Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our own Greek tragedy

Via Instapundit I found this BRILLIANT piece by Mark Steyn, published in the Washington Times, which looks at the fiscal crisis that is about to tear the European Union apart (or at least see the Greek social welfare state collapse), and explains in impressively understandable terms how the Greece/EU tragedy is but foreshadowing of the tragedies awaiting California and the rest of America if we don't act soon to reign in unsustainable levels of government spending.

Among the key points:

[Greece's] socialist government has been forced into supporting a package of austerity measures. The Greek people's response is: Nuts to that. Public sector workers have succeeded in redefining time itself: Every year, they receive 14 monthly payments. You do the math. And for about seven months' work - for many of them the workday ends at 2:30 p.m. When they retire, they get 14 monthly pension payments. In other words: Economic reality is not my problem. I want my benefits. And, if it bankrupts the entire state a generation from now, who cares as long as they keep the checks coming until I croak?

We hard-hearted, small-government guys are often damned as selfish types who care nothing for the general welfare. But, as the Greek protests make plain, nothing makes an individual more selfish than the socially equitable communitarianism of big government. Once a chap's enjoying the fruits of government health care, government-paid vacation, government-funded early retirement, and all the rest, he couldn't give a hoot about the general societal interest. He's got his, and to hell with everyone else. People's sense of entitlement endures long after the entitlement has ceased to make sense.


[The Greek and American situations are] part of the same story. It's just that Greece is a little further along in the plot: They're at the point where the canoe is about to plunge over the falls. America is further upstream and can still pull for shore, but has decided instead that what it needs to do is catch up with the Greek canoe. Chapter One (the introduction of unsustainable entitlements) leads eventually to Chapter 20 (total societal collapse): The Greeks are at Chapter 17 or 18.

What's happening in the developed world today isn't so very hard to understand: The 20th century Bismarckian welfare state has run out of people to stick it to. In America, the feckless insatiable boobs in Washington, Sacramento, Albany and elsewhere are screwing over our kids and grandkids. In Europe, they've reached the next stage in social democratic evolution: There are no kids or grandkids to screw over.

A nation cannot tax itself into prosperity. The government cannot make everyone financially comfortable by just issuing more checks. Eventually somebody, somewhere has to pay for all the socialist largesse. And the problem with socialism is, of course, that eventually you run out of other peoples' money.


chris said...

we taxed ourselves into prosperity in the 50's and 60's! that hollywood yahoo who was pushed to presidency by corporations in 1980 unleashed "the bull" that let the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. the tax rate on the rich in the 50's and 60's was 90%!!! its how we built our interstate highway system paid for our (then impressive) schools, and laid the ground work for our impressive healthcare system, which, ill admit, is better off in the private sector. but we need regulation and taxes that work for the people,not the rich, not big government and big spending, but small govt with responsible spending, making sure the tax money goes where it needs to. 1% of americans own 95% of the wealth, with the middle class going to hell. we need to middle class to be powerful and wealthy to drive our nation forward. china, brasil, and other developing countries such as india have their burgeoning middle class to rely on and drive THEIR countries forward, while our middle class is being eroded away by taxes on the poor and tax cuts for multibillion dollar corporations instead of laying the groundwork for the middle class to make more money and to work. shipping middle class jobs to brasil, india, and china where their middle class is powering their country to be the next great world powers. a world power is only as strong as its middle class, and ours is about as strong as a rusty bucket right now...

Titus said...

Hmmm, several problems with Chris's observations.

1. 90% was simply the highest marginal rate, not an average or overall rate.

2. We didn't "tax ourselves into prosperity." The government got a lot of money along with everyone else because we happened to have the world's only intact industrial economy. The war put the entire country to work and the destruction it caused left a worldwide economic vacuum that was filled by American goods. The pensions and education handed out to the former GIs helped create the new expansive middle class, but that was only possible because there was a private sector to give them jobs and supply them with consumer goods.

3. The modern American healthcare system was a creation of the Kaiser Corporation during WWII.

4. American schools in the 50s and 60s had their own problems---and regardless, they weren't paid for by federal tax dollars. Federal incomes taxes went to the interstate, but not schools.

5. The vices of the income tax---and almost every facet of it counts---are deplorable, and the plight of modern American society is substantial. But you can't simply make a society, especially a free society, stronger and more prosperous by shoveling money into the government's mouth.

Anonymous said...

Other than hauling all 537 elected officals out to the back forty chaining them to trees and collecting them when the stench disipates, my thoughs would lean to the
If you spend alot you pay a lot. No undocumented (illeagal) worker would be exempt, nor would any tax loop hole citizen. Cost of goods would decline and as a result many corporations would flock to the US.
All households would receive a monthly prebate check (predicated on)the number of people in the household, which would cover the sales taxes on items of necessity.
This will protect the lower income people and every one pays according their lifestyle habits.
If you chose to not spend, you keep your own money. What a novel idea!