Americans Love Big Government As Much As Europeans

From Mark Steyn:

Previously on The Perils of Pauline:

Last year, our plucky heroine, the wholesome apple-cheeked American republic, was trapped in an express elevator hurtling out of control toward the debt ceiling. Would she crash into it? Or would she make some miraculous escape?

Yes! At the very last minute of her white-knuckle thrill ride to her rendezvous with destiny, she was rescued by Congress’s decision to set up . . . a Super Committee! Those who can, do. Those who can’t, form a committee. Those who really can’t, form a Super Committee — and then put John Kerry on it for good measure. The bipartisan Super Committee of Super Friends was supposed to find $1.2 trillion dollars of deficit reduction by last Thanksgiving, or plucky little America would wind up trussed like a turkey and carved up by “automatic sequestration.”

Sequestration sounds like castration, only more so: It would chop off everything in sight. It would be so savage in its dismemberment of poor helpless America that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the course of a decade the sequestration cuts would reduce the federal debt by $153 billion. Sorry, I meant to put on my Dr. Evil voice for that: ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE BILLION DOLLARS!!! Which is about what the United States government currently borrows every month. No sane person could willingly countenance brutally saving a month’s worth of debt over the course of a decade.

So now we have the latest cliffhanger: the Fiscal Cliff, below which lies a bottomless abyss of sequestration, tax-cut-extension expiries, Alternative Minimum Tax adjustments, new Obamacare taxes, the expiry of the deferment of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, as well as the expiry of the deferment of the implementation of the adjustment of the correction of the extension of the reduction to the proposed increase of the Alternative Minimum Growth Sustainability Reduction Rate. They don’t call it a yawning chasm for nothing.

As America hangs by its fingernails wiggling its toesies over the vertiginous plummet to oblivion, what can save her now? An Even More Super Committee? A bipartisan agreement in which Republicans agree to cave and Democrats agree not to laugh at them too much? That could be just the kind of farsighted reach-across-the-aisle compromise that rescues the nation until next week’s thrill-packed episode when America’s strapped into the driver’s seat of a runaway Chevy Volt careering round the hairpin bends on full charge, or trapped in an abandoned subdivision overrun by foreclosure zombies.

I suppose it’s possible to take this recurring melodrama seriously, but there’s no reason to. The problem facing the United States government is that it spends over a trillion dollars a year that it doesn’t have. If you want to make that number go away, you need either to reduce spending or to increase revenue. With the best will in the world, you can’t interpret the election result as a spectacular victory for less spending. Indeed, if nothing else, the unfortunate events of November 6 should have performed the useful task of disabusing us poor conservatives that America is any kind of “center-right nation.” A few months ago, I dined with a (pardon my English) French intellectual who, apropos Mitt Romney’s stump-speech warnings that we were on a one-way ticket to Continental-sized dependency, chortled to me, “Americans love Big Government as much as Europeans. The only difference is that Americans refuse to admit it.”

My Gallic charmer is on to something. According to the most recent (2009) OECD statistics: government expenditures per person in France, $18,866.00; in the United States, $19,266.00. That’s adjusted for purchasing-power parity, and yes, no comparison is perfect, but did you ever think the difference between America and the cheese-eating surrender monkeys would come down to quibbling over the fine print? In that sense, the federal debt might be better understood as an American Self-Delusion Index, measuring the ever widening gap between the national mythology (a republic of limited government and self-reliant citizens) and the reality (a 21st-century cradle-to-grave nanny state in which, as the Democrats’ convention boasted, “government is the only thing we do together”).

Generally speaking, functioning societies make good-faith efforts to raise what they spend, subject to fluctuations in economic fortune: Government spending in Australia is 33.1 percent of GDP, and tax revenues are 27.1 percent. Likewise, government spending in Norway is 46.4 percent and revenues are 41 percent — a shortfall but in the ballpark. Government spending in the United States is 42.2 percent, but revenues are 24 percent — the widest spending/taxing gulf in any major economy.

So all the agonizing over our annual trillion-plus deficits overlooks the obvious solution: Given that we’re spending like Norwegians, why don’t we just pay Norwegian tax rates?

