Entitlements Breed Selfishness

Mark Steyn hits it out of the park, with the bases loaded:

While Barack Obama was making his latest pitch for a brand-new, even-more-unsustainable entitlement at the health-care “summit,” thousands of Greeks took to the streets to riot. An enterprising cable network might have shown the two scenes on a continuous split-screen — because they’re 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 farther 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 Twenty (total societal collapse): The Greeks are at Chapter Seventeen or Eighteen.

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. The United States has a fertility rate of around 2.1 — or just over two kids per couple. Greece has a fertility rate of about 1.3: Ten grandparents have six kids have four grandkids — ie, the family tree is upside down. Demographers call 1.3 “lowest-low” fertility — the point from which no society has ever recovered. And, compared to Spain and Italy, Greece has the least worst fertility rate in Mediterranean Europe.

So you can’t borrow against the future because, in the most basic sense, you don’t have one. Greeks in the public sector retire at 58, which sounds great. But, when ten grandparents have four grandchildren, who pays for you to spend the last third of your adult life loafing around?

By the way, you don’t have to go to Greece to experience Greek-style retirement: The Athenian “public service” of California has been metaphorically face down in the ouzo for a generation. Still, America as a whole is not yet Greece. A couple of years ago, when I wrote my book America Alone, I put the then–Social Security debate in a bit of perspective: On 2005 figures, projected public-pensions liabilities were expected to rise by 2040 to about 6.8 percent of GDP. In Greece, the figure was 25 percent: in other words, head for the hills, Armageddon outta here, The End. Since then, the situation has worsened in both countries. And really the comparison is academic: Whereas America still has a choice, Greece isn’t going to have a 2040 — not without a massive shot of Reality Juice.

Is that likely to happen? At such moments, I like to modify Gerald Ford. When seeking to ingratiate himself with conservative audiences, President Ford liked to say: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” Which is true enough. But there’s an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give you everything you want isn’t big enough to get you to give any of it back. That’s the point Greece is at. Its 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 work day ends at 2:30 p.m. And, 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 perfect spokesman for the entitlement mentality is the deputy prime minister of Greece. The European Union has concluded that the Greek government’s austerity measures are insufficient and, as a condition of bailout, has demanded something more robust. Greece is no longer a sovereign state: It’s General Motors, and the EU is Washington, and the Greek electorate is happy to play the part of the UAW — everything’s on the table except anything that would actually make a difference. In practice, because Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland are also on the brink of the abyss, a “European” bailout will be paid for by Germany. So the aforementioned Greek deputy prime minister, Theodoros Pangalos, has denounced the conditions of the EU deal on the grounds that the Germans stole all the bullion from the Bank of Greece during the Second World War. Welfare always breeds contempt, in nations as much as inner-city housing projects: How dare you tell us how to live! Just give us your money and push off.

Unfortunately, Germany is no longer an economic powerhouse. As Angela Merkel pointed out a year ago, for Germany, an Obama-sized stimulus was out of the question simply because its foreign creditors know there are not enough young Germans around ever to repay it. Over 30 percent of German women are childless; among German university graduates, it’s over 40 percent. And for the ever-dwindling band of young Germans who make it out of the maternity ward, there’s precious little reason to stick around. Why be the last handsome blond lederhosen-clad Aryan lad working the late shift at the beer garden in order to prop up singlehandedly entire retirement homes? And that’s before the EU decides to add the Greeks to your burdens. Germans, who retire at 67, are now expected to sustain the unsustainable 14 monthly payments per year of Greeks who retire at 58.

Think of Greece as California: Every year an irresponsible and corrupt bureaucracy awards itself higher pay and better benefits paid for by an ever-shrinking wealth-generating class. And think of Germany as one of the less profligate, still-just-about-functioning corners of America such as my own state of New Hampshire: Responsibility doesn’t pay. You’ll wind up bailing out anyway. The problem is there are never enough of “the rich” to fund the entitlement state, because in the end it disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the basic survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. In Greece, they’ve run out Greeks, so they’ll stick it to the Germans, like French farmers do. In Germany, the Germans have only been able to afford to subsidize French farming because they stick their defense tab to the Americans. And in America, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are saying we need to paddle faster to catch up with the Greeks and Germans. What could go wrong?

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The size of federal government is a threat to our rights and freedoms

From Left-leaning CNN:

Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government’s become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.

Let me slightly change the topic and focus on one point, made by commenter “Minnesotan,” that seems to be one of the tenets of the Leftist view of economics. He says that Republicans spent like “drunks” (no mention of the fact that Democrats have controlled both chambers of Congress since January 2007) and that now Democrats have to clean up their mess. Implying, of course, that in order to correct the error of overspending, you must overspend even more– many times more, in this case. Only someone with a significant amount of higher education could convince himself of such nonsense.

He is correct, however: Republicans did overspend when they controlled both chambers of Congress– they governed like Democrats.

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Is Obama a socialist?

Of course he is:

Recently on “The O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly seemed very concerned about President Obama being described as a socialist by members of the right such as Rush Limbaugh. O’Reilly has often dodged calling the president a socialist, as if doing so would condemn Obama as a tyrannical dictator. It was discussed throughout the show with various guests, and O’Reilly frequently stated that yes, Obama is a far-left guy, but he didn’t want to use the actual term “socialist.” It would be too much.

