Canadian Public Sector Workers average 18.2 Paid Sick Days a Year

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 15th, 2013

Week in Review

Nations around the world are suffering financial crises due to the costs of their public sectors.  Which they pay for by taxing the private sector.  Even though people in the private sector don’t enjoy anywhere near the generous benefits the public sector enjoys (see Government to target public service’s sick days in next round of bargaining by BILL CURRY posted 6/10/2013 on The Globe and Mail).

The Conservative government is putting public-service unions on notice that sick days will be targeted in the next round of collective bargaining.

Treasury Board president Tony Clement said the government wants to move away from the current rules, where workers can use up to 15 paid sick days and five family days a year, in addition to vacation time.

The Minister stopped short of accusing public servants of abusing the system, but questioned why the federal absentee rate is higher than that of other governments and the private sector, where he said the average number of sick days is 6.7.

“Look, I think that the great majority of public servants are, when they take time off, they are sick. But there’s no question that the rate of sick leave, when you’re looking at 18.2 days as an average in a year, is well beyond not only private sector norms but other public-sector norms,” Mr. Clement said Monday at a news conference on Parliament Hill…

Union leaders also took issue with comparisons of public- and private-sector absenteeism, arguing the private sector does not document sick days in the same way as governments do…

“Mental illness, stress, anxiety, depression were not admitted to or acknowledged,” he said. “Cancer was much less treatable than it is today. So the workplace has changed dramatically in the past 40 years, but the disability management system has not. Employees are getting lost or forgotten in the system.”

Yes, we admit and acknowledge those illnesses more today than we used to.  And we do treat cancer more than we once did.  However, these illnesses do not affect the public sector differently than they affect the private sector.  So if the private sector is averaging 8.7 sick days there is no reason why the public sector should be averaging 18.2 sick days.  On top of 5 family days.  Holidays.  And vacation time.

One of the arguments for a single-payer health care system in the United States is that people will be healthier.  With access to health care doctors will catch disease early and stop it in its tracks.  Now either the Canadians are milking the system or a single-payer health care system doesn’t make people healthier.

If the organization a person works for can get by for a month (after you add together all that paid time off) without that person being there chances are that they can get by the other 11 months of the year without that person being there.  Which is why you don’t see 18.2 sick says in the private sector.  Because it’s too great a cost burden to pay people for not working.  As private sector employers can’t just raise their prices to cover this cost.  Whereas the government can raise taxes.  Or print money.

But there even is a limit for government, too.  As we can see by the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.  And the need to cut back on generous sick pay in Canada.  Higher taxes reduce economic activity.  Which reduces government revenues.  Which they make up with borrowing.  Until they suffer a sovereign debt crisis.  Like in the Eurozone.  Where a country is so deep in debt that no one wants to loan them anymore.  For it is unlikely that a nation so deep in debt will ever repay that debt.  Which is why these generous public sector benefits are simply not sustainable.  When you can no longer tax or borrow you have but one option left.  You have to cut costs.  And the public sector will have to live more like the private sector.  Less exalted and privileged.  As public servants should.

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FT134: “There will always be poor and oppressed people because someone has to vote for liberal Democrats.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 7th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

Liberal Democrats would Not Like an America without Poor and Oppressed People

In the anti-nuclear power movie The China Syndrome Jack Lemmon’s character wanted to warn everyone about his dangerous nuclear power plant.  He was a control room operator at the plant.  During one event there was a vibration.  The reactor shut down (SCRAM) safely.  But Lemmon’s character did some investigating and found that some safety reports had been falsified.  And in his quest to publicize this fact people died.  So he did the only thing he could.  He locked himself inside the control room at the nuclear power plant.  Requested that the characters played by Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda come down to put him on the air live.  And threatened to create a nuclear catastrophe himself if that didn’t happen.  That’s right, as dangerous as that reactor was he did NOT shut it down.

Odd, really.  He threatened to cause what he was trying to prevent.  Why?  Well, consider what would have happened if he did everything he did with one change.  Instead of threatening his own nuclear catastrophe he shut down that reactor.  So it was safe and could not harm anyone.  If he did that what do you think would have happened?  No one would have brought that news crew (Douglas and Fonda) to the plant.  And plant security would have just broken into the control room and subdued Lemmon.  But because he left the reactor hot and dangerous they didn’t break in and subdue him.  And they brought in that news crew.  Because his threat of causing a nuclear catastrophe gave him power.  While a safe and shutdown reactor gave him no power.

So what do we learn from this?  Sometimes the thing you’re fighting against is the very thing that gives you power.  A purpose.  A reason for getting out of bed in the morning.  Something that gives you a job.  Something that pays the bills.  And it’s just not disgruntled nuclear power plant operators.  Imagine a world with no crime.  If there was no crime we wouldn’t need any police officers.  Something police officers wouldn’t like.  Just as firefighters wouldn’t like a world without fires or accidents.  Just as cardiologists would not like a world without heart disease.  Just as environmentalists would not like a world without global warming.  Just as advocates of affirmative action would not like a world without discrimination.  Just as liberal Democrats would not like an America without poor and oppressed people.

