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Posts Tagged ‘bureaucracy’

Castle Rock, CO, refuses federal funds

Posted by Richard on May 17, 2016

Three cheers for Castle Rock, CO (population 55,000), located about 30 miles south of Denver. Its Town Council is refusing federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) because of the onerous strings attached:

… At issue for the town was a new set of regulations, 377 pages in all, which gives the unelected HUD bureaucrats broad powers over grant recipient communities, including the power to reverse electoral decisions by local voters, change local zoning laws and force said communities to join regions against the its wishes.

Faced with the choice of refusing federal funds or submitting to increased federal intrusion into their local concerns, Castle Rock’s town government chose the former, reports SustainableFreedomLab.org. In a letter to local HUD applicants, mayor Paul Donahue explained that,

“If we continue to accept the HUD grants, we will be forced to prepare detailed taxpayer-financed studies of our schools, retail, housing, and other community aspects to HUD who will decide if our neighborhoods are “furthering fair housing.” That means that even though our town has never been found in violation of the anti-discrimination housing rules that have been law for over 50 years, HUD on a whim could force us to build low-income, government subsidized housing into our neighborhoods if HUD decides we aren’t racially balanced enough.”

In other words, Castle Rock’s town council has recognized that the new federal regulations are likely to be used not to mitigate actual instances of discriminatory behavior, but as politically-motivated means to produce politically-motivated ends. As Castle Rock’s letter acknowledged, far from being a paranoid hypothetical, this scenario has already played out in Westchester County, New York, where county leaders have been fighting a HUD directive to construct 750 affordable-housing units in established neighborhoods. But while Westchester County has sued to have this decision reversed – a suit that, to nobody’s surprise, was decided in the federal government’s favor by the federal government’s judge – it has not decided to refuse the HUD funds.

What Castle Rock has discovered, that Westchester County apparently has not, is that federal funds always come with strings attached, and the strongest string is invariably tied to local sovereignty. The Castle Rock town council has heroically identified this truth and has decided that the funds are not worth the cost. Donahue’s letter concludes,

“As a Town Council, we will resist all federal attempt to destroy our local sovereignty, be it from HUD, the EPA, or any other government agency. Council will always defend our resident’s right to make their own local decisions without federal interference. While I appreciate the many good works that are represented by your (the grant applicants’) programs, accepting onerous federal grant requirements, which harm our community, cannot be the price to pay for federal monies.”

Towns, cities, counties and states all across the country should take notice of what Castle Rock has done and should hasten to emulate its example.

Word. If you don’t take the feds’ money, they can’t attach the strings with which to control you, and you’ve effectively nullified their edicts.

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In Florida, shear regulatory madness

Posted by Richard on September 19, 2014

Since the militarization of police forces began, there have been many instances of outrageous police overreach, and Mark Steyn has documented a number of them. His latest example may have you tearing your hair out.

I often joke with my hairdresser Amanda about the number of state permits she requires for the privilege of cutting my hair. As I point out on page 49 of After America (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available, etc):

In the Fifties, one in twenty members of the workforce needed government permission in order to do his job. Today, it’s one in three.

That’s tyrannous – which is bad enough, albeit not unique to America: The entire developed world has massively expanded the hyper-regulatory state. But only in America does the Department of Paperwork command lethal force:

Go and read the whole unbelievable story.

Angry crowds should have descended upon the offices of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation with protest signs. Or tar and feathers. What will it take for a significant portion of the population to rise up and shout, “Enough! This is tyranny!”?

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Stop the TSA power grab

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2012

That TSA story I just posted about reminded me of something David Aitken linked to that I meant to pass on. The TSA advertises for security screeners on pizza boxes and gas pumps. The people it hires are given a bit of classroom and on-the-job training (far less training than it takes to get a cosmetology license in the District of Columbia). It’s enough for the relatively simple work they do.

But now the Obama administration, in keeping with its “we don’t need no stinkin’ Act of Congress” way of governing (remember when liberals fretted about the imperial presidency?), has “administratively reclassified” these security screeners as Transportation Security Officers, complete with federal law enforcement uniforms and badges. All they lack is law enforcement training. And guns — but they’re already pushing to get those.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) details the whole story in an excellent Forbes op-ed column, including the way the TSA is extending its tentacles far beyond airports. Not content to rifle through luggage and grope genitals, the newly-minted TSOs can be found at train and subway stations, ferry terminals, and along Tennessee highways randomly inspecting cars and trucks.

