Friday night beauty: Chick Corea and Hiromi Uehara, “Spain”

Enjoy!

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Class War: How public servants became our masters

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There was a time when government work offered lower salaries than comparable jobs in the private sector but more security and somewhat better benefits. These days, government workers fare better than private-sector workers in almost every area—pay, benefits, time off, and job security. And not just in California.

According to a 2007 analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Asbury Park Press, “the average federal worker made $59,864 in 2005, compared with the average salary of $40,505 in the private sector.” Across comparable jobs, the federal government paid higher salaries than the private sector three times out of four, the paper found. As Heritage Foundation legal analyst James Sherk explained to the Press, “The government doesn’t have to worry about going bankrupt, and there isn’t much competition.”

In February 2008, before the recession made the disparity much worse, The New York Times reported that “George W. Bush is in line to be the first president since World War II to preside over an economy in which federal government employment rose more rapidly than employment in the private sector.” The Obama administration has extended the hiring binge, with executive branch employment (excluding the Postal Service and the Defense Department) slated to grow by 2 percent in 2010—and more than 15 percent if you count temporary Census workers.

The average federal salary (including benefits) is set to grow from $72,800 in 2008 to $75,419 in 2010, CBS reported. But the real action isn’t in what government employees are being paid today; it’s in what they’re being promised for tomorrow. Public pensions have swollen to unrecognizable proportions during the last decade. In June 2005, BusinessWeek reported that “more than 14 million public servants and 6 million retirees are owed $2.37 trillion by more than 2,000 different states, cities and agencies,” numbers that have risen since then. State and local pension payouts, the magazine found, had increased 50 percent in just five years.

[…]Michael Hodges’ invaluable Grandfather Economic Report uses the Bureau of Labor Statistics to chart the growth in state and local government employees since 1946. Their number has increased from 3.3 million then to 19.8 million today—a 492 percent increase as the country’s population increased by 115 percent. Since 1999 the number of state and local government employees has increased by 13 percent, compared to a 9 percent increase in the population.

The United States had 2.3 state and local government employees per 100 citizens in 1946 and has 6.5 state and local government employees per 100 citizens now. In 1947, Hodges writes, 78 percent of the national income went to the private sector, 16 percent to the federal sector, and 6 percent to the state and local government sector. Now 54 percent of the economy is private, 28 percent goes to the feds, and 18 percent goes to state and local governments. The trend lines are ominous.

Bigger government means more government employees. Those employees then become a permanent lobby for continual government growth. The nation may have reached critical mass; the number of government employees at every level may have gotten so high that it is politically impossible to roll back the bureaucracy, rein in the costs, and restore lost freedoms.

People who are supposed to serve the public have become a privileged elite that exploits political power for financial gain and special perks. Because of its political power, this interest group has rigged the game so there are few meaningful checks on its demands. Government employees now receive far higher pay, benefits, and pensions than the vast majority of Americans working in the private sector. Even when they are incompetent or abusive, they can be fired only after a long process and only for the most grievous offenses.

It’s a two-tier system in which the rulers are making steady gains at the expense of the ruled. The predictable results: Higher taxes, eroded public services, unsustainable levels of debt, and massive roadblocks to reforming even the poorest performing agencies and school systems. If this system is left to grow unchecked, we will end up with a pale imitation of the free society envisioned by the Founders.

Read the whole thing.

O’Sullivan’s law

Via an off-hand remark in the comments section of this article, I stumbled on this golden oldie: O’Sullivan’s Law. (John O’Sullivan is currently the executive editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.)

Robert Michels — as any reader of James Burnham’s finest book, The Machiavellians, knows was the author of the Iron Law of Oligarchy. This states that in any organization the permanent officials will gradually obtain such influence that its day-to-day program will increasingly reflect their interests rather than its own stated philosophy. […] O’Sullivan’s First Law: All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing. I cite as supporting evidence the ACLU, the Ford Foundation, and the Episcopal Church. The reason is, of course, that people who staff such bodies tend to be the sort who don’t like private profit, business, making money, the current organization of society, and, by extension, the Western world. At which point Michels’s Iron Law of Oligarchy takes over — and the rest follows.

Is there any law which enables us to predict the behavior of right-wing organizations? As it happens, there is: Conquest’s Second Law (formulated by the Sovietologist Robert Conquest): The behavior of an organization can best be predicted by assuming it to be controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.


Zombie: anti-abortion demonstrators outnumbers “pro-choice” counterdemonstrators 500-to-1, in… San Francisco?!

