Posts Tagged ‘health care’

GOP Plans Health Care Repeal Grandstanding

Posted: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 7:59 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Representative-Elect Kristi Noem will get her first chance to grandstand on her campaign promise to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act next week. Noem’s GOP bosses will bring the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act” to a vote next Wednesday, January 12. The repeal bill is two pages long, compared to the couple-thousand-page health reform is seeks to undo… proof that any idiot can shout No! but that coming up with a real solution for a complicated problem takes some work.

Of course, the Republicans are making their symbolic repeal bill even simpler by ignoring their own rules: the Republicans are exempting health reform repeal from the requirement that the House pay for every bit of legislation it passes. Remember: if Speaker Boehner could slip 13 Democratic Senators and President Obama a mickey and get them to approve the repeal, they’d have to pay back $130 billion in savings over the next decade. Repealing PPACA will also put the states several billion dollars further in the hole. Thanks for the kind thoughts, Kristi!

Also not on Noem’s agenda: any vote to reject her own government health insurance. Come on, Kristi: if government shouldn’t be involved in my health coverage, it shouldn’t be involved in yours. Your fellow freshman Congressman Joe Walsh from Illinois is heeding the call to consistency; your Tea Party friends think you should too!

Health Care Reform Will Save SD Budget… in 2014

Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 7:31 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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South Dakota’s budget crunch is coming in part because of increased enrollment and costs in Medicaid. It’s funny, then, that South Dakota is trying to block one way to fix that fiscal problem: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As Matthew Blake at Understanding Government reminds us, come 2014, Washington will pay 100% of Medicaid for folks earnign less than 133% of the poverty level. States resume paying 10% of that share in 2019, but that’s still a healthy break from the 40-50% share states currently shoulder for all patients.

Blake points to John Bouman’s summary of three studies that say states will enjoy significant savings thanks to the PPACA:

  1. The Urban Institute calculates increased costs and savings and finds in the worst case, the states save $40.6 billion from 2014 to 2019. In the best case, the states save $131.9 billion.
  2. The White House Council of Economic Advisers looked at sixteen states last year (not South Dakota—darn!) and estimated nationwide, states would save $11 billion by reducing the insurance premiums they currently pay on their employees to cover care for the uninsured.
  3. The Lewin Group found PPACA saving the states and Uncle Sam money. States could save over $6 billion in small change between now and 2014 and $106.8 billion in real money over the whole decade.

Instead of waging futile lawsuits against the PPACA, governors should be begging Washington to kick this plan into gear sooner!

But remember, Kristi Noem is determined to repeal this legislation next month… and thus guarantee that the Daugaard administration sustains the Rounds structural deficit until Matt Michels or Dusty Johnson takes the helm in 2018.

Thune Blocking Compensation for 9/11 First Responders

Posted: Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 11:10 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Mr. Feser alerts us to the guff Senator John Thune is rightfully catching for his opposition to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. What’s this bill? Oh, just a little compensation for men and women who ran toward fire and sacrificed their health and lives to try saving their fellow Americans on September 11, 2001.

Senator Thune voted to block a vote on health care compensation for 9/11 first responders on December 9.

Now I can’t tell whether Thune and his War College lackeys would call this bill pork or prosciutto. Since it would help New Yorkers and not South Dakotans, I suppose they’ll bleat pork! I just call it fulfilling our obligation to our neighbors who risked their lives for us in the face of terrorism.

My friend Adam posts a couple of videos showing 9/11 first responders talk with Jon Stewart about the Zadroga bill. Below are some comments from OpenCongress.org’s page on HR 847:

I’m a 40 year old retired cop from the First Pct. in lower manhattan. I was there the morning of 9/11 and worked over 2,100 hours in the pit the months that followed. My breathing ailments are too long to get into and I understand I will be heavily medicated for whatever time I have left. I’m writing this and urging passage of this bill for my kids sake. (Ages 8 & 6)What’s done is done but at least give me the peace of mind of knowing they will be taken care of. Ret. PO Dave Smith.

I am one of the forgotten rescue workers who spent weeks and months in the “pit”. I do not seek glory or a pat on the back for what I did. I live with the choices I made. I wouldn’t change a thing except I hate to see my family watch me deteriorate. I can’t do things I used to, I have no energy, I can’t breathe, I can’t sleep. I am waiting for the inevitable and it sucks. I never smoked and now I am on all kinds of respiratory meds and a machine at night. Please pass this bill, I am not the only one in this position. Passage will help the people and families of those who dedicated their time and for some, their lives, to help others in need. God Bless America!

