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Archive for June 5th, 2010

This story from Philadelphia, which I saw on Reason’s Hit and Run blog, is one of the worst examples I’ve ever seen of government bureaucrats bilking taxpayers. The City Manager, who already receives an absurdly extravagant salary and hasn’t even been on the job for 2-1/2 years, was able to get a guaranteed $50,000 annual pension in exchange for a one-time cost of less than $125,000. Unless she is already in her 80s, that means she will get an astoundingly high rate of return. I’m too lazy to do any calculations (and I would need her age anyhow), but I’d be surprised if she’s not getting a 20 times higher return than the rest of us peasants are receiving on our IRA(s and 401(K)s.

Camille Cates Barnett will get nearly $50,000 annually from the city pension fund for the rest of her life after June 30, when she leaves her post as Philadelphia’s managing director after two years, five months, and 24 days. On the same day that a City Council committee moved to close the loophole that allows short-time employees such as Barnett to buy credit in the city’s pension fund based on public service elsewhere, the Board of Pensions and Retirement revealed that Barnett had done just that. Barnett has paid $122,303 to become vested in the pension plan, according to the Mayor’s Office and the Pension Board, a privilege unionized employees are entitled to only after serving five years. …Barnett could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. She previously declined to comment on her plans. Barnett’s salary this year is $181,693, making her one of city government’s highest-paid public officials. Mayor Nutter has not named her successor.

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Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute explains in the Wall Street Journal that Americans protest to restrain government while European riot to expand the burden of the state. But this American spirit of self reliance may not last if government seduces more and more people into dependency – and I think fighting against this grim possibility is the chief motivating force of the tea party movement.

Many Europeans also expect others to work so they can live. The International Social Survey Programme asked Americans and Europeans whether they believe “It is the responsibility of the government to reduce the differences in income between people with high incomes and those with low incomes.” In virtually all of Western Europe more than 50% agree, and in many countries it is much higher—77% in Spain, whose redistributive economy is in shambles. Meanwhile, only 33% of Americans agree with income redistribution.  Simply put, Europeans have a much stronger taste for other people’s money than we do. This is vividly illustrated by the recent protests in the U.S. and Greece. Why are citizens rioting and striking in Greece? Despite the worst economic crisis in decades, labor unions and state functionaries demand that others pay for the early retirements, lifetime benefits and state pensions to which they feel entitled. In America, however, the tea partiers demonstrate not to get more from others, but rather against government growth, public debt, bailouts and a budget-busting government overhaul of the health-care industry. In other words, the tea partiers are protesting against exactly what the Greeks are demanding. It is an example of American exceptionalism if there ever was one.

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In general, I don’t pay too much attention to issues in the Middle East. I know we squander $billions on foreign aid to prop up socialist policies in Egypt and Israel, and I obviously would like to see an end to that wasteful spending. But I’ve never had strong opinions on the foreign policy issues in the region that get most of the attention. That being said, I found myself somewhat sympathetic to Charles Krauthammer’s column on the topic. There’s no question that there is a campaign to end Israel’s blockade. And there’s no question that an end to the blockade will lead to shipments of weapons that would be used to attack Israel. So unless one wants Israel to be wiped out (or at least endlessly attacked), doesn’t Israel have no choice but to maintain a blockade? If your answer is no, what’s the alternative?

…the blockade is not just perfectly rational, it is perfectly legal. Gaza under Hamas is a self-declared enemy of Israel — a declaration backed up by more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian territory. Yet having pledged itself to unceasing belligerency, Hamas claims victimhood when Israel imposes a blockade to prevent Hamas from arming itself with still more rockets. In World War II, with full international legality, the United States blockaded Germany and Japan. And during the October 1962 missile crisis, we blockaded (“quarantined”) Cuba. Arms-bearing Russian ships headed to Cuba turned back because the Soviets knew that the U.S. Navy would either board them or sink them. Yet Israel is accused of international criminality for doing precisely what John Kennedy did: impose a naval blockade to prevent a hostile state from acquiring lethal weaponry. Oh, but weren’t the Gaza-bound ships on a mission of humanitarian relief? No. Otherwise they would have accepted Israel’s offer to bring their supplies to an Israeli port, be inspected for military materiel and have the rest trucked by Israel into Gaza — as every week 10,000 tons of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are sent by Israel to Gaza. Why was the offer refused? Because, as organizer Greta Berlin admitted, the flotilla was not about humanitarian relief but about breaking the blockade, i.e., ending Israel’s inspection regime, which would mean unlimited shipping into Gaza and thus the unlimited arming of Hamas. … The whole point of this relentless international campaign is to deprive Israel of any legitimate form of self-defense.

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