If you attended or viewed a recent John Locke Foundation Shaftesbury Society presentation from N.C. State University Professor Robert Clark, you know North Carolina faces challenges in funding its pension obligations for retired state workers and teachers.
But if the news isn't great in the Tar Heel State, it could be much worse. At least that's the conclusion one might reach after reading a new report from the Manhattan Institute and the Foundation for Educational Choice.
Focusing on pension plans for teachers, the report finds "funding gaps are three times greater than states report."
This report is the first to focus on the fact that states and cities aggressively “discount” the cost of paying teachers’ retirement benefits in the future. The authors estimate that unfunded financial liabilities of teachers’ pensions are close to $933 billion, compared to states’ approximation of $332 billion. The authors recommend reforms that states should adopt to prevent this gap from widening even more.
That's the bad news. The not-so-bad news? North Carolina's plan is one of the better-funded.
Of the fifty-nine funds in our sample, fifty-six show a funding deficit in their financial statements. After we made adjustments, all fifty-nine showed funding shortfalls. But some funds are in much better shape than others.
On the bright side, five plans are 75 percent funded or better: teacher-specific plans in the District of Columbia, New York State, and Washington State, and state employee retirement systems in North Carolina and Tennessee.
The worst-funded plan in our sample is the West Virginia Teachers’ Retirement System, which we estimate to be only 31 percent funded. The four states whose plans have the next-worst funding gaps are Illinois, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Kansas; all are less than 40 percent funded.
This PajamasMedia post makes it crystal clear that a few generations of spendthrift, short-sighted politicians have managed to put the United States on a debt death spiral. These facts have been known for many years, but politicians overwhelmingly thought it best to hide their heads in the sand.
The prognosis is lousy. The federal government, in a frantic effort at shoring up its credit, will drain the country of the resources the economy needs to grow. As production falls, the pols will redouble their efforts at extracting wealth. I can just hear Obama giving one of his speeches, demonizing the greedy rich who are hiding their wealth and not paying "their fair share."
We are a ship in grave danger, with a captain blindly steering for the rocks
As an example of the other kind of conspiracy theory, the dumb kind, check out the latest claim by defenders of Wake County’s soon-to-be-abandoned policy of forcing students to attend schools far away from their homes. In Monday’s Raleigh News & Observer, critics of the new conservative school board accused several of its members of trying to sabotage public schools so that Wake parents will send their kids to private schools instead. “We are all very concerned about it, because it seems that there’s an agenda there – to dismantle the public school system and make it less attractive for middle- and upper-class families,” one pro-busing activist told the N&O.
Local leftists have been peddling this particular conspiracy theory for months now. I have no reason to doubt that they actually believe it, much as devotees of Loch Ness Monster lore and Sasquatch sightings seem entirely genuine in their credulity. But it makes very little sense to the rational observer.
But for the complete story of this fast-metastasizing lunacy, only AskLoonie can help. Click the banner for "the rest of the st[upid]":
The author of this pseudonymous NRO piece argues that there are great differences between the establishment of the National Health Service in Great Britain and Obamacare here. Hence, he concludes, those of us who do not want to be dependent upon government for health care should not despair. Although the NHS has become sacrosanct in Britain (even though it does a lousy job!), Obamacare is different.
My only quibble is with the military analogy. Waterloo was Napoleon's last desperate gamble to regain power. Even if he had managed to beat the Prussian/Anglo-allied army at Waterloo, he would still have faced very long odds as the rest of the coalition that brought him down mobilized armies to take on an exhausted France. That's not at all like Obama's situation. A better analogy would be to Hitler and Stalingrad, where the Germans, at the height of their military power, wore themselves out fighting to take an objective they couldn't hold and left them vulnerable to counter-attacks.
Much as I dislike comparing Americans who want the government to leave them alone to the Red Army, it's time to attack and roll back the invaders!
Obama wants to lavish as much pork as he can on his allies, especially Big Labor, which provides so much money and manpower for Dem candidates. The latest outrage is an executive order mandating what is euphemistically called "high road contracting." What it means is that the federal government won't do business with firms that don't have the high wage and benefit scales of many unionized ones.