No danger of that. If (in Milton Himmelfarb’s famous formulation) Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans, Americans are taxed like Puerto Ricans but vote like Scandinavians. We already have a more severely redistributive taxation system than Europe in which the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans pay 70 percent of income tax while the poorest 20 percent shoulder just three-fifths of one percent. By comparison, the Norwegian tax burden is relatively equitably distributed. Yet Obama now wishes “the rich” to pay their “fair share” — presumably 80 or 90 percent. After all, as Warren Buffett pointed out in the New York Times this week, the Forbes 400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion. That sounds a lot, and once upon a time it was. But today, if you confiscated every penny the Forbes 400 have, it would be enough to cover just over one year’s federal deficit. And after that you’re back to square one. It’s not that “the rich” aren’t paying their “fair share,” it’s that America isn’t. A majority of the electorate has voted itself a size of government it’s not willing to pay for.

A couple of years back, Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute calculated that, if Washington were to increase every single tax by 30 percent, it would be enough to balance the books — in 25 years. If you were to raise taxes by 50 percent, it would be enough to fund our entitlement liabilities — just our current ones, not our future liabilities, which would require further increases. This is the scale of course correction needed.

If you don’t want that, you need to cut spending — like Harry Reid’s been doing. “Now remember, we’ve already done more than a billion dollars’ worth of cuts,” he bragged the other day. “So we need to get some credit for that.”

Wow! A billion dollars’ worth of cuts! Washington borrows $188 million every hour. So, if Reid took over five hours to negotiate those “cuts,” it was a complete waste of time. So are most of the “plans.” Any “debt-reduction plan” that doesn’t address at least $1.3 trillion a year is, in fact, a debt-increase plan.

So given that the ruling party will not permit spending cuts, what should Republicans do? If I were John Boehner, I’d say: “Clearly there’s no mandate for small government in the election results. So, if you milquetoast pantywaist sad-sack excuses for the sorriest bunch of so-called Americans who ever lived want to vote for Swede-sized statism, it’s time to pony up.”

Okay, he might want to focus-group it first. But that fundamental dishonesty is the heart of the crisis. You cannot simultaneously enjoy American-sized taxes and European-sized government. One or the other has to go.

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Americans Voted for Leftism

Let them pay for it.

From Marc Thiessen:

Republicans should make clear that they are willing to live with the higher, Clinton-era rates. It will be hard for the Democrats to paint such a scenario as an economic disaster, because letting the Bush tax cuts expire simply restores the status quo during the Clinton administration. During the campaign, President Obama repeatedly told us how he wants to “go back to the income tax rates we were paying under Bill Clinton — back when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and plenty of millionaires to boot.” Well if the Clinton tax rates were so great, let’s go back to all of the Clinton rates and relive the booming ’90s.

At least going back to the Clinton rates would put more people on the tax rolls, and give more Americans a stake in constraining government spending. It would also force all Americans — including the middle class — to pay for growing government services, instead of borrowing the money from China and passing the costs on to the next generation.

Americans had a choice this November, and they voted for bigger government. Rather [than] shielding voters from the consequences of their decisions, let them pay for it.

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The Profligacy of Big Labor

From Dave Blount:

Had Big Unions cared enough to do a little math, they would have realized that their parasitical greed would kill the host at Hostess. Via ZeroHedge:

Doug Mansky, a Hostess driver in Detroit and a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, was in the process of moving to a cheaper condominium on Tuesday, after his union had agreed to an 8% pay cut that he said would shave $200 a week from his income. After Judge Drain cleared Hostess to impose the same new labor terms on the bakers union, they went on strike.

If an 8% cut would reduce his income by $200 per week, he was making $2,500 per week, or $130,000, plus who knows what extravagant benefits — to drive Twinkies around in a trunk. No doubt the union contract protected him from actually having to carry the Twinkies into stores.

Imagine how much cheaper food would be if not for unions. Imagine how many people who don’t have jobs would have them if it didn’t cost six figures to hire a deliveryman.