The Poor and Oppressed are a Favorite Constituency of the Federal Government

The more horrible the things people are fighting against the greater are the need for these people.  The Left makes use of this strategy all of the time.  Falling test scores means we need to spend more on education.  As in hiring more teachers.  And paying them more.  This works the other way, too.  When municipalities are running budget deficits because of costly public sector contracts calling for high pay and generous benefits they place a new millage on the ballot.  And warn the people that if they don’t vote ‘yes’ for these higher taxes they will have no choice but to increase the number of rapes, murders and assaults.  As well as increase the number of deaths from fires, heart attacks in the home and car accidents.  Because if the people vote ‘no’ they will lay off police officers and firefighters.  Instead of renegotiating those contracts that are causing their financial problems.  No.  It’s never cutting back on the things that are bankrupting their cities.  It’s always putting the fear of God into their electorate.  So the public sector workers can maintain their generous pay and benefits.

Of course some will say that our teachers, police officers and firefighters don’t get paid that much.  If that’s true then they belong to some real crappy unions.  Because you join a union to get better pay and better benefits.  And you pay union dues for the union’s help in getting better pay and better benefits.  Also, if we didn’t already pay them very well you would know what their pay and benefits were during these millage requests.  For it sure would help their argument for higher pay if most people made more than they did.  Because, let’s face it, we need good teachers, police officers and firefighters.  If we paid them less than most other people everyone would feel guilty and vote ‘yes’ without hesitation.  But during these millage requests they don’t make public their current pay and benefit schedule.  And it’s hard to find this information online.  Because that’s ‘personal’.  Even though we pay them with public money.  Which should tell you something.  They’re paid better than most people.  Because they’re asking for more without telling us how much they currently make.  For it is hard to get sympathy for your pay level when you make more than most other people.

It’s no secret that government workers get better pay and benefit packages than people in the private sector.  Especially in the federal government.  Where federal employment grows by leaps and bounds every year.  And they create ever new programs to fight against something.  So they can keep hiring more people into the federal bureaucracy.  To reward friends and cronies.  And to endear a growing federal government to ever more people.  So they will continuously help to support and promote that sprawling bureaucracy.  Through their votes.  And by making as many people as possible dependent on the government.  Making the poor and oppressed a favorite constituency of the federal government.  As it has been for a very long time.  Despite the numerous battles to end poverty and oppression.

The Liberal Democrat Answer to Poverty is Not a Job but a Government Entitlement

JFK was a tax-cutter.  Just like Ronald Reagan.  They both believed that you had to create a business-friendly environment to create jobs.  Because if a business did well it grew and hired more people.  That’s why both JFK and Ronald Reagan had strong economic growth and low unemployment during their presidencies.  And they each brought in a lot of tax revenue into Washington.  Even with their low tax rates.  So low tax rates are good.  They help businesses grow.  They help people get jobs.  They lower the price of consumer goods so people can buy more for less.  And they bring in more revenue to the government to help those who need help.  Of course liberal Democrats hate this.  Because if everyone is doing well there is no need for all their agencies and programs.  Or them.

Shortly after the assassination of JFK things changed.  LBJ became president.  Who was a big liberal Democrat.  Who declared unconditional war on poverty.  This was in 1964.  The plan was to explode the size of the federal government.  Which is what he did when he gave us the Great Society.  The war on poverty would become one of America’s longest war.  Longer than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Longer than the Vietnam War.  Even longer than the Cold War.  The war on poverty continues to this day.  Requiring ever more government agencies.  And programs.  Yet they’ve all failed to end poverty.  Proven by the fact that every generation of liberal Democrats running for office is an advocate for the poor and oppressed who have no voice but theirs.

The liberal Democrat answer to poverty is not a job but a government entitlement.  Because jobs lead to lower unemployment.  And less purpose for a liberal Democrat.  Liberals don’t want jobs and low unemployment.  They want high taxes and high unemployment.  So they can matter.  And make a difference.  So they can have a cushy job with high pay and generous benefits.  So they attack tax cuts.  They attack any lowering of regulatory costs.  And anything else that would help businesses create jobs.  Which would take the poor and oppressed away from them.  They don’t want people to be rugged and independent.  They want them needy and dependent.  And they want as many people as possible to be needy and dependent.  Even if it leads to a little rioting.  Especially if it leads to a little rioting.  For a little level of danger can be useful.  As it can be in a nuclear power plant in an anti-nuclear power movie.  Because it’s very hard to get taxpayers to vote for people that want to increase your taxes and make your lives more costly.  While some liberals genuinely care about making people’s lives better many more are like Jack Lemmon in The China Syndrome.  Who understand that they must maintain a certain level of poverty and oppression in the nation.  Or they will have no power.  As no one will vote for them.  Because if you’re in the business of ending poverty and oppression you need a certain level of poverty and oppression to fight against.  Always.