John Thune has supported borrowing over a trillion dollars to kill people and break things in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he won’t support spending $7.4 billion to treat the people who responded to the first  shot of that war.

Senator Thune thought it was more urgent to rush tax cuts to his richest friends than to provide health care for dying patriots. Well, now that that baby’s been put to bed, the junior senator from South Dakota should have no more reason to oppose Zadroga, right?

Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House in passing this bill in September. Senator Thune, get on board. Make South Dakota proud and do right by these brave Americans by joining the Republican senators Kirsten Gillibrand says will support this bill.

The Healthcare Mandate: Necessary but Improper?

Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 1:05 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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madison_stampThe debate over Judge Hudson’s ruling against the health care mandate at least has the virtue of being interesting.  Neither of the two rulings in favor occasioned much debate.  Here, I will try to refine the issue a bit more than I did in my last post.

The Constitution grants Congress a number of explicit or enumerated powers.  Among these is the power to regulate commerce, by which the Courts understand interstate commerce.  The last clause in the enumeration of powers in Article I, Section 8 reads as follows:

The Congress shall have the power… To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

This potent clause gives Congress a vast realm of implied powers.  The effect is to extend the enumerated powers without any obvious limits.  For example, what gives Congress the power to set a national minimum wage?  The commerce clause does so.  Wages in South Dakota have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.

There is no doubt that the Necessary and Proper Clause was intended to enlarge the powers of Congress.  Establishing a Post Office and building post roads implies paying the salaries of Post Office employees.  This is not only necessary to making the system work as planned.  It provides an essential flexibility to the Constitution that allowed it to remain workable over time.  No one questions the power of Congress to create an Air Force to go with our Army and Navy, though for some strange reason the 1787 doctrine didn’t explicitly mention the former.

Here’s the rub: to have any meaning at all, the Necessary and Proper Clause also has to limit the powers of Congress.  Otherwise the founders might as well have said that Congress can do anything it damn well pleases.

Unfortunately, the Courts have not had much luck in discovering those limits.  The distinction between interstate and intrastate commerce proved largely unworkable, due to the fact that the United States is a very integrated economy.  I am not optimistic that the Courts will do better now.

There is in Judge Hudson’s opinion a distinction that might put some meaning into the clause.  There is plenty of precedent behind Congress’s power to regulate virtually any activity, individual or corporate, that is conceivably commercial.  Suppose a group of people decide to pool their resources to cover the medical expenses of any member of the group.  That can be regulated as insurance.

The healthcare insurance mandate, however, covers inactivity.  It penalizes people for not doing something: buying insurance from a private vender.  Is it really proper for Congress to compel me to engage in an economic activity against my will, however necessary Congress might deem this to be for some project?  So far as I know, all the Court’s jurisprudence on such matters has been confined to the regulation of activity.

This might be the place to draw the line.  Can Congress compel me to join a union?  Can it compel me to go on a diet?  If I am goofy enough to believe that vitamins can prevent HIV infection, Congress can stop me from selling vitamins with a “Prevents AIDS!” label.  Can Congress deny me the right to refuse treatment with effective drugs?  Congress can regulate the insurance industry sure enough.  Can it compel me to purchase insurance?

As a judicial minimalist, I would prefer these questions to be settled by Congress and not by the Courts.  As a Federalist, I think that Constitutional provisions ought to mean something.  Lockean liberal, I think that the buyer should have the right to say no thanks.  That is the point we have come to.

Coming to terms with defeat, or not

Posted: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 12:42 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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margaritavilleSome people say that there’s a woman to blame
but I know: it’s my own damn fault

Those who have just been shellacked in an election would do well to listen to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville a few times, while searching for their lost shaker of salt.  When Republicans get shellacked they inevitably whine about the biased press.  That’s a little bit harder now that Fox News dominates Cable, but when did reason ever persuade the wounded heart?

In 2006 and 2008 the Republicans got shellacked nationally.  It didn’t happen because the other side cheated or because the press was biased or because the moon was in Virgo.  They got beat because they lost the confidence of the electorate. In a Republic that’s getting beat fair and square.