Zombie has a brief report out on the Apple iPad launch event, and a much longer report (with many photos) on a pro-life demonstration in San Francisco, where the demonstrators outnumbered the “pro-choice” counterdemonstrators 500-to-1. Go read the whole reportage, which is sure to shatter many stereotypes.

In a disclaimer, Zombie classifies him/herself as “reluctantly pro-choice”: that is, on the one hand(s)he finds abortion repugnant, while on the other hand (s)he does not think the state has any business entering in the doctor-patient relationship. (S)he argues against the false dichotomy of “either life begins at conception or abortion is allowed until birth”, and sees viability, or signs of consciousness, as upper term limits for abortion. While I am pro-life myself, I have always considered the “life begins at conception” position both unrealistic and counterproductive, in that it places “Plan B” type morning-after pills on the same moral plane as third-trimester abortions. And this sort of toxic moral perfectionism inevitably leads to “I might as well be damned for a sheep as for a lamb”…

State of the Union: “Statist Quo”

It’s been a very busy several days in meatspace, and I mercifully slept through the State of the Union speech of Narcissus Rex. National Review’s editorial (h/t: C2) summarizes it as “Statist Quo” (heh):

Everything changes except President Obama. His agenda doesn’t change. He has had no second thoughts about the wisdom of his health-care policies, or any of his policies; resistance is always and only a reason for redoubling. Also unchanging is the condescension with which he articulates his agenda: He faulted himself for not explaining health care well enough to the easily confused American public. The same familiar strawmen dot the landscape of his rhetoric. (Republicans want to “maintain the status quo” on health care. This president is willing to listen to Republican ideas, just so long as he can then forget that he has ever done so.) Narcissism, too, is a constant companion. The opening of the speech, and the end, invited us to regard Obama as the embodiment of the nation.

Him and Louis XIV (“l’Etat, c’est moi”/”The State, it is me”) 😉

But it is not the country’s future that has suddenly come under doubt. It is his administration’s. It is not the country’s spirit that is in danger of breaking. It is contemporary liberalism’s.

[…]

“Let’s try common sense,” said the president. For Obama, that means that expanding Medicaid is the way to reduce the deficit. That increasing the price of energy is the way to create jobs. That further socializing medicine is the way to stay ahead of India. Nothing in his speech suggested that the government’s most important economic task might be to create the context of stability in which growth can occur. (Perhaps that thought would have interfered with the theme of “change.”) Beyond a pro forma sentence, nothing in the speech suggested that any positive economic trend could ever take hold without a direct assist from the federal government. Without its help, firms wouldn’t export or get credit. The proposal to forgive student-loan debt on special terms for people who go into “public service” typifies this administration’s attitude toward the economy: Producing wealth is less noble than rearranging it. On one of the country’s true economic challenges, runaway entitlement spending, Obama punted to a commission.

Reading the speech transcript makes me wonder whether the people who wrote it (even Nixon, who generally spoke off the cuff, did not write his SOTU speeches by himself) are living in the same universe as the rest of the world. Or whether bald-faced lying is now an accepted debating technique in the USA (not just in the Arab world).

SCOTUS Justice Samuel Alito was caught on camera mouthing “not true” during 0bama’s berating SCOTUS for doing its job. (There are times I wonder whether 0bama’s read the same US Constitution as I have.) Insty, being a law professor, rounds it up here. Don Surber also weighs in.

Insty also has a gargantuan roundup of reactions to the SOTU speech in general.

And AP (yes, AssPress) are suddently remembering that they are a news agency and provided a fact check of the speech. The Cato Institute video-fisks it (H/t: Insty):

Former Surgeon-General warns against healthcare rationing

The Politico (video at link, hat tip: Pi Guy):

A hale, 93-year-old C. Everett Koop, Surgeon General in the Reagan Administration, stars in this new spot from the conservative 60-plus association.

“I’m 93 and thank G-d for every year. I’m here with 2 artificial joints, 2 pacemakers to keep my heart in rhythm, as well as a stent to keep my coronaries open,” he says. “Seniors in this country can get the care I received, but in some places, like the United Kingdom, we would be considered too old and the cost to the state too high.”

Koop doesn’t directly tie that rationing to the health care legislation before Congress, but instead goes on to denounce Democrats for “keeping the discussion and specifics secret.”

Insty wonders if this was the last straw leading to this: Democrats slamming the brakes on healthcare overhaul.