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FT121: “As liberals gain knowledge and experience they become conservatives.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 8th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

Carnegie and Rockefeller were able to make the World Better because of Capitalism and Free Markets

Liberals campaign hard to get the youth vote.  Before the young grow up and become responsible adults.  Lose their youthful idealism.  And their ignorance of rudimentary economics.  Kids graduating from high school don’t know much about economics.  They don’t know that JFK was a tax cutter just like Ronal Reagan.  And that those tax cuts stimulated real economic growth.  They don’t know any of this.  But they know who Al Gore is.  And will read you the riot act whenever you do anything that will increase your carbon footprint on this planet. 

Those who go on to college build on their liberal high school education.  Where they don’t learn about how Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller created the modern nation we know today.  Carnegie made steel plentiful and inexpensive.  Allowing us to build the skyscrapers in our cities.  Rockefeller made kerosene so plentiful and inexpensive that he put the whale oil industry out of business.  Saving the whales.  And gave us plentiful and inexpensive gasoline for our automobiles.  Providing fuel for our trains and planes.  Giving us the freedom to travel anywhere.  Visiting big cities like New York.  Where many of the great skyscrapers built with Carnegie steel are still standing today.

Carnegie and Rockefeller are just two entrepreneurs who changed the world.  And greatly increased our standard of living.  Who were free to make the world a better place because of capitalism and free markets.  Instead of working for a paycheck like most people do they took risks and created things.  Better steel.  And better fuel.  As well as jobs.  Lots and lots of jobs.  So people could work for a paycheck.  Why did they take these great risks?  Because the possibility of getting rich is a great incentive.  Which is why aspiring actors go to Los Angeles and starve.  Hoping to get a break.  Get discovered.  So they can become rich.   Which is why people buy lotto tickets.  To become rich.  For it appears everyone wants to get rich.  But there is a difference when people like Carnegie and Rockefeller get rich.  Everyone lives a better life when they do.  Not just the movie star or the lotto winner.

Students live College Life to the Fullest and Pursue Degrees that won’t take up too much of their Time

So what do they learn in college?  That capitalism isn’t fair.  Corporations are evil.  But communism and socialism are good.  Government intervention into the free markets is good.  And, of course, those who do learn economics only learn Keynesian economics.  The school of economics that favors government interventionism into private markets.  And that great industrialists like Carnegie and Rockefeller were greedy and exploited their workers.  While communism and socialism protected their workers.  Which is another failing of our educational system.  Students don’t learn what an abject failure communism was.  Both as an economic system.  And on human rights.  They don’t learn that.  Or that a lot of rich industrialists like Carnegie and Rockefeller spent the last years of their lives giving away the wealth they amassed.  Like some of America’s rich continue to do today.  As exemplified by Bill Gates.

No.  Their education is a poor one.  Which explains why the Indians and Chinese are passing American students by.  The goal of American public education is not to produce high test scores.  But to indoctrinate students into being good Democrat voters.  So those in the public sector unions can continue to earn more in pay and benefits than their counterparts in the private sector.  Another fact they don’t teach these young students.  They keep these students young and dumb as long as possible.  And the government helps.  By focusing on the things important to these students.  Lenient drug laws.  Birth control.  And abortion.  To make sure their first time living away from their parents is a good time.  A fun time.  And to make sure that they understand that Democrat political candidates aren’t like their parents.  Those buzz kills.  Whose favorite word in their vocabulary is ‘no’.  Not the Democrats.  They like the word ‘yes’.  As in “yes we can.”  And yes you can.  Do whatever young people with raging sex drives like to do.  And they do. 

They live college life to the fullest.  Many pursuing degrees that won’t take up too much of their time.  Taking less science and math like the Indians and the Chinese.  Because those are hard and require a lot of homework.  Instead they pursue degrees in women’s studies.  Minority studies.  Family studies.  American studies.  Communications.  Film.  Psychology.  Philosophy.  Things that are fun and have no math.  Allowing a lot of fun when outside of the classroom.  But are absolutely worthless in the high-tech economy.  The only employment opportunities for these degrees is to become a professor and teach other students these worthless degrees.

It turns out Liberalism is a Lie used to maintain a Privileged Class

So when these college graduates can’t get a job that’ll make them rich overnight they get angry.  And struggle to pay down the mountain of debt that paid for those worthless degrees.  Of course it’s not their fault.  Or the universities who sold them those worthless degrees.  It’s Wall Street’s fault.  Those evil rich people who don’t pay their fair share in taxes.  That somehow if they only paid more in taxes they could find gainful employment.

And when the young start working for a living they discover taxes.  From property taxes to payroll taxes to income taxes.  Which are a lot of taxes.  And when they start raising a family they start paying attention to what’s on television.  Which was fine when they were partying in their youth.  But somehow isn’t right now that they are parents.  They start thinking about the things they did in their youth.  And how to hide it from their kids.