Rep. Blackburn has introduced a bill to rescind this “administrative reclassification,” and it deserves your support:

In order to help rein in the TSA I introduced H.R. 3608, the Stop TSA’s Reach in Policy Act aka the STRIP Act. This bill will simply overturn the TSA’s administrative decision by prohibiting any TSA employee who has not received federal law enforcement training from using the title “officer,” wearing a police like uniform or a metal police badge. At its most basic level the STRIP Act is about truth in advertising.

As TSOs continue to expand their presence beyond our nation’s airports and onto our highways, every American citizen has the right to know that they are not dealing with actual federal law enforcement officers. Had one Virginia woman known this days before Thanksgiving she may have been able to escape being forcibly raped by a TSO who approached her in a parking lot in full uniform while flashing his badge.

Please contact your congresscritters and ask them to support H.R. 3608.

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Bad jobs needed

Posted by Richard on July 10, 2011

Walter Russell Mead thinks the inner city today faces three key problems, and one of them is lack of jobs. But it's not more good jobs our large cities need, according to Mead, it's more not-so-good jobs:

Think of the path to successful middle class living as a ladder; the lower rungs on that ladder are not nice places to be, but if those rungs don’t exist, nobody can climb.  When politicians talk about creating jobs, they always talk about creating “good” jobs.  That is all very well, but unless there are bad jobs and lots of them, people in the inner cities will have a hard time getting on the ladder at all, much less climbing into the middle class.

Many sensitive and idealistic people in our society work very hard to keep from connecting these dots and admitting to themselves that bad jobs are something we need. Quacks abound promising us alternatives (“green jobs” is the latest fashionable delusion), but ugly problems rarely have pretty solutions.  We need entry level jobs that will get people into the workforce, and we need ways that they can learn useful skills at affordable prices that will help them climb the ladder and move on.

To get these jobs, we have to change the way our cities work.  Essentially, we have created urban environments in which the kind of enterprises that often hire the poor — low margin, poorly capitalized, noisy, smelly, dirty, informally managed without a long paper trail — can’t exist. …

Read the whole thing.

HT: Rand Simberg, who notes that, in addition to the factors Mead mentions, the minimum wage is part of the problem.

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Shovel-ready capes

Posted by Richard on April 21, 2011

In the immortal words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up. Workforce Central Florida is helping out the unemployed in the Orlando area by offering them superhero capes:

The region's federally funded jobs agency is spending more than $73,000 on a media campaign to raise awareness of its services.

As part of a superhero theme, it has created a cartoon character named "Dr. Evil Unemployment" and spent more than $14,000 on 6,000 satiny superhero capes.

It plans to distribute the capes to jobless residents who participate in the agency's "Cape-A-Bility Challenge."

I wonder if they're spending federal stimulus funds on this campaign. If so, do you suppose there's a big sign that says, "Capes funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act"?

I wonder why they feel a need to raise awareness of their services. Are there so many competing federally funded jobs agencies in the Orlando area that they have to aggressively market themselves?  

But mostly I'm thinking: They're fighting Dr. Evil Unemployment with capes. With stagflation looming on the horizon, how long until someone brings back WIN buttons?

Whip Inflation Now button

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The power of the technician

Posted by Richard on November 21, 2010

Daniel H. Fernald thinks TSA administrator John Pistole's response to the growing "Don't touch my junk" movement is a symptom of a problem that won't be solved by defeating Obama in 2012. It's much more fundamental. Woodrow Wilson is implicated. And French philosopher and sociologist Jacques Ellul explained it almost fifty years ago:

Politicians are decision makers. They control the levers of power. The trouble, according to Ellul, is that in an increasingly complex environment, they often don’t know how to use them.

This is where the expert, the “technician,” comes in. At the outset, the expert’s role is merely to advise political leaders on how best to accomplish politicians’ stated policy goals. The expert’s role soon progresses to determining the “one best means” of accomplishing those goals. Finally, the expert technician decides on not merely the means of pursuing the “one best means” but also determines the policy goal toward which “the one best means” is directed.

As the power of the technician waxes, that of the politician wanes, until he is little more than a rubber stamp.

