high, drunk or hung over is just asking for a trip to the emergecy room for themselves and the people they work with.

Who's Gonna Grab the Third Rail?

Tuesday, August 10, AD 2010

That’s a line from a brief but astounding post by Kevin Williamson of NRO, which I’m reproducing in full here:

A little perspective from the debt commission:

“The commission leaders said that, at present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. ‘The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans — the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries,’ [Alan] Simpson said.”

Three programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — consume 100 percent of federal revenue, and everything else is paid for with borrowed money.  This is why we cannot balance the budget by cutting military spending, foreign aid, food stamps, etc. There is not going to be a serious project to address our deficit/debt problem without deep, painful entitlement reform, and the longer we wait to admit that fact and get going on it, the worse it is going to be.

So, who’s gonna grab that third rail? George W. Bush tried and got hammered — an example that few if any in Washington are eager to follow.

Indeed. I think if this is going to happen, it’s going to have to come from the people (tea parties, perhaps?), because it seems suicidal for any politician to take it on without considerable popular support.

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3 Responses to Who's Gonna Grab the Third Rail?

  • Really? So FICA and Medicare withholding represent the entire federal revenue stream? Whatever happened to the federal income tax and other revenue sources?

    The reality is that we are being set up. The federal government is looking for ways to default on what it owes and it will be far easier to default on what it owes its own people through social security than what it owes foreign banks. Defaulting on foreign loans will affect its credit rating and ability to further borrow while leaving retirees high and dry will just hurt retirees.

  • Finaly someone has outlined the major problem of our deficit spending..Without borrowed money in the term of t notes, we would be bankrupted in regards to income. IT IS TIME for means testing and benefits of those who really do not need SS survie. A cap on those with a certain substainable income need to be removed from SS and Medicare needs to have a schedule of benefits and of premium cost similar to the income tax tables based on 1040 results of income each year to determine premiums and benefits. There will be the normal hue and cry, but our representatives need the backbone to make it happen.

  • They will never solve anything.

    Nearly that entire first paragraph is incorrect. SS and Medicare are (even today) fully funded out of specific FICA and Medicare taxes, not out of general (personal and corporate income taxes, excise taxes, etc.) tax revenues. In fact, the SS surpluses are spent in vote-buying gov programs, and the SS trust fund gets in return nonpublic US debt instruments that can only be repaid from new taxes. The fit hits the shan when the SS taxes paid in are insufficient to pay SS (30,000,000 baby boomer) benefits and the guv needs to tax we the people to repay worthless debt to pay SS beneficiaries.

    I’m too depressed to continue.

Planned Parenthood, What Happened to the Money?

Tuesday, June 22, AD 2010

A US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has brought out an interesting mystery in regard to the federal funds given to Worse Than Murder, Inc, aka Planned Parenthood:

A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on federal tax money funneled into Planned Parenthood and similar organizations raises more questions than it answers about the nation’s largest abortion chain.

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Big Brother and The Fish Wrapper Industry

Wednesday, June 9, AD 2010

Content advisory in the video for one very crude section.  From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  The Onion exaggerates a bit. Why the Boston Globe probably has at least a few years of death spiral left to it before it has zero subscribers.

The Federal Trade Commission has produced a staff  discussion draft which may be read here, filled with bad ideas to prop up the dead tree media.  Among the worst of the ideas is what boils down to government money being used to subsidize the fish wrapper industry:

Proposals for Increased Government Subsidies, Indirect and Direct A variety of proposals have emerged to allow further government support for journalism through either indirect or direct means. Whatever the means, care must be taken to ensure that government support does not result in biased and politicized news coverage.  🙂

Increase Government Funding

Establish a “journalism” division of AmeriCorps.   AmeriCorps is the federal program that places young people with nonprofits to get training and do public service work.87 According to proponents, this proposal would help to ensure that young people who love journalism will stay in the field. “It strikes us as a win-win; we get more journalists covering our communities, and young journalists have a chance to gain valuable experience – even at a time when the small dailies where they might have started are laying reporters off.”

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Are We All Greeks Now?

Thursday, May 13, AD 2010

Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot AirAnother fine econ 101 video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.   Government debt is rapidly becoming the major issue of our time, both here and abroad.  The welfare states erected throughout the world have always had a resemblance to Ponzi schemes,  and all Ponzi schemes ultimately collapse, which is what is happening around the globe.  Robert Samuelson nailed it this week in the Washington Post:

What we’re seeing in Greece is the death spiral of the welfare state. This isn’t Greece’s problem alone, and that’s why its crisis has rattled global stock markets and threatens economic recovery. Virtually every advanced nation, including the United States, faces the same prospect. Aging populations have been promised huge health and retirement benefits, which countries haven’t fully covered with taxes. The reckoning has arrived in Greece, but it awaits most wealthy societies.

Americans dislike the term “welfare state” and substitute the bland word “entitlements.” The vocabulary doesn’t alter the reality. Countries cannot overspend and overborrow forever. By delaying hard decisions about spending and taxes, governments maneuver themselves into a cul de sac. To be sure, Greece’s plight is usually described as a European crisis — especially for the euro, the common money used by 16 countries — and this is true. But only up to a point.

Euro coins and notes were introduced in 2002. The currency clearly hasn’t lived up to its promises. It was supposed to lubricate faster economic growth by eliminating the cost and confusion of constantly converting between national currencies. More important, it would promote political unity. With a common currency, people would feel “European.” Their identities as Germans, Italians and Spaniards would gradually blend into a continental identity.

None of this has happened. Economic growth in the “euro area” (the countries using the currency) averaged 2.1 percent from 1992 to 2001 and 1.7 percent from 2002 to 2008. Multiple currencies were never a big obstacle to growth; high taxes, pervasive regulations and generous subsidies were. As for political unity, the euro is now dividing Europeans. The Greeks are rioting. The countries making $145 billion of loans to Greece — particularly the Germans — resent the costs of the rescue. A single currency could no more subsume national identities than drinking Coke could make people American. If other euro countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy) suffer Greece’s fate — lose market confidence and can’t borrow at plausible rates — there would be a wider crisis.

But the central cause is not the euro, even if it has meant Greece can’t depreciate its own currency to ease the economic pain. Budget deficits and debt are the real problems; and these stem from all the welfare benefits (unemployment insurance, old-age assistance, health insurance) provided by modern governments.

Countries everywhere already have high budget deficits, aggravated by the recession. Greece is exceptional only by degree. In 2009, its budget deficit was 13.6 percent of its gross domestic product (a measure of its economy); its debt, the accumulation of past deficits, was 115 percent of GDP. Spain’s deficit was 11.2 percent of GDP, its debt 56.2 percent; Portugal’s figures were 9.4 percent and 76.8 percent. Comparable figures for the United States — calculated slightly differently — were 9.9 percent and 53 percent.

There are no hard rules as to what’s excessive, but financial markets — the banks and investors that buy government bonds — are obviously worried. Aging populations make the outlook worse. In Greece, the 65-and-over population is projected to go from 18 percent of the total in 2005 to 25 percent in 2030. For Spain, the increase is from 17 percent to 25 percent.

The welfare state’s death spiral is this: Almost anything governments might do with their budgets threatens to make matters worse by slowing the economy or triggering a recession. By allowing deficits to balloon, they risk a financial crisis as investors one day — no one knows when — doubt governments’ ability to service their debts and, as with Greece, refuse to lend except at exorbitant rates. Cutting welfare benefits or raising taxes all would, at least temporarily, weaken the economy. Perversely, that would make paying the remaining benefits harder.

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25 Responses to Are We All Greeks Now?

  • The problem is not ‘the welfare state’, but a welfare state incorporating perverse incentives, a welfare state not subject to constraints as to its size (relative to the productive economy), public and private consumption financed through borrowing from abroad, and public sector borrowing at times and in circumstances where it is simply inappropriate. Congress and the Administration could fix these problems. They just don’t feel like it.

  • I suppose the term welfare state is a big murky. I regard Greece as such a state, but not the US, though because the term is a loose one it is hard to know where to draw the line. But it is rather difficut for true welfare states (in the narrow sense of the term) to be fiscally responsible in the long run. This is precisely because cradle to grave security diminishes the otherwise organic incentives that are necessary to generate the productivity required to deliver such security. The smaller and more homogeneous the society the more likely it can work, at least for a while, but there will inevitably be serious costs in overall standard of living, very little economic or social mobility, and eventually a serious brain/brawn/character drain absent mettalic curtains.

  • You are conflating two phenomena: 1. the inclination of the government to balance its books and 2. the effect of the relative size of the public sector and what it rewards and what it does not on the economic dynamism of the country in question.

    Bar in exceptional circumstances (and Greece is likely now in such circumstances), the government can balance its books if it so chooses. It chooses not to in part out of habit, in part in thrall to Keynesian notions of the utility of public sector borrowing which (per many economists) apply only when their is exceptional slack in the economy, and in part as a consequence of patron-client politics.