In South Dakota this year the Democrats got shellacked from top to bottom.  My esteemed Keloland Colleague and NSU Colleague Emeritus, David Newquist, is ready with excuses.  He blames the “the socio-economic factors affecting the Democratic Party in South Dakota.”  He doesn’t spell out those factors, but it doesn’t much matter.  In politics, as in golf, you have to play the ball where it lies.

I think it is a scandal that the Democrats did not run a candidate against John Thune.  David again is ready with excuses.  He seems to think that Senator Thune will do such terrible things to an opponent that no human being could dare to challenge him.  I think that that is utter nonsense.  Republicans Rand Paul in Kentucky and Daniel Webster in Florida bore up under much worse abuse than any candidate has ever dished out in South Dakota.  Instead of turning pale and withdrawing, they fought and won.  I cannot believe that Democrats in South Dakota are such cowards as David imagines them to be.  I think that the uncontested Senate race, the first in the state’s history, was a deliberate strategy.

Nationally, Democrats are looking for their own excuses.  One of the most common ones is that President Obama let his foes define him.  Here is E.J. Dionne:

President Obama allowed Republicans to define the terms of the nation’s political argument for the past two years and permitted them to draw battle lines the way they wanted. Neither he nor his party can let that happen again.

That’s just another version of the standard excuse used by both sides after bad news: the voters didn’t reject us or our policies!  We just didn’t explain ourselves properly.

Nonsense on stilts.  When President Obama put forth health care reform as his highest priority (among his other highest priorities), he very clearly defined the terms of the argument.  Health care reform would “bend the cost curve downward,” i.e, health care reform would save the nation money spent on medicine.  The problem was that no one believed it because it obviously wasn’t true.  Even if you believe the CBO estimates, the best you are going to get out of the health care bill is a wash.  But the CBO estimates always include caveats indicating that the savings in the bill depend on Congress doing things that it has always promised to do but has never actually managed to do.

Here’s why the Democrats took a bath in this election: First, the economy is in dreadful shape.  The President today praised the unexpected growth in private sector jobs.  But that growth is not enough to make up for population growth, let alone enough to depress the unemployment numbers.  Voters are hurting.

But there are two kinds of pain.  One is the kind you have when you break your ankle.  It really smarts, but you aren’t too worried because you figure you are going to get better soon enough.  The other is the kind of pain that makes you think that something much worse is happening, something that you won’t get over.  Pain plus existential fear is a lot worse than just pain.

The trillion dollars a year deficits we are running really worry a lot of us.  They make us wonder whether the economic pain we are suffering isn’t more like the persistent cough or the ache in the gut that won’t go away.  Maybe the whole system is sick.  Does the President have any plan to put us back on the road to fiscal health?  That is one thing that he didn’t define very well.

The deficits are the second thing that weighed down the Democrats.  The third thing was the health care bill.  As the economy stalled and the deficits mounted, the Democrats spent all their energies not on the present crisis but on the thing that they have wanted for decades.  The people didn’t want it.  The voters expressed their dismay not only in opinion polls but in actual elections, but the Democrats in Congress pushed ahead anyway.  That was the third thing.

The economy, the deficits, and the health care bill, in that order, did the Democrats in.  They ought to come to terms with that.  It might not get better.

Blog Readers Favor Medical Marijuana 55-45

Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 7:05 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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The latest Madville Times poll on Initiated Measure 13 drew a lot of eager readers’ attention. I asked, “Do you support IM13, legalizing medical marijuana in South Dakota?” 200 of you voted (thank you!) and broke slightly in favor

Yes
110 (55%)
No
90 (45%)

Votes: 200

The somewhat close result indicates either that readers of this humble blog aren’t so ravingly liberal as you might think or that the issue of legalizing marijuana, even for medical purposes, doesn’t break neatly along stereotypical liberal/conservative lines. Remember that one of the biggest advocates for IM 13, Bob Newland, is a red-in-tooth-and-claw libertarian who thinks the best government is just slightly more restrictive than the state of nature… and only during business hours.

I do sympathize with Mr. Newland on the issue of medical marijuana. I also enjoy the hay that can be made holding purported conservatives’ feet to their own rhetorical fire: if you’re all for government leaving us alone, and if you’re incensed at the thought of government coming between you and your doctor, how can you not vote for IM13? You legalize medical marijuana, and you transfer power from government to doctors and patients. Those docs who dig dope can prescribe accordingly. Those docs who haven’t come to that studied medical opinion can still direct their patients toward industrial pharmaceuticals and other non-herbal treatments. Why would any conservative want to see Congress, the Legislature, and the local sheriff making that decision instead of patients and their doctors?