The monstrous Leviathan into which TSA has quickly, albeit all too predictably, morphed is a textbook illustration of Ellul’s thesis. Several elected representatives of the people politely suggested that a political technician, a bureaucrat, might possibly want to think about maybe giving, you know, just a bit of thought to not forcing American citizens to choose between being irradiated or groped, and he simply said:

“No.”

That’s a quote. He didn’t mince words, he didn’t equivocate, he didn’t evade the question. He simply said, “No.”

And the politicians did nothing, because they had no power to do anything. The technician had the power, and they all knew it.

Read the whole thing.

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Circumventing the ban on incandescent bulbs

Posted by Richard on September 28, 2010

Human ingenuity is a wondrous thing. With an opportunity for profit as a motivator, human ingenuity can find a way to overcome the best efforts of bureaucrats to stifle, regulate, control, and harass us. Case in point: The European Union's phase-out of incandescent light bulbs is well under way, with clear bulbs over 100W and all frosted bulbs already banned. (Similar regulations hit the US in January 2012, so start stockpiling traditional light bulbs now.)

The enviro-fascist busybodies behind these bans argue that incandescent bulbs are very inefficient, wasting a lot of energy as heat and thus contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and the destruction of the planet. So they mandate CFLs that are much more efficient — produce less heat per lumen of light output. 

These EU regulations define lamp as a device to produce visible light. So it occurred to a clever German that the regulations don't apply to heating appliances. When a heater produces heat, it isn't waste — it's the intended output. Thus the Heatball was born. The page is in German. Here's my translation (with a little help from Babylon) of some key bits:

HEATBALL® What is that? 

A HEATBALL® is not a lamp, but it fits into the same socket!

The best invention since the light bulb! Heatballs are technologically very similar to classic light bulbs, but they are intended to heat instead of to illuminate.

In passive houses [?], incandescent lamps contribute significantly to heating the rooms. When incandescent lamps are replaced by energy-saving lamps, that heat must be replaced. …

A Heatball is an electrical resistance device intended to produce heat. Heatball is [also] performance art! Heatball is resistance against regulations that exceed democratic and parliamentary powers and that disempower citizens. Heatball is also resistance against extremist measures to protect our environment. …

That is so cool … I mean, hot! The Heatball is simply (ahem) brilliant, and it should stymie the nanny-staters in Brussels for now.

At least until they impose regulations limiting how much energy a heater can "waste" as visible light. 🙂

(HT: Slashdot)

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Another boot on another neck

Posted by Richard on June 25, 2010

The Democrats have reconciled House and Senate financial legislation differences, crafting yet another 2000-page bill that no one has read. They're prepared to pass it next week: 

After more than 20 hours of continuous wrangling, congressional Democrats and White House officials reached agreement on the final shape of legislation that would transform financial regulation, avoiding last-minute defections among New York lawmakers that had threatened to upend the bill.

Fannie and Freddie aren't much affected — the Socialist Democrats want to regulate everything except government. I'm guessing that their friends at Goldman Sachs and other liberal-dominated, generously-contributing firms will make out OK, too. As for the rest of the financial services industry, especially the little guys buried under a new mountain of regulations and red tape, and their customers — well, I suspect this observation is accurate: 

"My guess is there are three unintended consequences on every page of this bill," Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) said of the nearly 2,000-page bill.

If passed into law, this abomination will give the Obama administration yet another boot on the neck of yet another industry. Apparently, the Socialist Democrats aren't going to rest until they fulfill Orwell's dystopian vision of a boot stomping a human face forever. 

They're calling this the Dodd/Frank Act. And they gave those two weasels, who share a significant portion of the blame for the housing bubble and resulting financial meltdown, a standing ovation. 

Patrick Dorinson had the best comment about this that I've seen: 

"But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

– Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the health care bill, March 2010

"No one will know until this is actually in place how it works.”

– Sen. Chris Dodd, on House-Senate conference approval of financial reform, June 2010

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

– Mark Twain

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The Cartel premiering in multiple cities

Posted by Richard on April 28, 2010

The Cartel, a feature-length documentary about the failures of the public school system and attempts to reform it, is premiering in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and St. Louis on Friday, April 30, and in Denver on Tuesday, May 4. Special events and speakers are planned in many locations on opening night; go here for city-by-city information.