    You might say that fiscal responsibility is difficult in circumstances where so many incomes are politically determined. You might also posit that particular tax and benefit configurations induce demographic implosion. These are different arguments than one which says that annual improvements in per capita income of 1.4% as opposed to 2% render common provision unsustainable.

  • I do understand the two concepts, but they are not so easily disentangled. My point is that the second phenomenon makes the first very difficult in the long run, though not necessarily impossible under certain conditions that probably cannot exist in the US.

  • The per capita income of the United States was, in 1960, about 40% of what it is today. Prior to 1960, the U.S. Government balanced its budget bar in exceptional circumstances (which circumstances were regrettably common during the period running from 1929 to 1955, but that’s another story). Enhanced affluence has not improved the government’s ability to balance its budget, quite the contrary. The United States has also been on a lower growth trajectory than other occidental countries, as has Switzerland. Neither country is given more than its peers to state intervention, but both are on the technologial frontier, meaning improvements in output have to be driven by innovation as well as application.

    Think about applying your hypothesis on a micro scale. You have ten men selected at random from urban neighborhoods at age 23. You are going to find that at age 46 they have quite a range of incomes because of how their skill sets developed over the years. They will likely have quite a range of relative debt loads as well, but that is (bar at the bottom of the scale) going to be derived from their ability and willingness to defer gratification (and various accidents), not their quantum of human capital.

  • Art,
    I’m not suggesting that the US’s deficit is predominantly caused by welfare spending as such — I do recognize that lack of discipline, but then again I’ve never suggested that the US is a welfare state. My point is that welfare states invite serious long term fiscal problems because (i) paying for cradle to grave security requires high tax rates that discourage the work and investment that produce the tax base upon which those rates are applied and (ii) cradle to grave security is a pretty good option compared to work, which increases the need for more spending while simultaneously decreasing the number of workers paying taxes. The ensuing fiscal challenges can presumably be met by living with substantially lower standards of living and greatly reduced economic and social mobility, but most people don’t really want to live with these things, so politicians respond by deficit spending. Now of course you can say then the problem is still one of lack of discipline in such a case, and you’d be right. But one cannot say that welfare state spending does not increase the pressure to deficit spend. And it does so more than most other types of spending because of the perverse incentives that cannot be eliminated, at least in a true welfare state. The bottom line is that cradle to grave security is an expensive proposition in a modern society, and raising the revenue necessary to pay for it encounters both political and economic difficulties.

  • The Scandanavian countries are net lenders despite their larger welfare states. And they have great economic growth. Yes, they have higher taxes but they also have better incentives. They have low corporate tax rates. They use school vouchers. The American tax and welfare system is the world’s most complex yet we have little to show for it.

  • Donald,

    Thank you for sharing that enlightening video clip.

    My opinion of Sweden has increased.

    I’m also now going to add Reason.tv to my video-roll of viewing.

    Incredible.

    He advises the U.S. not to increase taxes for a poorly efficient public sector.

    Sweden owes the vast majority of it’s high level of living standard to “free markets, de-regulation, lowering of progressive tax rates, and privatization of many formerly government owned sectors of the economy”.

    Fascinating.

    And Obama wants us to be more like Europe.

    What a maroon.

  • “Are we all Greeks now?”

    Let’s just say not yet, but we can taste the souvlaki.

  • The problem is not ‘the welfare state’, but a welfare state incorporating perverse incentives…-Art Deco

    No “welfare” scheme can escape “incorporating perverse incentives.” Making “welfare” a State function only adds to the number and intractability of its perverse incentives. This is especially so in any State based on a principle of equal rights.

  • RR,
    First, I acknowledge that our patchwork welfare system is inefficient, likely more inefficent than those employed by other western nations. For that reason I have long favored replacing all transfer payments, including social security, with a negative income tax. My instinct (and that is all it is) is that the additional costs associated with the work disincentive caused by such a program would be overwhelmed by the savings permitted by gutting the existing myriad of programs.

    Regarding Sweden, (I think Don’s video addressed other issues), which incentives exactly are you talking about?

  • Micha is correct. A true welfare state necessarily diminishes the incentive to work or engage in entrepreneurship by rewarding doing nothing, especially if the safety net is more generous than bare subsistence. Without necessity, no invention, as they say. As workers gravitate to participate in the safety net, program costs increase necessitating tax rate increases that add to the discouragement of workers and investors.

    Unlike many conservatives, I do not oppose income or wealth redistribution entirely. While I favor private action, I think government can have a significant role. But government policy must be carefully crafted to strike a balance between assisting the truly needy, especially children and the disabled, and avoiding the enablement of able-bodied adults to avoid work. Crafting such policy necessarily requires imperfect compromises given the competing considerations. All too often liberals have an excessively rosy understanding of human nature. People will take advantage of any system you give them. The capacity for rationalization is not limited to Greek protestors. Indeed, in this very forum I’ve read orthodox Catholic posters insist that it is morally acceptable to walk away from an upside down mortgage even if one can make the payments — because the lender never should have given you the loan, you see. People are self-interested, and while generous welfare programs may be well-motivated they will encourage perverse behavior. Moreover, government assistance inevitably becomes perceived as entitlements that can be relied on as opposed to charity that is uncertain.

  • Mike, I was talking about exactly the things that the video that Don posted talks about. The Scandinavian welfare states are more efficient. Freer trade. Lower corporate taxes. School vouchers. VAT.

    I too would like to see all transfer payments replaced with something like a negative income tax.

  • Restrained Radical,

    You comment here often so why not add a pic to your ID?

  • Charity creates perverse incentives. Perverse incentives can’t be avoided if you want to help the needy but they can be minimized. I have an idea for a welfare system: If you’re able to work, the government can offer $5/hour make-work jobs picking up trash, watering plants, or even just running around in circles.

  • restrainedradical:

    Yes it does, but government charity is far more pernicious in creating such incentives than is private charity. The former is viewed as a legal entitlement whereas the latter as voluntary. The latter cannot be counted on and is understood as a gift that has not been earned.

    “Workfare” proposals have been around forever, but never seem to secure traction. I seem to recall that there are some reasonable and sound explanations for this, but cannot recall what they might be.

  • If you’re able to work, the government can offer $5/hour make-work jobs picking up trash, watering plants, or even just running around in circles

    As someone currently employed by the government, I can honestly say that some public sector employment is nothing more than a thinly-disguised version of this. What some people would do without it, I don’t know. Starvation is not an acceptable answer.

  • I should hasten to add that during my time working for large corporations, I saw plenty of “make work” jobs. Those employees were perhaps in a more precarious situation than their civil service counterparts, but it was a similar type of job nonetheless.

  • “What some people would do without it, I don’t know. Starvation is not an acceptable answer.”

    Repair my roof? Cut my lawn? Wallpaper my kitchen? Paint my garage? Clean my gutters? I’d pay more than $5 per hour.

  • …government policy must be carefully crafted to strike a balance between assisting the truly needy, especially children and the disabled, and avoiding the enablement of able-bodied adults to avoid work. Crafting such policy necessarily requires imperfect compromises given the competing considerations.Mike Petrik

    Ahh, but in a State founded the principle that all men are created equal in the sight of the law making such distinctions between people leads to the creation of legions of bureaucrats trapped into robotically following rulebooks of every growing size, complexity, and loopholes inevitably spawned by such complexity. The “imperfect compromises” ultimately lead to “the enablement of able-bodied adults to avoid work” and some of “the truly needy” being denied State assistance.

    Alas, the attempt to “strike a balance” within a State welfare scheme in a nation founded on a principle of equal, individual rights is thus doomed to be the pursuit of an illusion. In America, that has become a very costly pursuit and the costs are not only borne by the nation in mere dollars and cents.

    Perhaps a welfare State in a nation of culturally and ethnically homogenous people that has a class system is less encumbered by the consequences of the necessary imperfect compromises required by a State welfare scheme. Homogeneity of the populace in a welfare State has been discussed elsewhere. Less commented upon is that in a class system, the bureaucrat who is of the upper class can deny or approve the lower class supplicant based on consideration of individual circumstances with no or very circumscribed possibilities for appealing the decision.

    P.S. There is no such thing as “government charity.”

  • Micha,
    I don’t think that the Declaration’s claim that all men are created equal is particularly at fault here, though I do agree that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause has very gradually given rise to a culture that seems to demand equal treatment in every way under every circumstances, even though court decisions, while imperfect and not completely consistent, do not demand anything like this. That said, I do agree with your general point that equal protection reasoning, and equal protection psychology, permeates and paralyzes bureaucracies. And I acknowledge that this makes the compromises I describe somewhat more difficult, but improvements can be made. The Clinton Administration’s welfare reform was certainly a step in the right direction, and was not derailed by equal protection obsessions. And it is worth noting that benefits are far more available to mothers with children than single men, which is a terrific example of well-intended rules with perverse incentives.
    I have no brief on the use of the word “charity” to describe transfer payments. I normally don’t prefer the word for the reason you suggest, but it can certainly be justified on the ground that it is the expression of the will of the people to voluntarily tax themselves to provide for others in need, even if imperfectly. The government is acting as the agent of its citizens, nothing more. I understand that this view of government action does not sit well with libertarians, but I’m not a libertarian.