And when there are ballot initiates to raise taxes to pay for budget deficits at the city and state level they pay attention to what caused these deficits.  And they don’t like what they learn.  Public sector pensions and health care benefits that are far greater than theirs.  Worse, they are not only paying for theirs (through a payroll deduction and/or lower pay) they’re paying for these generous public sector benefits via ever increasing taxes.  And they will be paying these taxes for a long time as few will be able to retire until they’re well into their sixties.  Working some 40-50 years.  While public sector retirees can enjoy their more generous benefits after only working some 20-30 years.

Which is why as liberals gain knowledge and experience they become conservatives.  Because young and dumb was fun in their youth.  But everyone has to grow up.  And learn that their parents were right.  Which is why a lot of people grow up to become conservative like their parents.  But few conservatives become liberals.  Because as it turns out liberalism is a lie.  It is just a means to maintain a privileged class.  Where life is great within the privileged class.  Where you can retire after 20-30 years and receive generous pensions and health care benefits.  But it sucks for those outside that privileged class who have to pay for it.  Which is why public education is not about test scores.  But producing good Democrat voters.  To maintain that privileged class.  Because education is in that privileged class.

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FT106: “You can’t have high paying jobs with generous benefits and low consumer prices.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 24th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

To give Workers High Wages and Generous Benefits a Business has to sell their Goods at High Prices 

The problem with politics is that voters don’t understand economics.  And they demonstrate this by demanding mutually exclusive things all of the time.  Where having one thing makes it impossible to have the other thing.  Like that old saying that goes like this.  You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.   You can have cake.  Or you can eat cake.  But you can’t have cake after eating it.  Because once you eat your cake it is gone.  And there is nothing to have.  These things, then, are mutually exclusive.  You can have one or the other.  But you can’t have both.

Now let’s transfer this train of thought to economics.  And to its most fundamental element.  The demand curve.  Which represents people in the economy.  Consumers.  And the stuff that they buy.  And at what prices they will buy the stuff that they buy.  Let’s take large flat-screen televisions.  The big ones.  Over 60 inches in size.  If they cost the price of a luxury car few consumers will buy them.  But if they only cost the price of a pack of gum consumers will buy them until they have one for every room in their house.  And consumers will buy various amounts at the prices in between.  But in general this one truth holds true.  People will buy more televisions as their prices fall.  And they will buy fewer televisions as their prices rise.  When we show this graphically by plotting how many televisions they sell at various prices we get a demand curve.

Well, you think, why can’t we just sell televisions at the price of a pack of gum?  More people will have televisions.  That’s good.  Because people just love watching television.  And television makers will make more televisions.  Creating more jobs.  And jobs are good.  Everyone says so.  So why not just sell televisions for the price of a pack of gum.  Well, I suppose if we pay the people who make these televisions a wage and benefit package closer to the price of a pack of gum, we could.  But who wants to work for a paycheck that can only buy a pack of gum?  Which brings us back to wanting mutually exclusive things.  To give workers high wages and generous benefits we have to sell goods at high prices.  Which is mutually exclusive to the low prices consumers demand.

Big Oil’s Exxon Mobil was not as profitable as GE and Apple in 2010

Yes, you can’t have low consumer prices and high pay and generous benefits.  Because, per the demand curve, higher prices mean fewer things sold.   And fewer things sold mean lower sales revenue.  And sales revenue pays for everything in a business.  Including wages and benefits.  Which means lower sales revenue means less money available to pay wages and benefits.  And any company that tries to pay high wages and provide generous benefits has to do one of two things.  Have a product they can sell a lot of at high prices.  Or go bankrupt.  Two of the Big Three Detroit automakers tried to do the former and failed.  So they went bankrupt.  And the government bailed them out.

So to pay employees well these companies need to be profitable.  Unlike the Big Three.  And to be profitable you have to have sales revenue large enough AND prices high enough to generate profits.  Profits so large that they can provide high wages and generous benefits.  Unlike the Big Three.  Because they couldn’t sell enough cars at high enough prices to pay those high union wages and generous union benefits.  But some companies have been profitable.  Including one corporation liberal Democrats love to hate.  Exxon Mobil (a member of a group liberal Democrats derisively call Big Oil).  One company that the current liberal Democrat administration loves and partners with in green energy technology.  General Electric.  And one corporation liberal Democrats just love period.  Until Steve Jobs died, at least.  Apple. 

In the fourth quarter of 2010, the profits for Exxon Mobil, GE and Apple were, respectively, $9.25 billion, $4.46 billion and $4.31 billion.  The first thing that jumps out at you is that Big Oil is making twice as much money as the corporations liberal Democrats love.  Which is why they hate them.  And why they love to bitch about high prices at the gas pump.  While at the same time they are rejoicing about those high prices.  Because those high gasoline prices help push their green energy agenda.  But these profit numbers are misleading.  Because they don’t factor in the cost of producing those profits.  And the most common way we do that is by dividing these profits by the sales revenue that generated them.  Giving us net profit margin.  When we do this for Exxon Mobil, GE and Apple we find their net profit margins on those profits were, respectively, 8.79%, 10.8% and 21.2%.  Of the three Big Oil is the least profitable.  And Apple is the most profitable.  In fact, nearly 2.5 times more profitable than Exxon Mobil.  But no one is demanding that the government step in and lower the price of Apple’s products.  Unlike they do with Big Oil.