By the way, I check stats from the government’s Drug Abuse Warning Network and learn that nationwide in 2008, marijuana was responsible for 133,201 trips to the emergency room. Alcohol was responsible for 656,661 ER visits.

For deaths, I review this hefty DAWN report and count 1046 reported deaths linked to marijuana. The reporting metro areas include about 38% of the population, and DAWN notes some jurisdictions don’t report marijuana as a specific cause of death. So multiply by 6: suppose there were really over 6000 marijuana-related deaths in 2008. The CDC reports that in 2007, alcohol was connected to 23,199 deaths.

And we don’t even make you get a doctor’s note to buy alcohol.

The President is an Empty Suit

Posted: Saturday, October 9, 2010 at 11:53 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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obama spidermanThere.  I’ve said it.  It strikes me as the right time to say it.  A few weeks from now the Democrats will either have suffered a spectacular defeat in this year’s election, or not.  Either outcome will make an indelible mark on our view of the President.  Now is the last good time to take the measure of our forty-fourth Chief Executive, while still standing behind a veil of ignorance regarding the election.

President Obama is not a bad man, nor a dislikable one.  I have never felt toward him any animosity, let alone the loathing that many Democrats felt toward George W. Bush.  Obama isn’t stupid, to be sure; but neither has he shown any evidence of an intellect that is above average.  He was President of the Harvard Law Review, and was a “Senior Lecturer” in Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law School.  So far as I can tell, he never published anything.  If he possesses anything beyond the most shopworn views of any issue, it has gone unreported.

He is articulate enough, compared to George W. Bush.  That, however, is a standard your average hot dog vendor could meet.  He reads a speech pretty well with a teleprompter in front of him, but he has yet to give one that anyone will remember.  On several occasions Democrats have looked to him to stand at the podium and with his great rhetorical skills turn the tide in their favor.  So far the tide has been unimpressed.  I haven’t seen any evidence of rhetorical skill or, more importantly, rhetorical force, that compares favorably to Bill Clinton, let alone Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy.

Barack Obama certainly had one moment of genius.  In 2007 the Republican Party was badly damaged by eight years of Bush, and the Republican heir apparent was, well, really old.  The Democratic heir apparent was compromised by the very thing that made her a contender: her last name.  She was also, it would turn out, a very bad manager.  Obama saw his opportunity and he took it.

As President, he has had one great achievement: the passage of a major health care bill.  How that will turn out remains to be seen.  But the President had almost nothing to do with its design beyond the role of cheerleader.  In that role he has not been impressive.  He told us that the healthcare reform would reduce the national health care bill and help balance the budget, that no one would have to give up their current coverage, that millions of new people would be covered.  This did not inspire confidence, and the legislation the Democrats passed remains deeply unpopular.

All year long Democrats have been urging the President to get tough, to show some passion, to fight.  In fact he has been fighting, all along.  He has made more speeches on behalf of causes than any President I can remember.  He has been very direct.  If any phrase of Obama’s stands out, it would be “Let me be perfectly clear”, or “my highest priority.”  It turns out, however, that the President’s highest priorities number in the dozens, if not hundreds.  What he is perfectly clear about fades away faster than raindrops under a windshield wiper.  The problem isn’t passion or toughness.  It is that there isn’t any there there.  Even Clinton had an adolescent craving for acceptance combined with the charms of a confidence man.  Barack Obama has nothing.

Barack Obama has spent way too much time on campus.  He has been surrounded his entire life by people who all agree with one another.  Why did he sit twenty years in the pews listening to a half-demented preacher without once raising an eyebrow?  Everyone in the room was shouting “amen!”  Obama’s star steadily rose because he always said amen along with the crowd around him.  If ever he challenged his preacher, or his congregation, or his party, it has gone unreported.  If ever he stood apart from the Harvard or U of Chicago crowd and said “no”, there is no record.  Why should he?  The crowd kept passing him up the row.  Everything in his life taught him that he could get ahead by figuring out what everyone around him wanted to hear.

Since he took up resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he has had to confront problems that cannot be solved by agreeing with somebody.  Suddenly, very suddenly, he has to hold American foreign policy interests in one hand and the Iranians, who just won’t be agreeable, in the other.  Suddenly, very suddenly, he has to deal with Republicans in Congress who just don’t agree with his agreeable friends on the other side.  Nothing in his career prepared him for this.  So he ignores the one and blames the other on Fox News.