  • There are mixed economies, and there are mixed economies.

    I was once involved in local politics and in that capacity a careful student of the New York State Statistical Yearbook. It has been a while, but working from memory here and bits and pieces of data I have seen in recent years, I will draw up a back of the envelope grocery list:

    –School vouchers
    (for primary and secondary eduction)… 4.5% of GDP

    –Medical Insurance (for acute care,
    structured per Milton Friedman) … 6.0% of GDP

    –L/T Care Insurance (nursing homes,
    group homes, asylums, &c., structured
    similarly to the above) … 2.0% of GDP

    –Unemployment compensation … 1.5% of GDP

    –Remittances to those with a
    negative income tax liability
    (structured per M. Friedman) … 3.5% of GDP

    –Child Protective & Foster Care … 0.5% of GDP

    –Miscellaneous (public defender,
    legal aid society, public service
    jobs & clinics on Indian
    reservations, disaster relief,
    refugee resettlement, deficits
    of mass transit systems). … 0.5% of GDP

    –Intergovernmental transfers to
    impecunious states and localities
    (net) … 1.0% of GDP

    That amounts to 20.5% of domestic product and covers the waterfront (from my perspective, not the President’s). Prior to 1914, the ratio of public expenditure to domestic product in occidental countries was, if I am not mistaken, around 0.10, and some portion of that was devoted to the common provision of the day, most typically manifest in public agencies (schools, asylums, city hospitals, sanitariums, orphanages, veterans’ hospitals, poor houses, &c.). Here in New York, public expenditure apart from welfare, education, and law enforcement typically amounts to about 5.5% of domestic product, I think. Law enforcement at one time amounted to about 2% of domestic product; it is now more than that and money well spent, but other occidental countries may be able to get by with less for similar results. The United States spends about 5% of domestic product on the military and espionage services. I think the global mean might be around 2.5%. Provision of gas, electricity, and water are properly undertaken by public agencies or regulated monopolies and might amount to 2% of domestic product.

    In other words, a welfare state with a baseline of public services can generally be had with a ratio of public expenditure to domestic product of 0.33 (in peacetime and barring a banking crisis), give or take some portion dependent upon local circumstances.

    By way of contrast, at the time Margaret Thatcher took office in 1979, the ratio of public expenditure to domestic product was about 0.43; the output of state-owned industry amounted to 10% of domestic product; and about a third of all metropolitan households were living in public housing. All told, the state sector amounted to about 55% of domestic product.

    Borrowing from abroad (and note that Greece’s balance of payments deficit on current account is running at 14% of domestic product) is not sustainable; routinized public sector borrowing is not (after a generation or two) sustainable. Demographic implosion makes for an unsustainable society as well as an unsustainable state. All of these are phenomena distinct from maintaining a vigorous ethic of common provision.

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November 2009, Stupak Never Intended to Vote No on ObamaCare

Monday, March 22, AD 2010

Last November during a town hall meeting near the Upper Peninsula Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, an alleged “pro-lifeDemocrat that recently voted for government funding of abortion, made it clear that he was never going to vote “No” on ObamaCare.

Biretta tip to Sydney Carton and Alicia Colon.

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30 Responses to November 2009, Stupak Never Intended to Vote No on ObamaCare

  • From the Weekly Standard:

    The GOP is now offering its motion to recommit: the Stupak-Pitts amendment which passed the House 240 to 194 in November to ban abortion-funding. If it passes, the bill will have to go back to the Senate for approval, which means at least 25 Democrats will flip-flop on their previous vote on Stupak.

    Stupak is now urging fellow members to vote it down.

    Update: The Stupak amendment fails 199 to 232.

  • “The American Catholic”? Really? So you are American first, and Catholic second? Or what?

  • Yeah, and as Roman Catholic, I’m Roman first and Catholic second. Yeesh.

    You guys should have named this blog The Catholics Who Live in the United States of of America, Don’t Really Hate it, and Aren’t Self-loathing. Not that some would appreciate it, but you’d be denying them juvenile semantic plays.

  • I’m pretty sure I heard about this at the time. Wasn’t it excused by some pro-life leaders (or maybe his spokesman) as a necessary profession of open-mindedness?

    In his defense, a man in Stupak’s position can’t afford to appear totally uncompromising all of the time.

    I am disappointed that so little came out of the Stupak fight. He fought and lost but wouldn’t commit political suicide over it.

    How can pro-lifers limit the damage and strengthen a bipartisan pro-life coalition for the future? If Stupak had real help in the Senate, for instance, he would have had less need to compromise.

    (Juvenile semanticism should often be deleted to stop tangents. Don’t feed the pedants.)

  • I think I remember reading that Stupak is Catholic.

    That being said, and given the smart-mouth remarks previously posted, I would guess that Stupak’s label would best be a “Democrat Catholic” in regards to his way of voting. Political Party man first, God’s second.

  • No one has worked harder than Mr. Stupak to protect the unborn throughout this whole process. No one… not one Republican, not any bishop. I love the Church. I am 100% Catholic, by God’s grace. I am particularly concerned with the plight of the unborn. I think that Mr. Stupak is very sincere and his conscience is clean before God. He and his fellow pro-life democrats have been the voice of reason in this debate. Both pro-abortion Dems and anti-health care reform Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. Neither group has taken account of the poor and downtrodden

  • Patrick,

    If he was sincere, he would’ve voted “no” on the final bill.

  • It puzzles me that he held out for so long to only give in to a worthless piece of paper. Not to be all conspiratorial, but my feelings are that this was done intentionally by the Democratic leadership in order to buy themselves more time. They did not have the support of those on the far left (i.e. Kucinich) who wanted a strong public option and/or a single payer system. So, in order to garner the support of the severe leftists, they made it sound as if there were pro-life democrats who were holding out.

    The thing is: there is no such thing as a pro-life democrat.

  • When given the chance to support his own amendment, Representative Bart Stupak described it as “cynical”.

  • Mr. Stupak straddled two logs, upholding the great tradition of political BS in this cgreat country. He milked the pro-life folks and it is concievable that he was not sorry he lost the vote there. His vote on the Medical reform bill no longer mattered. He was free to abstain in accord with his professed “conscience” or again vote negative on the Reform Bill. To vote for the Bill truly stinks since it allows him to straddle both sides of the debate which in turn allows him to advance his own personal poliltical agenda from the pro-life folks was well as from the abortion folks. A true Solomonic/Satanic choice. He didn’t save the baby, so he cut the baby in half!

  • FYI: Cheboyan is in the lower peninsula of Michigan. Oh yeah, Stupak sucks.

  • Another politician that bears all the traits to be in the Congress of the USA. 1. Liar 2. Cheat 3. favors genocide(abortion). If the Government were serious about health they could make it free for every American (legal) and stop giving away our tax dollars to themselves and foreign countries that are against every thing that we stand for. YOU DO THE MATH……

  • Will,

    Thanks for pointing that out.

    I’m not a Michigander, but it sure is close to U.P.

  • The question I have is this. Did Richard Doerflinger who led the last minute rush to include the Stupak amendment in the House bill know about this, did Nat’l Right to Life know about this. Where has this been. Why are we just know getting it!!!!!!

  • If the Bishops knew about this and if Nat’l Right to life knew about this at the time the Stupak amendment was put in the House bill, then our own Bishops and our own Right to Life groups have betrayed us!!!!!

  • To Patrick:
    Charity for the poor and downtrodden is a good thing. But only if it’s FREE WILL VOLUNTARY! The entire governmental welfare system is corrupt as it is never moral to forcibly take from one person, even if the intent is to give to another person for a “good” intention. The original theft negates any possible “good.” Taxes should only go to things that have equal possible use for everyone, i.e. police, fire protection, infrastructure, etc., never to force anyone to give even one dime to another for nothing in return. Theft by “majority rule” is still theft. All government forced wealth transfer is immoral, period, whether for “health care” or anything else.

  • Stupak went through months of hell from pro-abortion advocates, gets a concession from a politician like Obama, and now he gets this vituperation from people who were singing his praises days before?

    He lost in the Senate and had no good options, supporting his party gave him an opening to fight another day. Pelosi already had votes in reserve, but Stupak just helped out his threatened fellow Democrats who were allowed to vote no. That’s how you advance in a party.

    Stupak has pledged to go back and fix things if it is necessary:

    During the press conference announcing his last hour support for the bill, Stupak said: “the statutory language, we’d love to have it. But we can’t get it through the Senate. And we’re not giving up. If there was something we missed, we’re coming back with legislative fixes. These right-to-life Democrats, who really carried the right-to-life ball throughout this whole debate, we will continue to do that. We will work with our colleagues to get the job done.”

    If he really were only a craven opportunist, he would have abandoned his pro-life fight long ago. His situation is ugly, and the EO is almost useless, but he got more done than if he had just followed the party leadership.

    His months of fighting was a show of loyalty to the pro-life cause. Doesn’t he deserve pro-lifers’ critical loyalty rather than critical rejection?

