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Archive for March 24th, 2010

Or maybe this belongs in the “great moments in international bureaucracy” series since it relates to European Union law. Regardless, we have another sign of Europe’s fiscal nightmare. A court in the United Kingdom has given a big green light to welfare tourism by ruling that a foreign citizen can get handouts based on children living in another country.I realize, of course, that there is welfare tourism in the United States, but surely no state would give money for children living elsewhere (at least I hope). The Daily Express reports on the latest lunacy from the other side of the Atlantic:

A landmark ruling that allows jobless migrants to claim benefits in Britain for their children living in their home country sparked outrage last night. Critics warned the judgment could “open the door” to thousands of benefits tourists abusing generous payouts in Britain. In yesterday”s High Court ruling ” showing how EU law is taking precedence over the UK”s ” a Portuguese national living in Britain won a legal battle for child benefit for his two daughters in his home country despite no longer working and claiming incapacity benefit here. …three top judges blocked an appeal by HM Revenue and Customs to prove he was not eligible for the money. Lawyers for Mr Ruas argued EU rules allowed any worker from an EU country who was employed or who received “social assistance” to claim child benefits even if the child lives abroad. Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers” Alliance, said: “This opens the door to a huge bill for taxpayers which is utterly unjustified. “Now there are even greater incentives for people to come to Britain trying to take advantage of the benefits system. Time and again it seems these judgments go against the best interests of hard-pressed British taxpayers.”

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Since we’re already depressed by the enactment of Obamacare, we may as well wallow in misery by looking at some long-term budget numbers. The chart below, which is based on the Congressional Budget Office’s long-run estimates, shows that federal government spending will climb to 45 percent of GDP if we believe CBO’s more optimistic “baseline” estimate. If we prefer the less optimistic “alternative” estimate, the burden of federal government spending will climb to 67 percent of economic output. These dismal numbers are driven by two factors, an aging population and entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. For all intents and purposes, America is on a path to become a European-style welfare state.

If these numbers don’t depress you enough, here are a couple of additional observations to push you over the edge. These CBO estimates were produced last year, so they don’t count the cost of Obamacare. And as Michael Cannon repeatedly has observed, Obamacare will cost much more than the official estimates concocted by CBO. And speaking of estimates, the long-run numbers in the chart are almost certainly too optimistic since CBO’s methodology naively assumes that a rising burden of government will have no negative impact on the economy’s growth rate. Last but not least, the data above only measures federal spending. State and local government budgets will consume at least another 15 percent of GDP, so even using the optimistic baseline, total government spending will be about 60 percent of GDP, higher than every European nation, including France, Greece, and Sweden. And if we add state and local spending on top of the “alternative” baseline, then we’re in uncharted territory where perhaps Cuba and North Korea would be the most appropriate analogies.

So what do we do? There’s no sure-fire solution. Congressman Paul Ryan has a reform plan to reduce long-run federal spending to less than 20 percent of GDP. This “Roadmap” plan is excellent, though it is marred by the inclusion of a value-added tax. Bill Shipman of CarriageOaks Partners put forth a very interesting proposal in a Washington Times column to make the federal government rely on states for tax revenue. And I’ve been an avid proponent of tax competition as a strategy to curtail the greed of the political class since it is difficult to finance redistribution if labor and capital can escape to jurisdictions with better tax law. Any other suggestions?

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Walter Williams correctly summarizes what it means to make healthcare a “right.”

And he also dusts off that quaint document, long forgotten in Washington, called the U.S. Constitution.

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