In Denver, the film will play at the Chez Artiste, 2800 S. Colorado Blvd. The 7 PM May 4 showing will be co-hosted by the Independence Institute and Liberty on the Rocks. Institute President John Caldera will speak briefly before the film, so arrive early. Afterward, Pam Benigno and Ben DeGrow of the Institute's Education Policy Center will take questions and lead discussion. 

The film, which focuses on New Jersey schools, has won numerous awards and lots of critical praise. It sold out its New York premier and screenings across New Jersey. Watch the trailer below, and some clips from the film here


[YouTube link]

The Cartel was made possible by the support of the Moving Picture Institute, which also brought us 2081, among others. Their motto is "Promoting Freedom Through Film." Please join me in supporting their efforts.

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ObamaCare will create jobs

Posted by Richard on March 19, 2010

The inimitable Mark Steyn (emphasis added):

Last Thursday, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted to set up a committee to examine whether condoms should be required on all pornographic film shoots.

California has run out of money, but it hasn't yet run out of things to regulate.

For a government regulatory hearing, the testimony was livelier than usual. Porn star Madelyne Hernandez recalled an especially grueling scene in which she had been obliged to have sex with 75 men. The bureaucrats nodded thoughtfully, no doubt contemplating another languorous 18-month committee assignment looking into capping the number of group-sex participants at 60 per scene.

The committee will also make recommendations on whether the "adult" movie industry should be subject to the same regulatory regime and hygiene procedures as hospitals and doctors' surgeries. You mean with everyone in surgical masks? Kinky.

If you've ever been in the filthy wards of Britain's National Health Service, it may make more sense after the passage of ObamaCare to require hospitals to bring themselves up to the same hygiene standards as the average Bangkok porn shoot.

One can make arguments for permitting porn and banning porn, but there isn't a lot to be said for the bureaucratization of porn. Hard to believe there will be California bureaucrats looking forward to early retirement on gold-plated pensions who'll be getting home, sinking into the La-Z-Boy and complaining to the missus about a tough day at the office working on the permits for "Debbie Does The Fresno OSHA Office."

Meanwhile, ObamaCare will result in the creation of at least 16,500 new jobs. Doctors? Nurses? Ha! Dream on, suckers. That's 16,500 new IRS agents, who'll be needed to check whether you — yes, you, Mr. and Mrs. Hopendope of 27 Hopeychangey Gardens — comply with the 15 tax increases and dozens of new federal mandates about to be "deemed" into existence.

This will be the biggest expansion of the IRS since World War Two — and that's change you can believe in. This is what "health" "care" "reform" boils down to: fewer doctors, longer wait times, but more bureaucrats. …

Read. The. Whole. Thing.  

And then go here for the Code Red list of representatives to contact to stop this economy-destroying government takeover of the health care industry. And go here to email your representative and the 58 Blue Dog Democrats. And then go here to add to the more than 1 million faxes sent  to Washington opposing government-run health care. 

We're coming down to the wire, folks, and the Socialist Democrat leaders are trying to paint this as a done deal in order to sway some fence-sitters into voting their way. But they still don't have the votes — if they had the votes, they'd have started the roll call immediately instead of waiting until Sunday. This Obamination of a bill can still be stopped if you make your voice heard loud, long, and often, and start right now.

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Why voters are rejecting ObamaCare

Posted by Richard on March 10, 2010

In Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, Scott Rasmussen (president of Rasmussen Reports) and Doug Schoen (pollster for President Clinton) examined the polling numbers on ObamaCare. They noted that the numbers have been remarkably stable. For the past four months, the percentage opposed has ranged from 52% to 58%. More significantly, the percentage strongly opposed has been about double the percentage strongly in favor (41% to 20% in the most recent survey).

A deeper analysis suggests some reasons why, despite their best efforts, the President and his lackeys minions allies haven't been able to budge the numbers (emphasis added): 

… Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

When the president responds that the plan is deficit neutral, he runs into a pair of basic problems. The first is that voters think reducing spending is more important than reducing the deficit. So a plan that is deficit neutral with a big spending hike is not going to be well received.

But the bigger problem is that people simply don't trust the official projections. People in Washington may live and die by the pronouncements of the Congressional Budget Office, but 81% of voters say it's likely the plan will end up costing more than projected. Only 10% say the official numbers are likely to be on target.