  • “Doesn’t he deserve pro-lifers’ critical loyalty rather than critical rejection?”

    No. He caved and settled for a useless fig leaf to hide his abject surrender. He deserves all the scorn he is reaping. I regret every positive word I wrote about Stupak. In the final analysis making his peace with his party was more important to him than the pro-life cause.

  • @ Jim S.

    “The development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family working together in true communion, not simply a group of subjects who happen to live side by side.”

    (Words given by Pope Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate.)

    If you ask around I believe you will find that your consideration of paying taxes as theft and thus a moral evil incapable of bearing any good to be very isolated and unacceptable to 99% of people(including Christ Himself see: Mt 22:17-23)

    You mentioned charity, but reduced it to government run almsgiving. Upon further reflection I hope you find that charity is much more dynamic than you propose (see 1 Cor 13 for example).

    As Catholic followers of Christ we should look to HIM and not to figures like Rush Limbaugh for answers. Christ is our model. See how he had compassion on the multitudes and fed them (Mt.15:32), taught them (Mk. 6:34)and yes, healed them of their infirmities (Mt 14:14; 20:34; 1:41; etc… He gave His very life for us and has asked us to do the same (Mt 16:24).

    St John asks: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1Jn. 3:17)

    True charity, a real love of our brothers, is the priviledge and the gift given by God to us. Social Darwinist, ultra-conservative “Christians” may very well find themselves in the same predicament as the rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day, oblivious of the righteous man Lazarus sitting outside his door. (Lk 16:19-31).

  • I missed the part in the Gospels Patrick where Christ decreed that it was the duty of Caesar to take care of the poor. Statist attempted solutions of taking care of the poor have an abysmal track record. Christians have a duty to care for the poor personally. I do not think we have a duty to have the State confiscate funds from taxpayers under the pretext of caring for the poor.

  • Duh. The Catholic faithful haave suffered enough while the Church goes chasing after socialis progressive ideals. I suggest you read the history of Marx, Lennin and Saul Alinsky

  • “Doesn’t he deserve pro-lifers’ critical loyalty rather than critical rejection?”

    I think Stupak deserves our forgiveness and prayers, but not our loyalty. My prayers go out to both Ben Nelson and Bart Stupak for I think both of them have consciences and are suffering and perhaps even condemning themselves more than we are condemning them. They are both casualties, and Lord only knows of all the other casualties due to the tactics used by Obama, Reid, Pelosi, et al. The problem therein lies within me as my heart tells me that there is unconscionable evil abounding in Washington in the form of Obama and Pelosi, those who will continue exploiting others for their own selfish ends, yes, even the perhaps noble motions of Stupak. Once Stupak examined his very ignoble acquiescence of yesterday followed by drinking and partying, one would hope his disillusionment set in about the deal he had just struck. Pelosi and Obama, however, seem to be stuck in perpetual happiness with themselves, totally. We are told to pray for their conversion, but would it do any good? As C.S. Lewis said, “should they be confirmed forever in their present happiness, should they continue for all eternity to be perfectly convinced that the laugh is on their side?” I detected no mocking tone or cavalier attitude in Stupak’s interview today, but perhaps confusion. It is not his intent, nor Ben Nelson’s, to eliminate undesirable elements of society. But what is the intent of our most pro-abort President ever, who would deny medical care to a still-alive aborted fetus, and the 100-percent NARAL rated Pelosi, who voted against the ban on partial birth abortion? I cannot fathom the evil that lurks in their hearts and souls.

  • Read the reply list and you will soon recognize the problem. We are much closer to Anarchy than we are to Socialism. Stupak is playing his own game (anarchy) just like all other congressmen do. Read some history about other empires and how they failed. You need not be a scholar to figure it out. The United States and the Catholic Church needs to step back and look at the one thing that creates good and rejects evil. It is called UNITY. Remember the Trinity?

  • The cynicism is overwhelming. We won’t even allow a matter of days to play out before we cast our stones at Mr. Stupak, who has probably spent the last few weeks and months agonizing over how to do the right thing in the midst of this complex and relatively poor political system. I am amazed that we already feel the authority to judge not only his actions, but his culpability. Time will tell what the fruit of his labors will be, and may we pray that those fruits will be the preservation of many lives; yet, no amount of time will ever reveal to us the inner thoughts or intentions of a man’s heart.

  • Thank you TM for a mature reply.

  • To Patrick,

    It is not the place of the government to take money from its people to freely give to another group of people and we as citizens should not accept this. This precept is not Christian nor Catholic for it breaks the 10th commandment. We are called as Christians to give to the poor and downtrodden. We are not called as Christians to have money taken from us and given to someone else because the government deamed it something good. Charity comes from people not from governments. Our welfare, medicare, etc systems are in a mess and do nothing but hold people down in poverty. Welfare is to help people until they get on their feet not to sustain them their entire lifes even though they have the ability to work. This is evil not good.

  • TM: Since we know that in November 2009 Stupak indicated that he NEVER intended to vote no on Obamacare, where do you get the idea that he has spent “the last few weeks and months agonizing over how to do the right thing?” Your defense of him is clearly negated by what the man said himself, right in front of a camera.

    He used the unborn as pawns in a political game designed to fool gullible pro-lifers and place himself in the spotlight. Now that’s what I call cynicism.

  • Be careful–Stupak will lie about other things as well. The key word is FOOL and we are that FOOL…

  • My only intent in posting this is to edify those who may not know. Bart, Jr., Stupak’s youngest son, committed suicide approximately ten years ago. I don’t know whether this tragic event played any role in Stupak’s initial heroic stance on abortion and his subsequent shameless cave-in, but, in any event, he and his family certainly deserve our prayers.

Now This, This Would be a Sign of the Apocalypse!

Wednesday, January 13, AD 2010

A Republican may be elected to serve out Ted Kennedy’s unexpired term?  It could happen! Public Policy Polling, a Democrat leaning polling outfit shows the election a toss up between the Democrat Coakley and the Republican Brown.  Scott Rasmussen, the best political pollster in the business in my opinion, shows Coakley up by two.  Last week he showed her up by nine.  On Monday Brown raised over a million dollars in one day in internet donations.

If Brown wins the Senate race in the Peoples’ Republic of Massachusetts, it will send a political shock wave across this country the like of which hasn’t been seen in many a year.  If Ted Kennedy’s senate seat isn’t safe, what seat is safe for the Democrats?  Oh, I don’t believe that I should call it Ted Kennedy’s seat per Mr. Brown.

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13 Responses to Now This, This Would be a Sign of the Apocalypse!

  • From where I sit, I do not think there is any chance Scott Brown will be elected. Massachusetts politics are too corrupt.

  • It is an uphill climb Zach, no doubt about that. It is interesting however that Massachusetts does have a history of electing Republican governors fairly recently, so the idea of a Republican winning statewide is certainly not impossible.

  • I don’t expect Brown to win, but then, I didn’t expect Corzine to lose in deep blue NJ either. If Brown comes within a couple of points of Coakley, Dems should still be very nervous. Coakley ran a dreadful campaign, because she expected it would be a waltz. She thought she wouldn’t have to fight for “the Kennedy seat” (ah, Massachusetts – or should I say Massachusettes, like the cool kidz do – once upon a time you rebelled against royalty). The fact that she does, in fact, have a battle on her hands is unnerving her.

    If Brown manages to pull it off, I shall develop a strange new respect for Massachusetts voters.

  • Eric

    It seems “you can’t vote for or support a pro-choice candidate” because “they are baby killers” and “supporting baby killers should get you excommunicated” might be countered with “He’s a Republican” and that’s good enough for some. It also suggests that much of that rhetoric is just political rhetoric, and not indicative of belief when there are these cheers for a pro-choice candidate. So you are right to point this out. Shows quite a few things all in one.

  • From what I can tell thus far, Brown is indeed, essentially, pro-choice.

    http://thephoenix.com/BLOGS/dontquoteme/archive/2010/01/04/scott-brown-s-abortion-problem.aspx

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/01/04/abortion_stances_of_brown_coakley_not_so_easily_defined/?page=1

    His support for minor pro-life initiatives notwithstanding, in my mind, a minimal pro-life position includes opposition to RvW.

    However, his opponent is also pro-choice, and apparently has a voting record more favorable to the abortion industry.

    In this case should Catholics vote for a “lesser evil” or abstain altogether? The ‘Catholic Answers’ voting guide says:

    “In some political races, each candidate takes a wrong position on one or more issues involving non-negotiable moral principles. In such a case you may vote for the candidate who takes the fewest such positions or who seems least likely to be able to advance immoral legislation, or you may choose to vote for no one.”

    “Not voting may sometimes be the only moral course of action, but we must consider whether not voting actually promotes good and limits evil in a specific instance.”

    http://thephoenix.com/BLOGS/dontquoteme/archive/2010/01/04/scott-brown-s-abortion-problem.aspx

    Tough call. Voting for the Democrat is clearly out. Voting for Brown? I wouldn’t. I would abstain. But by this criteria anyway, one might vote for Brown.