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Close Enough for the Leftist Media

From Mark Steyn:

So today the Palestinian Association of Hamilton (Ontario) held a rally to protest the brutal Israeli violence rained down on the people of Gaza. To promote the event, they used a heartrending picture of an innocent Palestinian baby bloodily injured by the Israeli war machine’s indiscriminate bombing raids on Gaza.

Unfortunately, the innocent Palestinian baby turns out to be an innocent Israeli baby bloodily injured by Palestinian rockets in the Hamas attack on Kiryat Malachi.

Oh, well. Close enough for the western media.

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Twinkies Fall Victim to Big Labor

From IBD:

Union intransigence and unrealistic expectations at Hostess Brands have forced the bakery to shut its doors permanently and throw 18,500 people out of work. So much for Big Labor caring about the little guy.

A down economy and two restructurings in three years left Hostess, maker of Twinkies and Sno Balls, in dire fiscal straits. The company warned its workers, union and nonunion, to make concessions or everyone would go down in a liquidation.

Instead, one union, the AFL-CIO-affiliated Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International (BCTGM), imagined the company was bluffing and went on strike.

The decision contrasted with the majority of the workers who didn’t delude themselves. The Teamsters, hardly pushovers, issued this statement:

“Teamster Hostess members and all Hostess employees should know this is not an empty threat or a negotiating tactic, but the certain outcome if members of the BCTGM continue to strike. This is based on conversations with our financial experts, who, because the Teamsters were involved in the legal process, had access to financial information about the company.”

That didn’t matter to the striking union, whose 5,000 members pull in as much as $22 an hour plus medical benefits, get nine weeks of paid leave and a company pension. It ignored the warning and Nov. 15 deadline and now will take 100% losses on salaries and benefits instead of the 8% requested by management. Some union brotherhood — the bakers’ action took their fellow workers down with them.

Yet the sense of unreality was palpable among the bakers and the union leaders who represent them. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared that Hostess’ problems were caused by “Bain-style Wall Street vultures” making “themselves rich by making America poor.” It’s a nice analysis while the barn is burning, but the reality is workers losing their jobs and living on blame is even poorer sustenance than living on Twinkies.

When are unions going to start caring about real jobs and real workers?

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19,605 to 0?

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

In 59 Philadelphia voting divisions, Mitt Romney got zero votes

It’s one thing for a Democratic presidential candidate to dominate a Democratic city like Philadelphia, but check out this head-spinning figure: In 59 voting divisions in the city, Mitt Romney received not one vote. Zero. Zilch.

These are the kind of numbers that send Republicans into paroxysms of voter-fraud angst, but such results may not be so startling after all.

“We have always had these dense urban corridors that are extremely Democratic,” said Jonathan Rodden, a political science professor at Stanford University. “It’s kind of an urban fact, and you are looking at the extreme end of it in Philadelphia.”

Most big cities are politically homogeneous, with 75 percent to 80 percent of voters identifying as Democrats.

Cities are not only bursting with Democrats: They are easier to organize than rural areas where people live far apart from one another, said Sasha Issenberg, author of The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.

“One reason Democrats can maximize votes in Philadelphia is that it’s very easy to knock on every door,” Issenberg said.

Still, was there not one contrarian voter in those 59 divisions, where unofficial vote tallies have President Obama outscoring Romney by a combined 19,605 to 0?

The unanimous support for Obama in these Philadelphia neighborhoods – clustered in almost exclusively black sections of West and North Philadelphia – fertilizes fears of fraud, despite little hard evidence.

Upon hearing the numbers, Steve Miskin, a spokesman for Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, brought up his party’s voter-identification initiative – which was held off for this election – and said, “We believe we need to continue ensuring the integrity of the ballot.”

The absence of a voter-ID law, however, would not stop anyone from voting for a Republican candidate.

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia who has studied African American precincts, said he had occasionally seen 100 percent of the vote go for the Democratic candidate. Chicago and Atlanta each had precincts that registered no votes for Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008.

“I’d be surprised if there weren’t a handful of precincts that didn’t cast a vote for Romney,” he said. But the number of zero precincts in Philadelphia deserves examination, Sabato added.

“Not a single vote for Romney or even an error? That’s worth looking into,” he said.

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