As a result, 66% of voters believe passage of the president's plan will lead to higher deficits and 78% say it's at least somewhat likely to mean higher middle-class taxes. Even within the president's own political party there are concerns on these fronts.

None of this matters to the socialist ideologues determined to "transform" America, as I noted on Sunday. They're going to try to defy the American people no matter what the political cost.

Tea Party Patriots announced today that National Coordinator Jenny Beth Martin has been told by two "reliable sources" in Washington that the Blue Dog Democrats are starting to cave and that House Speaker Pelosi may soon have the votes to pass the Senate bill. If you want to help stop this "Obamination" from destroying our country, take action now! Follow that link to see TPP's recommendations for what you can do now, along with lists of congresscritters to contact and how to do so. Check their calendar for scheduled events in your area. A personal visit to a representative's local office is the best thing you can do, as TPP noted: 

The absolute most effective thing that you can do is to go to the office of the Congressmen who are on the fence and still undecided on this government takeover of health care bill. Let the Undecided Congressmen see the live faces of the people who do not want this health care bill shoved down our throats. Make them look in your eyes.

But if you can't do that (or you know it's pointless with your particular congresscritter), phone calls are good. So are emails. Even blast emails and blast faxes sent through one of the many organizations that make that easy for you (here's one) are better than sitting back and doing nothing.

As Mark Steyn explained in the column I quoted from on Sunday, the stakes are immense.

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Dems want fundamental change at any price

Posted by Richard on March 8, 2010

A few days ago, I saw Bob Beckel argue that if the Republicans really believed that passing ObamaCare will be a disaster for the Democratic Party, they'd lay off a bit and let it pass to assure themselves of success in November. Beckel is a political hack, not a man of ideas. His argument is based on the assumption (itself no doubt based on projection) that people like John Kyl, Steve Shadegg, and Paul Ryan would put their party's success ahead of the nation's future.

The people in power in the Democratic Party aren't like Beckel. They're hard-core ideologues, and they're willing to sacrifice their strong majorities in Congress and even a second Obama term in order to fundamentally transform America. The inimitable Mark Steyn understands what's at stake: 

I've been saying in this space for two years that the governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture. It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible. In most of the rest of the Western world, there are still nominally "conservative" parties, and they even win elections occasionally, but not to any great effect (Let's not forget that Jacques Chirac was, in French terms, a "conservative").

The result is a kind of two-party one-party state: Right-of-center parties will once in a while be in office, but never in power, merely presiding over vast left-wing bureaucracies that cruise on regardless.

Republicans seem to have difficulty grasping this basic dynamic. … The Democrats understand that politics is not just about Tuesday evenings every other November, but about everything else, too.

Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever-expanding number of government jobs will be statists – sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily "compassionate" statists, but always statists. The short history of the post-war welfare state is that you don't need a president-for-life if you've got a bureaucracy-for-life: The people can elect "conservatives," as the Germans have done and the British are about to do, and the Left is mostly relaxed about it because, in all but exceptional cases (Thatcher), they fulfill the same function in the system as the first-year boys at wintry English boarding schools who, for tuppence-ha'penny or some such, would agree to go and warm the seat in the unheated lavatories until the prefects strolled in and took their rightful place.

Republicans are good at keeping the seat warm. A bigtime GOP consultant [ed.: the Republican equivalent of Bob Beckel] was on TV, crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass Obamacare because it's so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November.

OK, then what? You'll roll it back – like you've rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago? Like you've undone the federal Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel'n'dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter? Andrew McCarthy concluded a shrewd analysis of the political realities thus:

"Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?"

A commenter at Big Journalism put it well: 

A lot of conservatives seem to grasp the idea of Islamic extremists who proclaim "we love death more than you love life", but don't allow for the possibilty that extreme leftists may cherish "the fundamental transformation of America" more than a reelection.

Don't sit back and say, "Just wait until November." And don't tolerate anyone who does. Our values, our liberty, our way of life — all the things that make the United States better than the sclerotic Eurosocialist states are at stake in this battle. ObamaCare must be stopped!