  • The Catholic Answers voting guide fails to meet Catholic moral standards. On the other hand, I thought people said you could never “vote for a pro-baby killer, even if it is the least of evils.” Now when you start reasoning “least of evil” allows prudential decision as to who one should vote for, then people who saw no practical difference between Obama and McCain were fine with voting Obama and not to be condemned as being “pro-death.” I say this not as one who voted for Obama, since I didn’t. I am just pointing out how it is always convenient there are always excuses given for Republicans. But if one “can never bend” then it would seem supporting a pro-choicer is a no-go, and one should either abstain from voting or vote for someone who is going to lose.

    Again, all this shows is the double-standards, nothing else.

  • Coakley is attacking Brown for being pro-life, which he is not:

    http://www.lifenews.com/state4720.html

    Coakley is in favor of partial birth abortions which Brown is against. If I were in Massachusetts I would vote for Brown, although my vote would actually be against Coakley.

    Here is a story exploring the abortion positions of Coakley and Brown.

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/01/04/abortion_stances_of_brown_coakley_not_so_easily_defined/?page=1

  • Coakley thinks that if you are a faithful Catholic you shouldn’t work in emergeny rooms because of emergency “contraception”.

    “Ken Pittman: Right, if you are a Catholic, and believe what the Pope teaches that any form of birth control is a sin. ah you don’t want to do that.
    Martha Coakley: No we have a seperation of church and state Ken, lets be clear.

    Ken Pittman: In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom.

    Martha Coakley: (…stammering) The law says that people are allowed to have that. You can have religious freedom but you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room.”

    http://www.redmassgroup.com/diary/6604/coakley-you-can-have-religious-freedom-but-you-probably-shouldnt-work-in-the-emergency-room

    Man, if I were in Massachusetts I would crawl over broken glass to vote against this bigot.

  • “The Catholic Answers voting guide fails to meet Catholic moral standards.”

    Then which voter guide does meet them? I’m open to suggestions. How do Catholics – who care about the teaching of the Church, that is – in Europe or other countries where all of the candidates support abortion rights vote? Do they vote? If so, what is their criteria?

    “I thought people said you could never “vote for a pro-baby killer, even if it is the least of evils.”

    What “people” are you referring to?

    “But if one “can never bend””

    If one is obliged to vote, and all the candidates are pro-choice, then it can’t be “bending.” Some Catholics believe they have a moral obligation to vote for SOMEONE – some take it further and say there is an obligation to vote for someone who is likely to win, ruling out third party candidates who have no shot.

    I am not so certain about that. There are times when Acts 5:29 trumps Romans 13:1. This is possibly one of those times – to withdraw from the political process altogether.

    If there is a clear Church teaching on what one is to do in a situation where all of the candidates support an intrinsic evil, I would like to see it. I believe the CA voter guide was based on what JP II said in Evangelium Viate:

    ” In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.”

    My guess is that they believe this would apply to voters as well.

  • The Catholic Answers voting guide, I think, is based on a false understanding of how to apply natural law principles to specific situations and circumstances. It more or less sets up a proportionalist trap. In my view, it is no more logical than the voting strategy set up by Catholics United that does not understand the hierachy of values.

    If anything, there is a radical modern misunderstanding of the virtue of prudence, which is founded upon the edifice, which Pope John Paul II himself often referred to, of “right reason.” Since Machiavelli wrote The Prince, both virtue and prudence (which is a virtue, obviously) have been radically misunderstood.

    Nevertheless, Catholic Answers’ Voting Guide for “Serious” Catholics is not a magisterial document, which is evident, I think, in the defiencies in its philosophical presumptions and I personally don’t feel obligated to vote in accord with it. The pope’s encylical might have inspired the voting guide, but that doesn’t make it void of errors–not that you suggested anything to the contrary.

    Moreover, I see this growing trend of Senate Republicans with this view — Hutchison, Snowe, Collins. Moreover, I am more appalled that pro-life organizations such as the one in Massachusetts (endorsing Brown) might endorse such candidates in their races if the other person is “more pro-choice.” I would think it better not to compromise your principles and not endorse the less-than-stellar “pro-life” candidate and rather just emphasize how bad the pro-choice candidate’s record is. It really boils down to proportionalist tendencies, which in some respects is inevitable.

    I seriously am very sympathetic to the argument which due to current circumstances makes it “non-negotiable” for voting Catholics to vote Republican, but in effect, it turns the pro-life vote into what African Americans have become to Democrats — a bloc of “sure” votes where Republicans win office and by and large govern as if the very issues we voted for them on are non-issues. The next election they throw us the same old rhetoric and “renew” their committment, but nothing goes differently. The Republican strategist can measure that the most strident pro-life Americans will not vote for a Democrat and even if a nominal pro-life Republican is running, we will judge that it “better than nothing” and vote for the Republican anyway to stop the “worse policies” of the Democrat. This trend seems spiraling and self reinforcing, which I don’t see how we can upset the status quo or change the indifference of some, or even, many Republican elected officials without their losing, or electing those who will upset the status quo — but how can you tell? It’s very difficult.

    I am sure there is a lot of this, in which, you and I probably have acute agreement. My greatest issue, or rather my cynicism, is unlike with slavery or other issues in the past, is that contemporary politics has found comfort in the status quo on all sides of the contemporary moral issues to the chagrin of those who are powerfully convicted, one way or another, on such issues. In other words, with say, slavery, you know that your opponent will try to craft the law in conformity with their views on slavery — either total legality or total illegality. There was no “reducing the number of slaves” rhetoric or strategic incremental methods for bringing about its illegality. This is most obvious to me in the fact that the Republicans have replaced the majority of the post-Roe court or the less-than-desirable amount of pro-life legislation coming off of Republican-controlled committees in Republican-dominated Congresses and so forth. From a practical order, considering current political trends, practices, and circumstances, I don’t buy the Catholic Answers argument for reasons other my philosophical issues with it — it seems to me to just preserve the status quo. Nothing I’ve said means vote Democratic. It does unveil we’ve got a lot of work to do.

    The other difficulty I have — and this is personal — is that by my prudential calculation which I am obliged in conscience to follow is that a pro-choice Republican should not receive my vote, being such a worldview is, more or less, my political antithesis and following my views, a detriment to the common good. Does that mean vote for the pro-choice Democrat? Not necessarily.

    I am also very fascinated by the fact that for many Republicans his abortion stance is virtually a non-issue and they are advocating that he win to block the health care bill — largely a consequentialist line of reasoning, regardless of one’s views on the health care reform efforts. This is especially true when one considers the line of thinking that amounted to counter-efforts against the pro-choice Republican candidate running for the House in New York that met party opposition for being a “RINO.”

  • Eric,

    “Catholic Answers’ Voting Guide for “Serious” Catholics is not a magisterial document”

    No one, least of all myself, claimed that it was. The problem is that there does not appear to be a magisterial document that addresses this issue. We face a similar dilemma with torture, though in that case, I think it is more clear if one really bothers to look and reflect on all that has been said.

    “which is evident, I think, in the defiencies in its philosophical presumptions”

    It isn’t evident. That is the problem. Perhaps you could explain it again? That such a document would not be “void of errors” is practically a given – I only used it as an example. It is one of the more well-considered examples, too, so I shudder to think what some of the other voter guides looked like.

    “There was no “reducing the number of slaves” rhetoric or strategic incremental methods for bringing about its illegality.”

    Ha! I agree, but tell it to the neo-Confederate historians, whom a surprising number of Catholic conservative intellectuals appear to agree with. On this point I simply know the history too well – it was all or nothing for the South.

  • dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

    Great line, but I doubt the sequel will be any good:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1289401/

    Enjoy!

Of Tea and Elections

Monday, September 14, AD 2009

I have had my eyes on the tea party movement protesting government spending since the beginning of the movement.  On Saturday a huge national tea party protest was held in Washington.  Estimates of crowd size range from 500,000 to 2.3 million.  Some organs of the mainstream media are attempting to downplay the significance of this event.  Politicians on both sides of the aisle are not so gullible.  They realize that a political storm is brewing.  Perhaps even more significant than this show of strength by the forces opposed to the drunken sailor spending of the Obama administration are the state tea parties taking place each week.  For example in the completely blue state of Illinois, my home state, there was a tea party at New Lennox near Joliet last week that drew 10,000 people.   This weekend a tea party at Quincy, Illinois drew 12000 people.   Receiving scant coverage from the national media, these parties are are becoming a real factor in the 2010 elections.

Charlie Cook is one of the best political prognosticators in the business.  Here is what he is seeing:

 

“Even in the best of times, Congress is unpopular. And now voters see Obama as having sent suggestions rather than proposals to the Hill, staking his future and reputation on a body that they hold in low regard. (On foreign-policy matters, where Congress plays a small role, Obama’s job-approval ratings remain quite good. It’s on the domestic side that his numbers are dismal.)

With 14 months to go before the 2010 midterm election, something could happen to improve the outlook for Democrats. However, wave elections, more often than not, start just like this: The president’s ratings plummet; his party loses its advantage on the generic congressional ballot test; the intensity of opposition-party voters skyrockets; his own party’s voters become complacent or even depressed; and independent voters move lopsidedly away. These were the early-warning signs of past wave elections. Seeing them now should terrify Democrats.”