Here in Britain we look at the continuing battle as to whether Obama is a socialist or not as a rather odd American quibble. In Britain we have no problem defining people as socialists, nor do people on the left have a problem calling themselves socialists. It is not that those of us on the conservative right do not believe that socialism is a bad doctrine. We do, and we see evidence of its continual destruction of the country on a day-to-day basis, but we have always had socialism living quite openly amongst us. We are therefore able to see and recognize it quite calmly as a day-to-day occurrence in politics, just as one recognizes the flu. We wish it didn’t exist, but it does, and so we get on with our lives, trying to avoid catching it in the process.

[…]

There are as many exact definitions of socialism as there are socialists. Yet they do have common characteristics. Love of big government, nationalization of industry, massive taxation, wealth redistribution, etc. all point towards socialism. Someone like the president would not even have to say he was a socialist in Western Europe; it would be assumed quite normally, without any fuss or conspiracy.

I have a lot of respect for Bill O’Reilly, but to a Brit who has seen his fair share of socialists and lives in a socialist country run by a self-described socialist party by a self-described socialist prime minister who has taken over for another self-described socialist prime minister, it is puzzling why self-described independents like Mr O’Reilly are doing backflips in an attempt to avoid the obvious fact — President Obama is quite clearly a socialist.

[…]

Those of us across the pond who analyze American politics know exactly who it is you have in the White House. Obama is not some new post-political entity. Nor is he some form of Stalinist that will set up a USSA. He is a normal, well-spoken, charismatic socialist who in Britain would sit quite happily towards the left of the Labour Party alongside figures such as Tony Benn, Aneurin Bevan, Harold Wilson, and Ed Balls. To call someone a socialist is not conspiratorial, and it is not fear-mongering; it is simply the truth, and it is time for some in the conservative media to take a deep breath and admit it — America has a socialist leading the country. Welcome to the club: It stinks!

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Health Care Summit

Doesn’t much matter, but it looks as though Republicans won the day. Here are some reactions from the Left:

CNN’s WOLF BLITZER: “It looks like the Republicans certainly showed up ready to play.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

CNN’s GLORIA BORGER: “The Republicans have been very effective today. They really did come to play. They were very smart.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

GLORIA BORGER: “They took on the substance of a very complex issue. … But they really stuck to the substance of this issue and tried to get to the heart of it and I think did a very good job.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

GLORIA BORGER: “They came in with a plan. They mapped it out.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

CNN’s DAVID GERGEN: “The folks in the White House just must be kicking themselves right now. They thought that coming out of Baltimore when the President went in and was mesmerizing and commanding in front of the House Republicans that he could do that again here today. That would revive health care and would change the public opinion about their health care bill and they can go on to victory. Just the opposite has happened.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

DAVID GERGEN: “He doesn’t have a strong Democratic team behind him.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

THE HILL’S A.B. STODDARD: “I think we need to start out by acknowledging Republicans brought their ‘A Team.’ They had doctors knowledgeable about the system, they brought substance to the table, and they, I thought, expressed interest in the reform. I thought in the lecture from Senator John McCain and on the issue of transparency, I thought today the Democrats were pretty much on their knees.” (Fox News’ “Live,” 2/25/10)

THE WEEKLY STANDARD’S STEVE HAYES: “I think to me the most important thing to come out of the morning so far is that Republicans have spent a great deal of time talking with great passion, and I think eagerness about their plans, detailing the plans that until this morning them democrats had been saying didn’t exist. Well, you now see, I think, in great detail that Republicans do have plans, that they care about the same issues and that they feel passionately about it.” (Fox News’ “Live,” 2/25/10)

H/T: John Lott

ObamaCare – It’s your health, but the Health Choice Commissioner’s choice

From Mark Steyn:

If I were minded to make a health-care TV ad, I’d rustle up the premier of Newfoundland’s interview on NTV last night. Justifying his decision to eschew the pleasures of the monopoly government health-care system he presides over for heart surgery in a Florida hospital, Danny Williams told his fellow Newfs:

It’s my health, it’s my choice.

As Scaramouche points out, there’s your slogan.

By the way, the Canadian state does not accept that proposition, which is why, if a Canadian such as Mr. Williams wishes to exercise his choice he is obliged to leave the country.

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That was then . . .

From GOP.gov:

Democrats Who Once Opposed the “Arrogance” of Majority Rule
Are now ready to invoke majority rule to pass a government takeover of health care

President Barack Obama: “And what I worry about would be you essentially still have two chambers – the House and the Senate – but you have simply majoritarian, absolute power on either side. And that’s just not what the Founders intended.” (April 25, 2005)

Vice President Joe Biden: “This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab….I pray God when the Democrats take back control we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.” (May 23, 2005)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “The right to extended debate is never more important than when one party controls Congress and the White House. In these cases a filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our limited government.” (May 18, 2005)

Senator Dianne Feinstein: “The Senate becomes ipso facto the House of Representatives, where the majority rules supreme and the party in power can dominate, and control the agenda with absolute power.” (May 15, 2005)

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Reconciliation

From Jake Tapper:

At the National Press Club on April 26, 2005, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was asked about a move being discussed by Senate Republicans, then in control, to change the Senate rules so as to require a mere majority vote rather than the 60 votes necessary to end a potential filibuster.

“You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward,” then-Sen. Obama told the audience.

His remarks have garnered some attention in recent days given the current likelihood that Senate Democrats will next week use “reconciliation” rules, which require only a 51-vote majority, to pass health care reform legislation, bypassing the current Senate rules of requiring 60 votes to cut off a potential filibuster and proceed to a final vote.

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