In other words, the feds will discriminate against contractors that would save taxpayers money on government work.
If Obama were serious about reducing the prodigious deficit, he'd be scaling back on federal projects, but instead, he's going the other way and using his power to make them more costly.
Here is an article by Diana Furchgott-Roth explaining the nasty business.
"Do I think every member of the tea party is a homophobe, racist or a
moron? No, absolutely not," Levin said. "Do I think most of them are
homophobes, racists or morons? Absolutely."
That's what Jason Levin, creator of the crashtheteaparty.org Web site, told The Associated Press in this story about the left-wingers who plan to disrupt the Tea Party protests scheduled April 15 and beyond.
Levin told the AP his "group has 65 leaders in major cities across the country ... . [He said] they want to exaggerate the [Tea Party movement's] least appealing qualities,
further distance the tea party from mainstream America and damage the
public's opinion of them."
As you may suspect, crashtheteaparty.org was not created by a
Republican or an independent, but instead by someone with a red-tinted
sickle to grind. In this instance, the suspect appears to be a
conspiratorial 36-year-old from the Pacific Northwest named Jason Levin. He started promoting the site
on April 8 on his personal Twitter account, but failed to do an
adequate job of covering up his personal information when he registered
the domain five days earlier. He later attempted to cover his tracks,
but the original information was quickly disseminated around the
internet by those who wondered who was behind the group.
When contacted by Pajamas Media, Levin confirmed his involvement in
the effort, stating, “Our stated intentions, or ‘manifesto’ as some of
the conservative bloggers have called it is absolutely sincere.” He
claimed to have operatives in tea party groups in every major city.
Levin concluded with a taunt: “Good luck stopping us. See you on 4/15.”
Smears and deception have been part of politics from the beginning,
but the proud, brazen nature of those who embrace this sort of activity
is a direct affront to the sort of civic involvement we need to have in
a healthy republic. These are vile tactics by any moral standard,
championed by individuals and groups that care not for debate and
dissent, but instead thrive on creating a climate of mistrust and fear.
Perhaps this is the kind of world they desire to live in, providing
they have the power in that world.
One has to question the character of individuals involved in such an
effort, and their trustworthiness in any endeavor. They create
stereotypes and perpetuate them for media consumption in order to
demonize and alienate their fellow Americans from one another. And to
The crashtheteaparty.org website exists for one reason and one
reason only: to stifle the voices of those with whom they disagree and
to render mute a rising chorus of dissatisfaction with a government
that is acting in ways that deeply distress a growing majority. It is a
I'm concerned about the pushback from the Left, but not alarmed. Intelligent people can see through the deception, and dismiss it if not ridicule it. (Humor remains an underrated weapon.) The disconnection between the general public, a third of whom are either part of the Tea Party movement or are close to someone in it, and the American Left (including their allies in the media), unfortunately, may be complete. What the lefty elites do not understand they vilify. Such demonization may have worked in a time before the Web and social networking allowed the curious to bypass the mainstream gatekeepers and learn the truth. Not anymore, thank goodness.
It's been scintillating to watch John McCain morph from the Republican Party's chief maverick to a non-maverick — and not one iota of it has to do with winning the Republican primary in Arizona, darn it!
Now, McCain has released an ad mocking his primary opponent, J.D. Hayworth. Hayworth is the favorite of the Tea Party movement.
The ad is funny (similar to McCain's "The One" spot against Obama), but it brings back memories of my bout with McCainitis, which I suffered from throughout 2008 since the (non) maverick's face and views were in the news continually.
Here is a terrific City Journal article by German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk entitled "The Grasping Hand." In it, he discusses the way the modern welfare state (he's specifically writing about Europe, but his observations apply equally to the US) plunders the productive to give money to the unproductive.
There is a lot of excellent writing in the piece. "The grasping hand of government releases its takings mainly for the ostensible public interest, funding Sisyphean tasks in the name of 'social justice.'"