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7 Responses to Of Tea and Elections

  • To be sure, this movement is about liberty and the founding principles. Every hour we work to fund unconstitutional government boondoggles is an hour we are enslaved to it. The founding fathers never envisioned that so much power would be centralized and would trample the rights enshrined in the founding documents.

    It should also be noted that this is not a Republican movement, and many Republicans should fear it, but for the Democrats it should be terrifying.

  • Estimates of crowd size range from 500,000 to 2.3 million.

    No they don’t. The D.C. Fire and Emergency Department says 60,000-75,000. Most places are reporting 70,000. It is impressive but protests many times larger (Iraq War, immigration, March for Life) go ignored. After the world-record setting Iraq War protests, Bush was reelected. Obama is not invulnerable but this rally is hardly terrifying.

  • Restrained Radical the pictures of the events speak for themselves. This was clearly an event with at least 500,000 people in attendance.

    I would also note this comment from a participant:

    “Eric, September 13, 2009 2:20 PM
    The 70,000 number came from the original estimated size of the march, and the Fire Dept. safety estimate of the capacity of Freedom Square. This was the projected estimate of the expected crowd at 1130. The Capitol police ordered the march to begin at 0930, because Freedom Square had REACHED IT’S MAXIMUM SAFETY CAPACITY two hours before the event. The crowd filled the west lawn and spilled into the National Mall, where the Capitol Police tried to prevent overflow into the mall, but for safety reasons they permitted the attendees to fill the Mall ALMOST AS FAR AS 9TH STREET. I was there. You can try to prevent the truth from escaping, but every single person that was there is fired up,and you can’t stop first-person eyewitness accounts from leaking out.”

    http://www.freedomslighthouse.com/2009/09/video-shows-massive-crowd-gathered-for.html

  • A good article on the difficulties of determining the precise size of the crowd. I agree with him that good aerial pics of the event would make this a lot easier.

    http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/how-big-was-the-crowd/

  • I was there and there were clearly more than 70,000 the number is closer to 1+ million. I saw an estimate, using a statistical analysis of the area covered from aerial photographs and crowd density that puts it at 1.7 million, that is 1,700,000!!!

    It was peaceful, zero arrests, polite, chanting of USA, USA, chanting of we own the dome and we own the Mall, and singing of the national anthem. This is far more than a protest (and it isn’t necessarily against Obama or event the Demopublicans or the Republicrats) this is a pro-government movement — pro CONSTITUTIONAL government under God that is.

    Even the atheist from the so-called Objectivist Ayn Rand institute made some good points. The media, political establishment and the trans-national banking cartel known as the Federal Reserve want to downplay the numbers because they don’t want us to know that most of the people of the states and commonwealths of America, united, are of the same fundamental mind-set:

    ONLY USE THE POWERS ENUMERATED in the CONSTITUTION and never forget that the so-called separation of church and state is to PROTECT the church from the government — not the other way around.

    This is the beginning of the end (it will take time) of the decay of America (and probably Western Civilization) God willing. If not, it will be over — perhaps the second coming maybe just the downfall of civilization as we know it. The moral decay of a civilization always precedes the ultimate decay.

    Most of the people I met, from all over the country and one guy from Australia, were moral, God-fearing people who are sick of the decay, both moral and the rejection of God and the true American principles (based on Christian principles).

    We need not fail, we cannot give in and without seeming too much of an American exceptionalist [well maybe a little too much:)], the downfall of America is the downfall of civilization and the ascension of Communist/fascist/collectivist slavery.

    Sure the Church universal will not fail until Christ returns, but the Church in America has no such guarantee.

    My favorite sign, other than the one my wife made, was simple. It was white, with blue writing and it stated:

    Ephesians 6:12

    Mary of Sorrows, ora pro nobis.

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Spending Spree

Tuesday, September 8, AD 2009

Broke Uncle Sam

 

Hattip to Instapundit.  John Steele Gordon has a first rate article here detailing how we landed in the debt morass our nation is now bogged down in.    His last sentence is a completely accurate assessment of our options: ” Only necessity will force Congress to control long-term spending on its own.  And unless the body politic forces the needed changes, that necessity in the form of overwhelming debt is inescapable.”

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Congress Feeling the Heat

Sunday, August 2, AD 2009

town-hall-2

Hattip to Instapundit. Democrat Congress beings are reporting here that they are encountering angry constituents at their townhall meetings.  Now why would their constituents be so angry?

red-ink

Oh yeah.

There is a political storm brewing in this country of immense proportions.  If some members of Congress aren’t aware of it yet, they will be after they return from the August recess.

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11 Responses to Congress Feeling the Heat

  • I’m sorry that the storm is brewing up over the cost of the proposal rather than over some of the specifics in it. No matter how the proposed program is funded, it seems likely that “universal health care” will make abortion available without restriction or cost throughout America in the near future. In fact, I understand that is the upshot of the Capps amendment included in the version that just came out of committee in the House. Sadly, an increasingly number of Catholic commentators (at America, Commonweal, and Vox Nova, among others) seem to agree that the only possible curb on abortion in the future will have come in the form of increased social services for women who decide against it.

  • The news is overwhelmingly bad and getting worse… But the recession is almost over according to the White House and controlling the deficit is the Administrations #1 concern once the “economy is on track.”

    What is it about the commonsense approach to fiscal responsibility that Washington thinks doesn’t apply?

    I’m not saying that this is “simple” but only that some basic principles strongly recommend themselves:

    1) Stop digging the hole. If you are in debt, don’t contract more debt and suspend the growth on contracted debts by renegotiating where you can.

    2) Shed unused assets, particularly those that have ancillary costs, and apply the recovered cash to the debts with the highest effective cost.

    3) Suspend gifts and donations that are absolutely necessary. This is to say that the 3rd World will have to do without us for a while as we get the economy back on track. Sure it will hurt but it will hurt a lot less than bankrupting the only large-scale donor on the planet.

    4) Reduce taxes where it will have a real positive impact on spending.

    5) Reduce or eliminate taxes on business income for small businesses.

    I am sure there are lots of other choices that people much smarter than me would make. However, the Vice President sounds insane when he suggests that the best way to avoid national bankruptcy is to continue to feed the growing debt. I am equally certain that those statements are utterly incompatible with the President’s assertion that reducing America’s debt is critical to the nation’s sustained prosperity.

    In short, were the Legislature or the Executive Branches serious about the economy, they would not be extending unemployment benefits, contemplating new social programs, or offering $4,500 to Americans to give a short-term spike to the auto markets. These are the acts of persons who have thrown in the towel, the acts which, if done by a person rather than a government, would be a pre-curser to filing for Bankruptcy, not one who expected to avoid it.

  • Ron, don’t underestimate the anger being generated about abortions being funded. Just last week I was approached by a fairly apolitical acquaintance who told me he was livid about the prospect of National Health Care paying for abortions. Paying for abortions has always been a 70-30 split with 70% of the country against using any government funds to pay for abortions. The CongressCritters will be hearing a lot on this issue during the recess.

  • According to the Politico article — if I read it correctly — all the anger seems to be directed at Democratic Congresscritters. Surely Republicans are hearing the same concerns as well?

  • Are you referring to the staged protests occurring, many of which are manned by bussed in operatives?

  • No Mr. DeFrancisis these are not Acorn style faked protests that the Left has specialized in for decades in this country. This is the rage felt by the public against the woeful incompetence of the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress. However, please do your best to convince yourself and your colleagues on the Left that these are staged protests and that they have nothing to worry about in the 2010 elections.

  • Mr. DeFrancisis,

    My wife and I attended a Tea Party in June. Neither of us had been to a protest before.

    While there, we ran into many people from our places of work, our church, and our children’s schools. None of them had ever been to a protest before either.

    I make no prediction as to the effect of such protests since the Speaker and the President are hell bent on dragging our country into this no matter what we say or do. However, my personal experience suggests that they have sparked a visceral response that will not easily be set aside. The fantasy that this is all a conspiracy – some sort of a plot by business – is laughable at best and utterly corrupt at worst.

    Where was all of this skepticism of protests during the Bush years? Where was the indignation at the suggestion that our President was a liar, the Congress a bunch of corrupt lackeys, and our nation a bunch of sheep?

    No… Those struggling to defend the lies of the Obama Administration and of Pelosi’s Congress are a hypocritical lot, concerned more with maintaining political power than doing what is good for our country.

  • What must really be causing cognitive dissonance on the left is the fact that these tea parties are not only growing, they’re also taking place in blue states like New York. If they were limited to the South and rural areas, the liberals could continue to snicker and sneer about rednecks and sore losers. But there have been tea parties in deep blue states, in places like Long Island and (fittingly) Boston. Lefties see that and conclude that these people must have been bussed in from somewhere else because it’s unthinkable that anyone in Long Island could be possibly upset about government spending.