If the President has anything in his core around which he can build an agenda, we will soon see it.  Republicans are very likely to take the House and may take the Senate.  In 1994 Bill Clinton “triangulated” between the new Republican majorities and his Democratic allies in Congress.  His only guiding principle was to keep himself in office.  Can Obama do the same after next January?  It is to his credit that he doesn’t have the conman heart that Clinton had.  But what does he have?  Only a history of being liked.  I think our President is an empty suit.  We are likely to find out if I am right.

No Where to Run to Baby

Posted: Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 11:38 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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nowhere-to-run-sleeveDavid Broder interprets the meaning of end of Arlen Specter.

For 30 years, Arlen Specter has been the emblematic figure — a man who started as a Democrat, became a Republican for most of his political life, and then switched back. He was notorious for his “flexibility” on policy. A labor leader here once told me he had mockingly congratulated Specter for “staying on the same side of the debate all the way from breakfast to dinner.”

With rare … successful politicians in [Pennsylvania] have hugged the center line at the expense of ideological clarity.  But Specter’s fate signals that the era of ambivalence may be ending.

Broder is right about Arlen Specter, of course.  Specter’s frequently liberal voting record protected him when Pennsylvania shifted toward the blue end of the spectrum, while his party affiliation simultaneously protecting him against a challenge from the right.  For a while, that is.

This year the jig was up.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats in Pennsylvania were interested in watching more of the Specter two-step.

If the Specter dodge didn’t work in Pennsylvania, it might not work elsewhere.  Patrick McIlheran notes a quick dodge by Senator Russ Feingold in Wisconsin.

President Barack Obama’s spending Labor Day afternoon in Milwaukee at an annual union festival. It’s quite a party: Parade organizers were still looking for volunteers to help carry the giant protest puppets of the Earth Goddess and such. Pity, then, that Russ Feingold, the incumbent Democratic senator in a neck-and-neck race, can’t hang out with the president.

Feingold, three terms in office and now tied with a plastics manufacturer no one heard of five months ago, will be at Laborfest earlier in the day. By afternoon, he’ll have scampered far from Obama, to a parade in his hometown, Janesville, where the General Motors bailout didn’t save the truck plant and unemployment is now double-digit. A spokesman said Feingold asked the White House to change its schedule, but you know how these things go.

Feingold doesn’t want to remind Wisconsin voters he is somehow connected to the President, let alone the Earth Goddess.  He wouldn’t be neck and neck with a Republican challenger if voters needed reminding.

What was true of Specter and is true of Feingold is more or less true of the Democratic Party as a whole: they think their best chance this year is to stand against the wall and mumble: invisible, invisible, invisible.  Consider this from the Politico:

At least five of the 34 House Democrats who voted against their party’s health care reform bill are highlighting their “no” votes in ads back home. By contrast, party officials in Washington can’t identify a single House member who’s running an ad boasting of a “yes” vote — despite the fact that 219 House Democrats voted in favor of final passage in March.

Okay.  So the only Democrats running ads about the healthcare vote are running ads boasting of voting against it.  Will the voters forget that the 34 Democrats who voted against the abhorrent legislation voted for the party leaders who greased it through?  What about voters in the districts held by the most vulnerable of the 219 Democrats who voted for the health care reform bill?  Will these voters forget that the bill passed just because no Democrat anywhere is talking about it?

I find it hard to remember a time when a political party was so furiously trying to run away from itself.  In the past, this sort of subterfuge often worked.  This year, there is nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide.

U.S. Health Care: Spend More, Get Less

Posted: Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 5:02 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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I’m on the Education subcommittee along with my neighbor (and chairman!) Gerry Lange at the Democratic convention this weekend, so I really ought to be reading up on education issues (like our state’s willingness to federalize education with silly national standardized tests that take away local control and professional autonomy).

But then an eager reader sends me The Commonwealth Fund’s latest update on the pathetic performance of the American health care system, and I’m all riled up on health insurance again:

In 2007, health spending was $7,290 per person in the United States, more than double that of any other country in the survey.

Australians spent $3,357, Canadians $3,895, Germans $3,588, the Netherlands $3,837 and Britons spent $2,992 per capita on health in 2007. New Zealand spent the least at $2,454.