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Restoring fiscal sanity in New Jersey

Posted by Richard on February 17, 2010

Newly elected New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addressed the legislature last week on the state's budget crisis, and I finally got around to reading the speech*. Wow. It's a humdinger — refreshingly honest, with no punches pulled and no shying away from the tough decisions. Christie quickly made clear just how dire the state's situation is:

New Jersey is in a state of financial crisis. … For the current fiscal year 2010, which has only four and one-half months left to go, the budget we have inherited has a two billion dollar gap. The budget passed less than eight months ago, in June of last year, contained all of the same worn out tricks of the trade that have become common place in Trenton, that have driven our citizens to anger and frustration and our wonderful state to the edge of bankruptcy.

What do I mean exactly? This year’s budget projected 5.1 % growth in sales tax revenue and flat growth in corporate business tax revenues. In June of 2009, was there anyone in New Jersey, other than in the department of treasury, who actually believed any revenues would grow in 2009-2010? With spiraling unemployment heading over 10%, with a financial system in crisis and with consumers petrified to spend, only Trenton treasury officials could certify that kind of growth. In fact, sales tax revenue is not up 5%, it is down 5.5 %; and corporate business tax revenue is not flat, it is down 8%. Any wonder why we are in such big trouble? Any question why the people don’t trust their government anymore and demanded change in November? Today, we must make a pact with each other to end this reckless conduct with the people’s government. Today, we come to terms with the fact that we cannot spend money on everything we want. Today, the days of Alice in Wonderland budgeting in Trenton end.

Our Constitution requires a balanced budget. Our commitment requires us to begin the next fiscal year with a prudent opening balance. Our conscience and common sense require us to fix the problem in a way that does not raise taxes on the most overtaxed citizens in America. Our love for our children requires that we do not shove today’s problems under the rug only to be discovered again tomorrow. Our sense of decency must require that we stop using tricks that will make next year’s budget problem even worse.

Christie cut spending in 375 state programs — practically everything he could legally cut by executive action — in order to close the $2 billion current-year shortfall. Then he took aim on the years to follow and made it clear that biggest problem is an absurdly generous pension and benefit program for the state's unionized workers: 

I am encouraged by the bi-partisan bills filed in the Senate this week to begin pension and benefit reform. … 

These bills must just mark the beginning, not the end, of our conversation and actions on pension and benefit reform. Because make no mistake about it, pensions and benefits are the major driver of our spending increases at all levels of government—state, county, municipal and school board. … 

Let’s tell our citizens the truth—today—right now—about what failing to do strong reforms costs them.

One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits — a total of $3.8m on a $120,000 investment. Is that fair?

A retired teacher paid $62,000 towards her pension and nothing, yes nothing, for full family medical, dental and vision coverage over her entire career. What will we pay her? $1.4 million in pension benefits and another $215,000 in health care benefit premiums over her lifetime. Is it “fair” for all of us and our children to have to pay for this excess?

The total unfunded pension and medical benefit costs are $90 billion. We would have to pay $7 billion per year to make them current. We don’t have that money—you know it and I know it. What has been done to our citizens by offering a pension system we cannot afford and health benefits that are 41% more expensive than the average fortune 500 company’s costs is the truly unfair part of this equation.

New Jersey isn't the only state being sunk by public employee unions and the politicians who buy their votes and support with future taxpayers' money. As Doug Ross pointed out, California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts, to name just a few, are in the same leaking boat. And those union workers who think they've got it made now are going to end up all wet.

Herb Stein famously said, "If something can't go on forever, it won't." Retirees collecting more than they ever earned while working, 50-year-olds retiring at 90% of their highest salary (indexed for inflation), employee pension and health plan contributions in the single digits (and declining in some places) while unfunded pension liabilities have grown into the trillions — these things simply can't go on forever. Taxes can't be raised high enough to let this continue. Something's going to have to change, and soon. 

In addition to a more balanced mix of employer and employee contributions and an actuarially sound schedule of benefits, I suggest one simple rule change for all government workers (heck, for everyone with a defined-benefit pension plan): Retire after 30 years if you want, but pension payments don't begin until age 65. If you're only 50, go get another job for the next 15 years (that's what many of them do anyway, collecting both a paycheck and a pension, and eventually getting two pensions). 

* In Firefox 3.5, this website doesn't lay out properly, and some of the text is cut off. It's fine in IE 7. Or you can click Print this page, which opens a new window containing the whole speech. Just cancel the Print dialog and start reading (that trick also saves you a lot of clicking, since otherwise the speech spans 9 rather short pages). 