The Government’s Regulatory and Compliance Costs increase the Price of Gasoline at the Pump

So why is Big Oil less profitable than those other businesses?  Well, for one, you can’t drill for American oil in China.  Like GE and Apple can build products in China.  And by working in the United States Big Oil is subject to massive regulatory and compliance costs.  And government regulates few things more than the oil industry.  The permitting process alone just to drill an exploratory well can take years for approval.  And millions of dollars.  It wasn’t like this when gas was cheap in America.  Before all of this regulation.  In the days when John D. Rockefeller was refining petroleum no one was complaining about high prices.  In fact, his competition complained about his low prices.  Prices they couldn’t match.  Asking for the government to investigate them for antitrust violations.  Which they did.  And busted up Standard Oil.  So they could sell their products at higher prices.  But when you can manufacture goods in China you can escape all of these regulatory and compliance costs.  And governmental insanity of protecting consumers by raising consumer prices.

Some may counter that the net profit percentage isn’t the important number.  But the dollar amount of their profits.  The same people who say we shouldn’t look at the dollar amount rich people pay in taxes.  But what they pay as a percentage of their income.  Which is an example of a double standard.  Determining how much profit is too much by one standard for Big Oil (dollars).  But determining by another standard how much rich people should pay in taxes (percentage).  It doesn’t make good sense.  But it makes good politics.  Especially when you have nothing but class warfare to rely on to win an election.

The attack on Big Oil is also irrational.  For Big Oil can do one thing that even GE and Apple can’t do.  Provide high wages and generous benefits to American workers.  Because American oil deposits can only be extracted in America.  By American workers.  If only government will cease their attack on Big Oil.  And allow people to drive gas guzzlers if they want to.  Let them fill up those tanks.  Increase the demand for gasoline.  If they did and we got rid of the anti-gasoline policies Big Oil will go after that oil and bring it to market to meet that demand.  Making it inexpensive and plentiful just like John D. Rockefeller did.  Before government stepped in to ‘protect’ consumers.  And added so many regulatory and compliance costs that has since jacked up the price at the pump so much that it is eating away an ever larger share of a family’s budget.  And ultimately reducing their standard of living.  Without even getting any high paying jobs with generous benefits in the bargain.  And if you ask me that’s a pretty sad job of protecting consumers.

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LESSONS LEARNED #71: “For socialism to be successful no one can be allowed to escape it.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 23rd, 2011

Socialism Oppresses and Kills tens of millions of People

It’s easy to point at Cuba as an example of socialism’s failure.  You don’t even have to go to the island.  You don’t have to study their institutions.  All you have to do is to look at the risks people will take to escape Cuba.  And they take some crazy risks to escape.  They will board some barely-seaworthy water crafts and paddle out into the ocean.  Away from Cuba.  And towards Florida.  Away from socialism.  And towards capitalism.  Away from a wretched life of despair and deprivation.  And towards a life of plenty and opportunity.  As they paddle their way to America, how many people do you think they pass who are paddling their way to Cuba?  How about zero?  Because when it comes to refugees, the direction is always towards America.  It’s never the other way.

And it’s easy to point to Mao in China.  His Great Leap Forward killed a lot of his own people.  And by ‘a lot’ I mean in the tens of millions.  Depending on the numbers you use.  It could have been anywhere between 15 and 50 million people.  The Chinese communists were not the record keepers the Nazis were.  Though the actual number may be in doubt the magnitude isn’t.  In the spirit of brotherly love that is the hallmark of socialism, millions were beaten, tortured and killed to ‘encourage’ acceptance of the forced collectivization of farming.  And the funny thing is (not ha ha funny but funny as in sad and ironic) that after beating, torturing and killing so many people to collectivize farming, the agriculture output plummeted.  Partly because of bad planning.  And partly due to nature.  But local party officials reported record harvests to avoid beatings, torture and killings by party superiors.  So China exported much of these record harvests.  Leaving nothing for the peasants to eat.  Resulting in famine.  Again, the record keeping is sparse.  As they often are when your policies end up killing your own people.  But deaths were in the tens of millions.  The Great Leap Forward was a big push to modernize China.  To industrialize it.  For there was little infrastructure in China.  Most of it was rural.  Dotted with peasant farms.  Stretching across vast lands.  With little ways to move around.  Where you probably died less than a day’s walk from where you were born.  Which made it difficult to escape the Great Leap Forward.  Or Mao’s ruthless communist rule.