This is a big rise from the Fund’s last similar survey, in 2007, which found Americans spent $6,697 per capita on healthcare in 2005, or 16 percent of gross domestic product.

“We rank last on safety and do poorly on several dimensions of quality,” [Commonwealth Fund's Cathy] Schoen told reporters. “We do particularly poorly on going without care because of cost. And we also do surprisingly poorly on access to primary care and after-hours care” [Maggie Fox, "U.S. Scores Dead Last Again in Healthcare Study," Reuters, 2010.06.23].

This year’s health insurance reform law be damned—we need real reform. We need a robust public option, if not a full-tilt single-payer system. We need government-run health coverage, like the systems in all the countries that kick our cans in cost control and health care performance. We need universal public insurance like the Medicare program that treats Grandma and Grandpa (and George McGovern!) so well.

We need to acknowledge that the American health coverage system is broken. We need to acknowledge that the status quo is inequitable and unaffordable. We need to acknowledge that this year’s reform is a step in the right direction, but not enough to fix a system where medical debt plays a role in more than 60% of personal bankruptcies.

Medicare for everyone. It works in other countries. It’ll work here.

Greek Theater

Posted: Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 10:54 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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greekprotestviolence2

What is wrong with that picture?  Or this one:

Flights were grounded and trains suspended amid a nationwide general strike Thursday, as Greek police fought running street battles with anarchist youths in fresh and violent signs of anger at the government’s austerity plans.

Stop there.  The anarchists are protesting cuts in government spending?  Doesn’t it sound like there are several thousand words missing from that paragraph?

Anarchists are supposed to be opposed to the very existence of government.  Surely cutting government spending would get them a little bit closer to that goal.  Of course, it’s a lot more fun to be an anarchist when the government covers your health care costs and living expenses, so you don’t actually have to get a job.

Those who think that the American Tea Party movement encourages violence might take a look at what real political violence looks like.  Those who wonder what the Tea Party people fear might take a look at Greece.  From the London Times:

Economists regard the bloated civil service with its jobs for life and generous pensions as a cancer consuming the country’s resources. The older generation, the experts grimly concur, turned the state into a giant cash machine to be plundered at will.

The Times takes a closer look at the Greek cancer.

Public sector workers are virtually unsackable, can retire as early as 45 and get bonuses for using a computer, speaking a foreign language and arriving at work on time.

Some of them get as many as four extra months’ salary a year, compared with the 14 months that are paid to other Greek workers. One of the most generous bonuses is paid to unmarried daughters of dead employees in state-controlled banks: they can inherit their parents’ pensions.

Maybe I should check, but I believe that there are only twelve months in a year.  Apparently Greek workers get paid fourteen months out of the year, and public sector workers get paid eighteen months out of the year.  The Greek government doesn’t just need to reduce its spending, it needs to reduce its calendar.

It’s not just generosity that is the problem.  The Greek government makes it hard to generate productive business in the first place.

When [Konstantinos] Michalos started a commodities trading business in London in the 1980s, the paperwork took him 48 hours, he said. In Greece’s “Soviet-style” economy he had to go through 117 bureaucratic procedures to get the right government permits. A wealthy friend of his had taken 10 years to win permission to put up a hotel.

The New York Times is also offended by the Greeks.  But what is eating the Times is not that public employees enjoy ridiculous benefits or that regulatory strangulation renders the economy sclerotic.  It’s that too many Greeks aren’t paying their taxes.  I humbly suggest that this is all the same problem.  Ridiculous spending leads to ridiculous taxes, which leads in turn to massive tax evasion.  Ask the Russians.

Greece is going belly up financially, and because of the Euro it threatens to take down the rest of Europe with it.  The PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) are the most vulnerable, but apparently Britain is not far behind.  I hope it’s not bigoted of me to say that.  Keep Gordon Brown’s microphone on, please.  Germany can’t bail out everyone, so the IMF and the European Community are insisting that Greece get its act together.  Good luck with that.

Meanwhile back in the States California is going belly up due to exactly the same causes as operate in Greece.  On the Federal level, we are running trillion dollar a year deficits, and the majority party deals with this by passing a 900 billion per ten year health care reform that is really a trillion and a half per ten year program.  Not to worry.  They are also pushing an energy bill that would intentionally retard economic growth.

The American Left has always wanted to make America more like Europe.  Well, we are getting there.