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Boredom kills

Posted by Richard on February 11, 2010

You've heard the expression "bored to death," right? Well, apparently it's not just a figure of speech. According to Asian News International, it really does happen:

Melbourne, Feb 8 (ANI): Boredom can actually kill you, a new study has revealed.

To reach the conclusion, researchers at University College London looked at data from 7524 civil servants, aged between 35 and 55, interviewed between 1985 and 1988 about their levels of boredom.

Civil servants, huh? Well, I suppose if you're researching boredom, you want to study a population where it's prevalent. 

They then found out whether they had died by April last year.

Those who reported feeling a great deal of boredom were 37 per cent more likely to have died by the end of the study, the researchers found.

Those who described their work as exciting and challenging were 42% more likely to have validated the Peter Principle by the end of the study. 

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More and more bureaucrats earning more and more

Posted by Richard on February 5, 2010

Last Sunday, on ABC's This Week, in an interview with Baba Wawa, Scott Brown called for a freeze on federal hiring and federal pay raises (something he'd advocated before on the campaign trail):

WALTERS: President Obama has asked for a spending freeze on almost everything except matters like the military, Social Security, and Medicare. He says he's going line by line through the budget. Now, you have said that's not enough for you; that you want to cut spending and not just freeze it.

Time out: What a bogus question. The "almost everything except" that's supposed to be frozen amounts to just 13% of the federal budget, according to the Cato Institute. So 87% of the nearly $4 trillion dollar budget is exempted from the Obama "freeze." And as Cato's Chris Edwards noted, "a very large part of the 2009 spending spike of $699 billion will be sloshing forward into 2010 and later years," so even that 13% isn't really "frozen" — it will grow by the hundreds of billions of yet-unspent "stimulus" funds already appropriated and still "sloshing" around.

So what are the first 3 items that you would cut?

BROWN: The problem with what the president said is he's not doing it until 2011. We need to do it immediately. We need to put a freeze on federal hires and federal raises because, as you know, federal employees are making twice as much as their private counterparts.

Sen. Brown's assertion about federal pay apparently came from a Cato study from last fall based on Bureau of Economic Analysis data. It showed that total compensation (including fringe benefits, which are much more generous for federal employees than those in the private sector) averaged $119,982 for federal civilian employees versus $59, 909 for those in the private sector.

Americans for Limited Government's Carter Clews thinks Sen. Brown's proposal is a good beginning, but doesn't go far enough. He thinks we should cut the federal government's workforce of 1.9 million civilian employees (which has grown steadily for many years, in good times and bad) instead of just freezing it:

Private sector vs. government employment

Scott Brown was right – as far as he went. And he should have gone much further. We don’t simply need to put a freeze on federal hires and raises. We need to fire federal employees. The American people, themselves, are clearly prepared to do their part come November. But, it would be a chipper idea to get a head start now by firing about ten percent of the drones and dregs now feeding from the federal trough.

Everywhere else in America, workers are reporting to work each morning not knowing whether they will have a job by the end of the day. More than ten percent of American workers – if you believe Barack Obama’s Labor Department – are now unemployed. And if you add those who are working part time because they can’t find full time jobs, as well as those who have simply given up looking, the figure is nearly double that.

But, there is one place where no one worries about losing his or her job, where the very idea of a pay cut is little more than laughable, and where the next pay raise is as certain as the sun rising in the east and Barack Obama spending money. No, it’s not the Enchanted Kingdom. It is, of course, the federal “work” place.

Charles Anderson thinks firing just 10% is totally inadequate: 

It is almost impossible to fire a federal employee, but the government would work much better if at least 20% of them were fired.  That is just the one's who are not even trying to do their jobs.  If you were to fire the ones who are trying somewhat, but doing their jobs badly, that would eliminate another 30% of federal workers.  Then there are those who are doing what they are assigned to do adequately well, but what they are doing is so wrongheaded that it is hurting the country.  Fire them and you will have eliminated another 25%.  The remaining 25% might largely be federal employees who are doing things that ought to be done and doing them well enough that it is reasonable to spare them the axe.

I'm with Charles on this. I like his math. Cutting the federal payroll by about 75% sounds pretty good to me. 

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