And it’s easy to point to the former Soviet Union.  Where it all started.  CommunismJoseph Stalin gave Mao Tse-tung a run for his money in the greatest mass murderer of all time contest.  Again, the record keeping was a little sparse.  But the Soviets took socialism to a grand scale.  The government controlled the economy.  And your life.  If you grew up in the Soviet Union, you learned how much better it was there than in the decadent West.  Especially the USA.  Of course, when some Soviets were lucky enough to travel outside the country, they learned that their Soviet teachers were liars.  The West was awesome.  Never before did they see such a wonderful world of plenty.  And some Soviets defected to that better life.  Which was a crime.  And a huge embarrassment for the Soviet Union.  Even Joseph Stalin’s daughter (Svetlana Alliluyeva) defected.  Others included Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alexander Godunov, Sergei Fedorov, Martina Navratilova, Ivan Lendl and Nadia Comăneci, to name a few (both from the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc).  Some got preferential treatment to keep them from defecting like Katarina Witt.  Or they held family members as ‘hostages’ when some traveled out of the country.  It was a real problem for the KGB.  Who had agents living undercover in the West.  And a lot of them didn’t want to come home.  Of course, there was no such problem with people defecting from the West into the Soviet Union.  There were a few.  Like Lee Harvey Oswald.  But he wasn’t playing with a full deck.  And he did return to the United States.  Because even he found it was better in America.  And he hated America.

It’s easy to point at the big socialist failures.  But just about every story of socialism is a story of failure.  And as different as some of the stories are, they all have much in common.  In particular, the exploitation of the people to serve the state.

In Socialism, Slavery is Freedom

In George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four, we see a frightening look at totalitarian socialism.  Big Brother is the leader of an oppressive regime.  Where the government plays with language to control the people.  War is peace.  Ignorance is strength.  And freedom is slavery.  War unites a people against a common enemy.  Who then beg for the government to protect them from this enemy.  And they will suffer through any hardship required to defeat this enemy.  Which makes continued war a handy way to control the people.  And to keep the peace among an unhappy and suffering citizenry that might otherwise rise up and complain.  Or riot.  Or attempt to overthrow the government.

Ignorance is strength.  If you don’t know how rotten your existence is you have no reason to be unhappy.  If you don’t know about that better life on the other side of your border, you have no reason to cross that border.  You’ll stay where you are.  And be a good citizen.  You’ll toe the party line.  Work hard.  Sing party songs.  And be happy.  More importantly, you’ll be subdued.  Easier to control.  And easier to lie to.  There’s a reason revolutionaries rounded up intellectuals and people with glasses (people with glasses can read and may be intellectuals) for ‘reeducation’ during revolutions.  Thinkers are trouble makers.  So it behooves them to keep the people ignorant.  So they don’t get distracted from their patriotic duties.  So they can continue to sacrifice to build a stronger nation.

Slavery is Freedom.  Because slaves never have to make a decision.  Or provide for themselves.  What a joyous and simple life.  Someone provides everything you need.  Your job.  Your clothes.  Your food.  Your home.  Your health care.  And your funeral.  And all you have to do is give yourself to the state.  Give up all your freedoms.  Give up all hope.  All your dreams.  And all of your comforts.  You have no bills to pay.  Because you don’t have anything.  You get up, work, eat and sleep.  Simple.  Easy.  And carefree.  True freedom.  Lucky slaves.

Adolf Hitler was a Socialist

Of course, if you talk to some slaves you’ll probably hear a different story.  Real slaves.  Like 19th century American slaves.  Those working the plantations.  They didn’t all buy that ‘slavery is freedom’ line.  If any did.  Because a lot of them did try to escape.  Just like those who tried to escape from Soviet socialism.  Interestingly, there are similarities between the two.  Because if you take socialism to its logical end you do arrive at slavery.  Friedrich August von Hayek wrote a book about this.  The Road to Serfdom.  Even said that if socialism grew unchecked in a state some guy named Adolf Hitler may come along and create an oppressive state dictatorship.  He didn’t quite say it like that.  But a guy named Adolf Hitler did come along and created an oppressive state dictatorship called National Socialism.  Or Nazism.  Anyway, suffice it to say that Hayek was right.  As proven by people everywhere who have tried to escape their socialist utopias.

Despite popular belief, everyone was not equal in these socialist utopias.  The inner party people lived well.  And their apparatchik.  But little changed for the masses.  In fact, life often got worse for them.  They were hungry, living in crowded quarters, with poor sanitation, some without running water, living in fear of state punishment for breaking a rule or not making quota, days of endless labor, no say in your future, no liberty and little hope for a better tomorrow.  Very similar to a 19th century American slave.

The American plantation is a microcosm of socialism.  The few at the top did very well (the glorious leaders).  Those close to them that ran the plantation (the party apparatchik) did not do as well but did much better than most.  And then there were the slaves at the bottom.  Who were all equal.  Equally miserable.  And without any hope.  Living in fear of abuse for breaking a rule or not making quota.  And working days of endless labor.  This is socialism taken to its logical end.  Which is why people risked death to escape places like the Soviet Union.  East GermanyCzechoslovakiaRomania.  Cuba.  To escape servitude.  Because the state could do anything they wanted to you.  And often did.  Just like a plantation overseer.