Or consider this point: "[I]n a modern economy, unproductive citizens increasingly live at the expense of productive ones -- though in an equivocal way, since they are told, and believe, taht they are disadvantaged and deserve still more."
Read the whole thing. This German writer has well encapsulated the reasons for the political tumult in the US, from the Tea Party movement to libertarians to a growing number of independents. People can see that the gigantic surge of government spending and control is going to mean a much poorer future for us, our children, and future generations. For Americans who aren't blinded by Obama Worship, that is a future they desperately want to avoid.
The latest National Review contains an edited version of a letter to the editor I submitted last month. The edited version does not change the thrust of my argument, but the editor did excise the one quip I enjoyed most.
Here’s the letter as originally submitted:
I nodded in agreement with Jay Cost's article contrasting the first years of the Reagan and Obama administrations ("Rowing Upstream," March 22). Mr. Cost identifies key differences that helped explain why the 40th president succeeded where the 44th president did not. I was surprised, though, that the article made no mention of a huge factor in Reagan’s first-year success: He survived an assassination attempt. While the shooting did not wipe out Democratic opposition, popular support for the recovering Reagan certainly blunted his foes’ political weapons. Despite the 1981 shooting’s impact on future political events, one suspects this is an aspect of the Reagan presidency that President Obama hopes never to emulate.
Jay Cost replied in NR that Gallup polls suggest Reagan’s “ten-point bounce” in job approval polls after the assassination attempt disappeared long before he signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act. In other words, the shooting had little impact on Reagan’s ability to win support for his tax cut.
I have no reason to dispute that data. It would have been nice to read that information in the original article, even if the author had cited it only to shoot the assassination attempt down (pun intended) as a potential factor influencing Reagan’s success.
Moreover, the Gallup data cannot tell us how vigorously Reagan’s opponents would have fought him on the tax reform issue had the shooting never happened. We’ve seen plenty of examples over the years of legislation and nominations killed after months of withering criticism. Had the assassination attempt not “blunted his foes’ political weapons” — at least temporarily — Reagan’s tax-cutting journey might have traveled along a different, more treacherous path.
As noted at the top of the letter, though, I agreed with the thrust of Jay Cost’s article, which spelled out factors that helped explain differences between Reagan’s successful first year and Obama’s first-year struggles.
If the history of Reagan’s opening year in office interests you, check out Steven Hayward’s Age of Reagan:
If you’re a student of American conservatism, it’s likely that you’ve encountered (or will encounter) George Nash’s classic history of the post-World War II conservative intellectual movement. First published in 1976 and updated 30 years later, it remains an important primer on the various currents of conservative thought.
While his research and analysis continue to offer a valuable perspective, the overall package lacks cohesion. The book’s first third features a series of short profiles of important conservative figures, followed by five short essays on William F. Buckley and National Review.
Then readers are forced to shift gears. Rather than continue with short pieces, Nash turns to longer articles on topics of less general interest, including more than 60 pages devoted to Herbert Hoover.
Still, Nash’s work always enlightens, as when his concluding essay ponders the language of conservative thought today:
What do conservatives want? Limited government, they answer; free enterprise, strict construction of the Constitution, fiscal responsibility, traditional values and respect for the sanctity of human life. No doubt, but I wonder: How much are these traditional catchphrases and abstractions persuading people anymore? How much are they inspiring the rising generation? How much are they resonating with America’s dominant professional classes, particularly those in the more secularized and urbanized regions of this country?
It is not a new problem. In fact, it is a perennial problem, the essence of which Whittaker Chambers captured long ago. “Each age, he wrote, “finds its own language for an eternal meaning.”
What do conservatives want? To put it in elementary terms, we want to be free, we want to live virtuous and productive lives, and we want to be secure from threats beyond and within our borders. We want to live in a society that sustains and encourages these aspirations. Freedom, virtue, safety: goals reflected in the libertarian, traditionalist, and national security dimensions of the conservative movement. But to achieve these perennial goals, we must communicate in language that connects not only with our own coterie but with the great majority of the American people.