    There were a lot of anti-war protests in my neighborhood back in the day (2003-2008. There’s still a war on and things are heating up in Afghanistan and yet, amazingly, I haven’t seen a single anti-war protest this summer. Hmmmm, what could possibly be different?) So I know what a professional protestor – a leftist cause junkie – looks like. These tea party folks are amateurish by comparison – no Move On folks passing out slick manufactured signs.

    P.J. O’Rourke once noted that normally lefty marches and rallies are far bigger than conservative protests because “we have jobs.” When Mrs. Jones the store manager and Mr. Smith the surgical tech get angry enough to take off from work so they can go to a rally holding a homemade cardboard sign – well, if I were on the Left, that would make me very uneasy indeed.

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How to Get There from Here

Tuesday, July 28, AD 2009

There’s been much discussion of late about what other country’s health care apparatus the US should consider emulating, and in such discussions France is often mentioned. Now, all cheerful ribbing against the French aside, their health care system is not nearly as “socialized” or nearly as afflicted by treatment denials and waiting lists as those of the UK or Canada. It is also rather more like the system that the US already has, in that it is a hybrid public/private system, though in their case there is a guaranteed base level of coverage everyone has through the government (funded via a hefty payroll tax — not unlike Medicare) which most people supplement with private coverage. Most doctors are in private practice, and 25% do not even accept the public plan, just as some practices in the US do not accept Medicare. However, everyone does have that minimum level of coverage, and the French spend a lower percentage of their GDP on health care than the US (11% versus 16%) which when you take into account that France’s GDP per capita is a good deal smaller than that of the US (which is the polite, economist way of saying it’s a poorer country) works out to the US spending about twice as many dollars per person on health care, while still not having universal coverage.

So what are we waiting for? Why don’t we go enact the French system here right now? Why doesn’t Obama put on a jaunty beret, dangle a cigarette coolly from the corner of his mouth, hoist a glass of wine, and just say, “Oui, nous pouvons.”

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9 Responses to How to Get There from Here

  • Well done Darwin,

    Many factors in health care. One is physician salaries as pointed out in other posts. Many factors in physican salaries as you point out including the high cost of medical school and indirect malpractice costs. If those aren’t addressed while cutting physician salaries, problems will most certainly follow.

  • Dear God… someone finally stopped talking about British and Canadian health care and realized that are quite a number of schemes to reach universal coverage and single-payer systems aside (I don’t feel like having that go-round), France is a pretty good model.

    Moreover, I think if we attacked education (costs) and provided greater assistance to medical students (not just with public funds), we could slightly lessen doctor salaries — as health care costs go down and depending on their specialty.

  • And by ‘lessen’ I don’t mean put caps on it via legislation.

  • Related to this but in a more general sense: I think that dealing with a situation like this (in which it becomes necessary to drive a group of people’s income down for the common good) the impersonal nature of markets is generally more socially acceptable than government action. I don’t think anyone would tolerate reducing doctor pay 30-40% by fiat, even when they generally make a lot of money. But creating the conditions for it to gradually reduce due to market pressure doesn’t have the same antagonistic edge.

    Just had to get the market plug in. 🙂

  • 30 – 40% again seems not to take into account malpractice costs let alone medical school. Maybe your figures take into account malpractice costs. But if not, using your figures, a specialist in the US averages 230k vs 149k in France. Subtract the average 55k for malpractice and you get a difference of 175 vs 149. Excluding medical school costs you’re now talking about a 14% difference, not 30 – 40.

    What’s the average malpractic attorney’s pay?

  • Actually just Googled it. In 2006 it was 100k.

  • I guess, I’m not sure how stuff like malpractice insurance is usually accounted for. Do doctors always have to pay it out of pocket (thus out of their personal pay) or is it often payed by their practice as a business expense?

    Either way, significantly reducing the malpractice lottery would have a salient effect on health care prices — not just in allowing for health care providers to charge less, but also reducing the number of extra procedures which are done for tail covering purposes rather than medical effect.

  • Depends on the practice. Those that are stand alone pay out of their own pocket. Those in large practices or hospital based practices get it paid for. But that will be considered part of compensation and usually salaries are lower to reflect that. Either way, there is a cost to income from malpractice premiums.

  • The cost of malpractice insurance is inflated by insurance companies, just as insurance companies inflate the cost of medical insurance. But the big issue is that usa doctors and hospitals do not like to be held accountable for their bad medical practices and poor outcomes. Their private for profit medicine ranks 37th in outcomes compared to other countries, which rank muych better using national health programs. Malpractice costs would clearly go down if usa outcome rankings improved. The fact that france ranks number one, having the best outcomes, while paying their doctors much less, is all just a further indictment of our private medical system in the usa.

Obamacare: If Congress Passes It, Let Them Live Under It

Friday, July 24, AD 2009

Hattip to Robert Stacy McCain at The Other McCain.  Rep. John Fleming (R. LA.) is the sponsor of House Resolution 615 which states that in the event National Health Care passes, all members of Congress who vote for it are urged to receive their health insurance under it.  This sounds like a very good idea to me.  If it is good enough for voters it should be good enough for CongressCritters.  Of course urging isn’t enough.  They should be required to be subject to Obamacare if it passes.  Here is the text of the resolution.

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9 Responses to Obamacare: If Congress Passes It, Let Them Live Under It

  • I agree. why not? I suspect most people pushing this line really don’t understand the reforms.

  • Actually Tony I believe the opposite is true, and that those who truly understand this bill would be the last who would wish to have their own health care depend upon it, but I congratulate your willingness to have Congress live under what they create for others.

  • One of the things that I find striking is that the stealth inclusion of FOCA in some of the House drafts has received so little attention.

    I received an urgent Knights of Columbus e-mail alert about it and confirmed with my Congressman’s office that the inclusion is true but none of the media outlets, including Fox, are carrying anything about it. Even the Catholic websites and blogs have been largely silent.

    I suspect that, if FOCA had made it out of a committe on its own, we would have been up in arms… you know, as Catholics and all. Shoving into the text of an healthcare draft though warrants not even a remark.

    What gives?

  • I agree. why not? I suspect most people pushing this line really don’t understand the reforms.

    Bill’s only 1,000 pages long. What’s not to understand?

  • Is it even a bill yet?

    As best I can tell, there are at least 5 much smaller proposals that have yet to be incorporated into a single bill. I don’t know what the Speaker is expecting to vote on by Friday, but it doesn’t sound like they have gotten beyond the committee markup stage.

  • Nice idea, but the amendment has no chance of passage. Sort of like how congress will write workplace rules and then exempt themselves. Best analogy to this I can think of is food. Consider congress a pushy chef who is insisting you pay for and eat his new concoction but when you ask him how it tasted when he tried it the chef says “Are you nuts? I wouldn’t eat this crap and definitely won’t pay for it.”

  • Why stop at Congress – shouldn’t the President who signs it also be subjected to it? I would love to see in one of these O press conferences someone challenge the President to give his oath that if O’care passes, and he signs it, he will take the public option.

  • Sort of a “poison pill” provision, eh?

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Government Funded Health Care Open Thread

Friday, July 24, AD 2009

In light of Zach’s stellar posting which generated over 240 comments ranging from anarchism to Oscar Romero and which inspired a posting by Michael Denton.  These comments, although informative to a certain extent, may have detracted from the original intent of the posting.  Henceforth in regards to said activities being done on Zach’s posting concerning Representative Chris Smith, I am starting a new tradition here at American Catholic, the open thread.

So feel free to comment to your hearts delight that isn’t related to any other postings on this website.

The comments policy is still in place so don’t forget to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Enjoy.

Marxist Health Care

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12 Responses to Government Funded Health Care Open Thread

  • I do not oppose a health care bill that extends coverage beyond the narrow concerns protected under Medicaid, Medicare, and SSI. I object to bloated bills that have not been read. I object to rushing to publish a bill, any bill, for purely political reasons. I object to “stealth” measures to hide within larger bills truly controversial legislation like FOCA. I object to the blackmail that this process creates, diminishing debate and deliberation to little more than key points, without the detail necessary to analyze the effects. Most of all, I object to a President, ANY President, telling the legislature what kind of legislation to pass, what it should do and say, and when it shall be completed. This is bullying and strikes as the core of the Separation of Powers.

    In the instant debate, I am THRILLED to see this rush to cobble together a bill delayed. Now, maybe, we can come up with something that specifically addresses the issues as hand without delving into issues that should be addressed as separate bills.

  • G-Veg,

    I agree to most of your points except the need for government run health care. Which both violates subsidiarity and distributism.

  • I forget who pointed out. Appropos of your cartoon, it appears the right has an unhealthy obsession with anal penetration, specifically anal rape.

  • M.Z.,

    What gnostic class can I take to follow your line of thinking?

  • Tito,

    I love you, man, but you are better than a post with that cartoon as its header.

  • Frankly, the cartoon was a lot more innocuous than M.Z.’s rather inflammatory response to it.

  • Why does it violate subsidiarity?

