Deficit Scare Tactics

January 24, 2013

Yeah, that Krug.  When he’s right, he’s right!

To say what should be obvious: Republicans don’t care about the deficit. They care about exploiting the deficit to pursue their goal of dismantling the social insurance system. They want a fiscal crisis; they need it; they’re enjoying it. I mean, how is “starve the beast” supposed to work? Precisely by creating a fiscal crisis, giving you an excuse to slash Social Security and Medicare.

The idea that they’re going to cheerfully accept a deal that will take the current deficit off the table as a scare story without doing major damage to the key social insurance programs, and then have a philosophical discussion about how we might change those programs over the longer term, is pure fantasy. That would amount to an admission of defeat on their part.

Americans Speak Out: We Want Our Welfare State!

October 17, 2012

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A recent study queried Americans about their preferences regarding wealth distribution, and found “a surprising level of consensus: All demographic groups—even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy—desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.”  When asked to choose from among three charts representing wealth distributions of unnamed countries, Sweden was the favorite.  But oh, those suicide rates!

Here, I want to go on record as a champion of The Welfare State, so much abused and denigrated now.  Society exists to provide food, clothing and shelter to its members.  Nowadays, it also is supposed to supply medical care and other aids to well being.  I see the welfare state as a higher stage in the evolution of society: it is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the social realm have at least the minimum acceptable level of these social goods.  Very simple.

Critics will argue that welfare states don’t meet those goals, but the Scandinavians certainly are a good counter-argument.  Or, they can argue that that type of society cannot work here – more American exceptionalism, but in a bad way!  And they will say, that ultimately, our free-wheeling system provides more to more people, but those people seem to have other ideas.

Americans – get your act together.  We Want a Welfare State Now!

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What do French workers want?

October 20, 2010

With all the coverage of the conflict in France between the unions and the government, I have heard little about what the real issues are.  Yes, the unions don’t want their members to be forced to wait until the age of 62 to get full retirement – now they retire at 60.  And yes, that would still be the lowest retirement age in Europe, so, aren’t they just damn lazy?  Surely, they must have a position to counter Sarkozy’s insistence that the state just can’t afford this anymore…

Well, apparently they do.  I found this interesting article about the conflict, and I have excerpted most of it here:

… many workers say they’re prepared to stay the course, in spite of perceptions that they are simply too lazy to accept what would still be the lowest retirement age in Europe.  Two years too many, workers say Jean-Pierre Lesouef, an electronics manager at the transportation giant Thalys, says he has already worked for 37 years and is too tired to work into his 60s.

“I’ve had enough,” he says. “When you’re at my age and you’ve worked as long as I have, you see if you want to work another two years.”

Some experts say complaints like Mr. Lesouef’s go a long way toward explaining why the proposal to add an extra two years to French working life has caused so much upset.  Annual studies for the European Commission looking at attitudes toward work show the French, along with the Italians and the Spanish, are among the unhappiest workers on the continent.

Henri Sterdyniak, an economist at the Paris-based Centre for Economic Research, blames a hierarchical work structure within French companies that rarely allows room for professional development or promotions. Performance reviews are rare and negotiations on working conditions or career paths practically are scarce.

“The French model dictates that if you have a certain diploma you will have a certain career, and if you don’t you will never climb the ladder,” he says. “The worker at the bottom feels like he is constantly squeezed and never consulted. By the end of his career he is exhausted and uninterested, so it’s no wonder he wants to leave.”

Worker satisfaction has also dropped since the 37-hour workweek was introduced, because most people are forced to do the same tasks but in less time, Mr. Sterdyniak says.

Workers like Daniel Quittot, an air conditioning technician, say they’re concerned they will be forced out of their jobs and unable to find new work well before they turn 62. “I’m afraid that if the retirement age goes up, I’ll have two extra years on unemployment and in the end I won’t have worked long enough to collect my full pension,” he says.

Sterdyniak says Mr. Quittot has legitimate fears. Surveys show that unemployment among French workers over 55 rose dramatically when the retirement age was reduced to 60 from 65 in 1983 and is now among the highest in Europe. Although many want to work up to age 60, French employees are on average forced out of their jobs at 58.

“There is a real problem of age discrimination right now in France,” says Sterdyniak. “Unless that changes with the pension reform, we are going to create a whole new problem of unemployment.”

Charity Begins at Home…

January 4, 2005

Today’s NYTimes Op-Ed page sports a piece by a Ms. Adelman, denizen of some conservative think-tank, in which she lays into those who regard our government’s (initial) response to the tsunami as “stingy.” Not so, she opines, we here in the USA actually give more than anyone else, but our foreign aid is privatized! So, to the measly 15 or 35 million dollars that GWB initially pledged from the coffers of the USA, she adds in all the donations that have been poring in from private individuals. Yes, it’s true, the people of the US are generous, and are responding in force. Would that our government represented us better.But here’s the kicker that I love so much. You see, those Europeans and Scands, as well as the Japanese, sunk in the moral depravity of their welfare-statism, only seem to give more than the USA, because all their giving comes from the government. The figures reported in the press are false, she says, because they only compare, say, Japan or Norway’s government donations to the USA’s miserable federal giving. Please note, she does not offer any comment, facts, or statistics on the level of private giving in these countries. She simply asserts, and assumes that it is negligible. Naturally their moral impulses have atrophied under years of state-run coddling, to the point that they are, no doubt, incapable of compassion and charity. Of course, one might ask, then, why they spend so much on social welfare in the first place, but…

Facts, Ms. Adelman, please. Enough ideological blather.