Slaves of the Social Democracies Riot

Of course, the critics will say that this isn’t true socialism.  That these are just mad dictators who corrupted socialism in their quest for absolute power.  And I’ll say, well, of course.  You’re right.  But they all used socialism in their rise to power.  Not a one of them said anything about cutting taxes or reducing stifling government regulations in their climb to power.  Quite the contrary.  They used every facet of socialism (egalitarianism, redistribution of wealth, taxing the rich, nationalization of private companies, etc.) in their climb to power.  In fact, one could say that without these tenets of socialism to unwittingly rally the people behind them they could never have risen to power.  Which is why socialism is not just a Road to Serfdom.  It’s a blueprint as well.

Some will roll their eyes at this.  And say Europe is full if social democracies that treat their people pretty damn well.  Let’s call it socialism-light.  These socialist countries have large and generous social welfare programs for their people.  Generous unemployment benefits.  Generous vacations.  Generous health care benefits.  Generous pensions when they retire.  Some at the ripe old age of 50.  A large and generously paid public sector.  Clearly these people aren’t oppressed.  And I’ll agree.  The people receiving these benefits are not oppressed.  But it places an incredible tax burden on those who work.  Who must make continuous sacrifices as their taxes continuously rise.  Let’s call these people slaves-light.  Because they are not allowed to enjoy the full fruits of their labor.  So, yes, the people in these social democracies in general are free.  And happy.  When they’re not rioting, that is.  Like in Greece.  Again.  Where the nation is broke.  And had to borrow money to pay its bills.  Which they have.  But one of the conditions for getting these loans was to cut back on those generous benefits.  Which hasn’t gone over well with the people receiving those benefits.  So they rioted.

Of course they rioted because they had become slaves of the welfare state.  Politicians promised them everything they wanted for their vote.  And delivered.  Until they could deliver no more.  Having become so dependent on the state the thought of taking care of themselves frightened them so that they ran into the streets and started burning things in protest.  The state had no problem keeping these people from escaping their country.  Unable to take care of themselves they were afraid to leave.  But the people with the jobs, and those who created the jobs, that’s a different story.  They could leave.  And a lot did.  So the state made it as difficult as possible for their money to follow them.

You may be able to Escape the Socialist Welfare State, but your Money may Not

New York City is the financial capital of the world.  For now, at least.  It costs a lot to live in the city.  Cost of living is high.  And the taxes are higher.  Way higher.  Which was never a problem for rich people.  Or rich companies.  Rush Limbaugh did his radio program out of New York City for awhile.  But he left because of the excessive taxation.  Went to Florida.  Where there is no income tax.  But every time he traveled to New York City he was required to pay income tax on his earnings for those days in the city.  The New York tax authorities put him through incredible hurdles to prove when he was out of the city.  Showing in multiple ways that he was, in fact, living in Florida.   With receipts.  Phone bills.  Etc.  They put the onus on him.  Said he owed the tax unless he could prove otherwise.

Then came the subprime mortgage crisis that gave us the worst recession since the Great DepressionWall Street income fell.  As did New York City and New York state tax receipts.  People moved out of the city.  Out of the state.  Worked out of their homes.  Some did no work in the state but still kept a vacation home on Long Island.  Desperate for money and unable to keep these people from escaping the state, the taxing authority went after their income.  Said if they spent any time in the state they owed income taxes for the entire year.  Even if you only vacationed for two weeks on Long Island.  While paying the taxes in the state you actually live and work in.  This was worse than taxation without representation.  It was double taxation.  In addition to taxation without representation.

New York City is generous with their social benefits.  Call it socialism-light.  It’s not all out socialism.  But it still suffers from the same fatal flaw.  It doesn’t work well if the people can escape this socialist utopia.  Especially the ones paying the taxes.  As is happening in the social democracies in Europe.  And anywhere where there is high taxation without a secured border.  To prevent the taxpayers (i.e., best and brightest) from escaping.  Like the Soviets did to keep their best and brightest from escaping.  As did the East Germans.  The Czechoslovakians.  The Romanians.  And the Cubans.

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LESSONS LEARNED #53: “The essence of politics is taking from the many and giving to the few.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 17th, 2011

Good Times Turned into Chronic Deficits and Punishing Debt

Two things have historically made government good at filling its coffers.  The power to tax.  And a growing population.  It’s a simple mathematical equation.  And each year it totals more.  As long as you have a growing population to tax you can sustain government spending for a long time.  All the while putting a little of those taxes aside to take care of you and yours.

Businesses call it economies of scale.  Sell more of a thing and the cost per thing goes down.  If you have $1 million in total costs and sell only 4 things, then each thing will have to sell for $250,000 just to break even.  If you sell 5 million things, then you only have to sell each thing for a nickel to break even.  If you sell more things you can charge less for each thing.  It’s sort of like that with taxes, too.  If you have a growing population (with an expanding birthrate), each succeeding generation will have a lot more tax payers than the previous one.  So a small tax rate on a growing population will continue to increase the amount of tax dollars flowing into the government’s coffers.  And a good time will be had by all.

But right now, the federal government, some states and some cities are struggling to balance their budgets.  Something happened.  What others would have described as the perfect Ponzi scheme became like a real one.  The money paying current benefits became larger than the current contributions.  And good times turned into chronic deficits and punishing debt.  So what happened?