  • The principle of subsidiarity is that matters should be handled at the most local level as possible and if it cannot adequately at that level be taken care of, it can move up to the next point. The problem is, I think most Democrats will argue, is that the states do not have the resources to address the matter sufficiently because it is fixing a regional problem within a intricately more complicated problem. So, I don’t think one can simply say it violates subsidiarity as if that is some obvious objective fact that cannot, rightly or wrongly, be disputed.

    All Democratic proposals aside. I have read criticism after criticism, but I have read very little by way of solutions to the problem. I have seen what I think are credible starting-points amending parts of the system, but nothing comprehensively to address the whole of health care in America, while restraining the government. If this were really a serious problem, I’d almost expect a solution. The closest thing I’ve seen is the Patients Choice Act which has earned about every stripe of Republican criticism and has incorporated by and large waves of Democratic ideas.

    I think the *structure* of the health care markets is deeply flawed and I don’t see them re-structuring unless it is via the legislative process. I’m sure we won’t agree on details. But it seems opposition to Democratic health care proposals almost always opposition (indirectly) to reform, which ends up not happening — to the total chagrin of the people who need it the most.

  • Eric,

    Were the Federal Government to provide a straightforward and unrestricted subsidy to state, county, and municipal government determined according to a formula taking into account population and per capita income, the principal structural impediment to state authorities acting as medical insurers would be removed. Why not leave general income redistribution, macroeconomic stabilization (e.g. unemployment compensation), and public works implicated in moving people and goods across state lines to the center and other services to the periphery?

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  • Eric,
    I have read very little by way of solutions to the problem.

    have you checked out the Republican proposals? John McCain’s policy is a great starting point. I believe it’s the brainchild of an actual physician.

    Here’s the key points without getting into the nitty gritty:

    1. Tort Reform – liability insurance and payouts for exorbitant claims account for 20% of healthcare costs.

    2. Equal Access – eliminate preferential tax treatment of employer sponsored plans vs. private plans. Accomplished by eliminating the employer’s deduction, and giving a tax credit to all Americans with which to purchase health care as they see fit.

    3. Open Market – allow individuals and employers to purchase any plan authorized by any state.

    4. Encourage Health savings and catastrophic INSURANCE coverage instead of pre-paid health care.

    These actions will drive down the cost of health care while maintaining the motivators for continued advancement and excellence.

    Now, you can never again say haven’t heard any alternatives.

3 Responses to The Stimulus Bill and Jobs

  • For a country with the current living standards of the USA the stimulus programme is misguided. During the Depression working men and women were desperate for any kind of work to keep hunger at bay, some of them even left for the Soviet Union in their search for a living wage. (Their fate was a terrible one.) It made sense in those days to finance road building and similar projects. On the one hand the roads and dams would pay for themselves by stimulating demand for cars and electrical products, on the other the expectations of the workers were quite low. This is the reason why countries well within the boundaries of technical posibilities such as India and China can get substantial returns on their infrastructure investments. But such is not the case for the mature economies already operating at the frontiers of production curves. For such economies it is better to cut business taxes and provide a direct subsidy to companies to retain their workers till the business climate improves. Given his luck, I expect Obama to get a boost from a purely secular turn of the business cycle which he’ll claim is due to his spending binge.

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Debt Sun

Wednesday, April 22, AD 2009

 debt-sun

Hattip to Instapundit.  The Heritage Foundation supplied the above graphic which compares Obama budget “cuts” of $100,000,000.00 to the appropriations bill for fiscal 2009 of $410,000,000,000.00, the Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, sometimes erronously called the “stimulus” bill, which has a price tag of $787,000,000,000.00 and the estimated bill for fiscal year 2010 of $3,600,000,000,000.00.  How ludicrous is all this?  Ludicrous enough that the Obama supportive Associated Press makes fun of it.  Ludicrous enough that even Paul Krugman is chuckling.

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11 Responses to Debt Sun

  • Is this the equivalent of global warming?

  • Considering that Al Gore helped to create both Phillip, I’d say you are on to something!

  • Perhaps he could cut $100 million by merely not printing that amount!

  • The problem is that a lot of people will fall for this 0bama stunt. This man preys on the stupid better than anyone.

    It’s been a long time since I heard the word matterhorn.

  • Fron the “White Giant” to the “Red Dwarf”

    The end of life as we know it.

    OR

    The Big Bang, and the ever expanding universe. 🙂

  • You’re just upset that you’re looking at winter coming. 😉

  • “Either we turn away from this madness or our ecnomy will eventually hit a wall of governmental debt and the whole house of credit cards will come crashing down.

    I think we’re already getting there. This wretchedly regrettable crisis we’re currently in is merely but one of its manifestations:

    “The root cause of today’s crisis lies not in the housing market but in America’s foreign debt. Over the past four years the U.S. private sector has borrowed an astonishing $3 trillion from the rest of the world. The money, directly and indirectly, came from countries such as China, Germany, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, which ran huge trade surpluses with America. Foreign investors trusted their funds to U.S. financial institutions, which used much of the money for mortgage loans.

    But American families took on a lot more debt than they could comfortably afford. Now no one is sure how much of that towering sum the U.S. is going to pay back — and all the uncertainty is roiling the financial markets.

    SINCE MID-2004, AMERICAN HOUSEHOLDS HAVE TAKEN ON A BIT MORE THAN $3 TRILLION IN MORTGAGE DEBT.”

    SOURCE: Chief Economist Michael Mandel

    — and —

    “Experts say that even when the current credit crunch eases, the nation may finally have maxed out its reliance on borrowed cash. Today’s crisis is a warning sign, they say, that consumers could be facing long-term adjustments in the way they finance their everyday lives.

    ‘I think we’re undergoing a fundamental shift from living on borrowed money to one where living within your means, saving and investing for the future, comes back into vogue,’ said Greg McBride, senior analyst at Bankrate.com. ‘THIS ENTIRE CREDIT CRUNCH IS A WAKEUP CALL TO ANYBODY WHO WAS ATTEMPTING TO BORROW THEIR WAY TO PROSPERITY.’

    AMERICANS ARE MORE RELIANT ON DEBT THEN EVER BEFORE.

    The portion of disposable income that U.S. families devote to debt hit an all-time high in the second half of last year, topping 14 percent, figures from the Federal Reserve show. When other fixed obligations — like car lease payments and homeowner’s insurance — are added in, about one of every five household dollars is now claimed by bills.

    The credit card industry lobbied heavily in 2005 to tighten bankruptcy laws to make it more difficult for consumers to seek court protection and shed responsibility for paying off debt. But in a sign of just how much households have become dependent on borrowing, the average amount of credit card debt discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings has tripled — to $61,000 per person — from what it was before the law was passed.

    ‘We are going to have to cut back,’ said Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. thinktank. ‘We’ve really been living beyond our means.'”

    SOURCE: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27149408

  • “From the “White Giant” to the “Red Dwarf”

    The end of life as we know it.

    OR

    The Big Bang, and the ever expanding universe.”

    I’d vote for the Big Whimper Don!

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Spirit of '09

Thursday, April 16, AD 2009

tea-party-map

Yesterday Americans rallied in hundreds of tea party protests against high government spending and taxation.  In my state 3000 people turned out in Peoria alone.  Good coverage of the tea parties is at Instapundit.  Much more at Tea Party online HQ

Elements of the mainstream media were openly contemptuous of the tea parties, perhaps one of the more obvious examples being here at Hot Air.

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8 Responses to Spirit of '09

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  • While I think the idea for tea parties is great… they’ve been distorted since the Paul campaign in ’07 had their online tea party that raised millions in one day.

    There’s a lot of great rhetoric going around, but I don’t believe its substantive. Its just the GOP back to its old strategy- give the liberty-leaning, state rights, conservative crowed the speeches they want to hear- then when we get into office someday, we’ll be just like the Democrats.

    Governor Perry sudden turn towards Jeffersonian-style ideas speaks more of his political need to distinguish himself from the current administration than it does on any genuine concern for states rights, the constitution, or local authority.

  • Its just the GOP back to its old strategy-

    It must be emphasized that the tea parties had little to do with the GOP – in fact I think many if not most of the participants have been or are as furious with the GOP as with the Democrat party.

  • I can vouch for what Paul said. I received zero contacts from the GOP on any level regarding the tea parties.

  • I would have liked to attend, but yesterday was a very busy day at work and I couldn’t get away.

    I agree – the sense that I have is that the tea parties are conservative/liberatarian and most protesters are (understandably) as disgusted with the GOP as they are with the Democrats.

    Anthony, it is quite remarkable, I think, that these protests, as small as many of them were, took place across the country. (Also bear in mind that they were not centrally organized, there is no Soros or union money behind them, and protesters were not bussed in from other locales. The left is much more professional when it comes to planning and organizing rallies.) I might be wrong, but I don’t think that a bunch of people just blew off some steam for a couple of hours and now will vanish. The tea parties might just be the first baby steps of something much larger. We don’t know yet, but I wouldn’t dismiss them as insubstantive. In fact, I don’t really think CNN does – hence the blatant attempt to ridicule and marginalize them.

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  • Perry fits to a tea that old adage “there go the people; I must rush ahead to lead them”

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