Government Employees Grew 280% from 1946 to 2010

Well, to begin with, some people just got greedy.  They spent a lot of money.  Grew the size of government.  Put more and more people onto the public dole.  At all levels of government.  City.  State.  And federal.  And they based all of this growth on the most hopeful of economic assumptions.  That revenue (i.e., tax receipts) then would continue to grow at the same rate forever and ever.   So they grew government.  Gave themselves very generous pay and benefits.  Pension plans that they could never sustain in the private sector.  Job security.  And other good stuff those in the private sector just don’t get (more holidays, more paid vacation, better healthcare, etc.).  And why not?  They had the power to tax.  And an increasing population.  I mean, what could go wrong?

Well, things change.  Even in government.  In 1946 (about when FDR gave us Social Security), there was approximately 6 million government employees (federal, state and city).  Fast forward to 2010 and that number grew to 23 million.  That’s an increase of 280%.  That’s a huge transfer from the private sector to the public sector.  Which required an enormous amount of additional tax revenue.

Of course, if the population grew at a corresponding rate, then perhaps that growth can be justified.  Maybe they just hired more people to administer a growing population.  It’s either that.  Or they were just expanding the role of government into our lives.  Perhaps a look at some population data will answer that question.

Population Grew 118% and the Birthrate fell 31% from 1946 to 2010

The population in 1946 exceeded 141 million.  In 2010 it exceeded 308 million.  That’s an increase of approximately 118%.  Less than half of the growth rate in government jobs.  So, no, government hasn’t grown larger to keep pace with a growing population.  It has grown larger to expand its role into our lives.

The birthrate in 1946 was 20.4 births per thousand of population.  In 2010 the birthrate fell to 14 births per thousand of population.  That’s a decrease of 31%.  So while the population grew at 118% between 1946 and 2010, the number of births only increased approximately 50% (from 2.8 million to 4.3 million).  In other words, our current birth rate accounts for less than half of our population growth. 

So we have a public sector growing more than twice our population growth.  And we have a birthrate that is less than half of our population growth.  You put these two facts together and what does it tell you?  The growth of taxpayers to fund the public sector is decreasing while the public sector is increasing.  And this can mean only one thing.  Tax rates on the individual have to increase so fewer taxpayers can support more tax consumers (i.e., the public sector).

Payroll Taxes (Social Security and Medicare) Grew 665% from 1946 to 2010

To simplify the discussion, let’s look only at Social Security and Medicare.  In 1946 there was only Social Security.  And the payroll tax was 1%.  In 2010 we have both Social Security and Medicare.  The total payroll tax for these two is 7.65%.  That’s an increase of 665%.  If you earn $30,000 that comes to $2,295 today.  If the tax rate was at the 1946 level it would only be $300.  Giving you an additional $1,995 to spend.  (If you make $65,000, the numbers are $4,972.50, $650 and $4,322.50, respectively.)  Could you use another $1,995?  If you don’t think that’s a lot consider this.  We pay a lot more taxes than just Social Security and Medicare.  You add all of them up and it totals the price of a decent car.  A care that you pay for but never get to drive.

These numbers increased because costs went up at a greater rate than the number of new taxpayers.  Therefore, each individual taxpayer had to pay more.  This is a problem repeated at every level of government.  Government grew and expanded its role.  And its payrolls.  Based on population models used before birth control and abortion.  But then birthrates declined.  In the second half of the 20th century, new babies made up less than half of our new population.  Which explains the government’s earnest desire for blanket amnesty for all illegals in the country.  To make up for that declining birthrate.  And restore the population growth rate to the numbers the actuaries used in all their calculations to fund all that Big Government spending.

As noted, we pay more taxes than just Social Security and Medicare.  And they’re all going up.  For the same reasons.  Government overstepped its bounds.  Spent money under the most ideal assumptions.  And the moment a little reality entered into the economy their house of cards came tumbling down.  The big states and the big cities are all drowning under their public sector obligations.  They have pension obligations that are pushing them towards bankruptcy.  And the federal government has its own problems with Social Security and Medicare.

It’s Spending Cuts or Bust

It was a simple plan.  Tax a little from everyone.  Give generous benefits to the few you need to vote for you.  Live happily ever after.  But they overreached.  Grew government too big.  Just as the population growth rate took a nosedive.  They have raised taxes on the remaining taxpayers in the private sector about as high as they can go.  If they raise them anymore the greatest recession since the Great Depression may very well turn into another Great Depression.  So what to do?

Well, based on that simple mathematical equation, we have but two choices.  Increase the growth rate of the taxpaying population.  Or cut spending.  If we started today raising families of 10 plus kids, it would still take about 20 years (or more) before these new taxpayers start paying taxes.  But we may not have 20 years.  So that leaves the spending cuts.  Even blanket amnesty for illegals won’t help.  Because government spending is a function of the birthrate.  And sustained spending requires a sustained birthrate.  Amnesty won’t give you that.  So it’s spending cuts or bust.  Literally.

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