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Archive for September 20th, 2011

Since this story is about an Italian porn star who because a politician, the title of this post could have more than one meaning, but we’re going to limit our conversation to whether it’s appropriate for politicians to receive extravagant pensions

And this is not just an Italian issue. Disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner is eligible for more than $1 million of pension benefits according to the National Taxpayers Union, and top bigwigs from the European Union have become experts at fleecing taxpayers.

But what’s interesting about the Italian controversy is that taxpayers in that nation may have (finally) reached a boiling point. Who knows, maybe they’ll form a tea party. Here are some excerpts from the story in the UK-based Guardian.

She is famed for being the first woman to uncover her breasts live on Italian television, for recording a song entirely about the male organ, and for offering sex to Osama bin Laden (in return, she said, for giving up terrorism). But now Ilona Staller, better known as Cicciolina, is the unlikely centre of a bitter row over the cost to ordinary Italians of the perks enjoyed by their country’s tens of thousands of politicians. It emerged on Monday that the Hungarian, who starred in almost 40 hardcore pornographic movies, will soon be enjoying a €39,000-a-year (£34,000) pension, provided by the taxpayers of her adoptive homeland. The stipend, which is for life, is her reward for labouring as a member of parliament for all of five years, from 1987 to 1992. Staller was elected for the libertarian Radical party and sponsored a number of mainly sex-related bills, including one to set up “love parks and hotels”. …According to one recent estimate, Italy’s cohorts of politicians cost the taxpayers almost €1.3bn a year. With four levels of government – national, regional, provincial and municipal – the country has an inordinately large number of elected representatives. But that has not stopped them from giving themselves a distinctly comfortable lifestyle. According to the Italian parliament website, the gross salary of a member of the lower house is €140,000 a year plus an attendance allowance of up to €42,000 and a contribution towards expenses of up to €63,000. They are also entitled to free public transport, free air and sea travel within Italy and exemption from motorway tolls.

The right approach is that politicians should face exactly the same laws – for pensions and in all other regards – as regular people. That means they should be trapped in dismal Social Security systems and be subject to the market if they do private savings (heck, maybe that would encourage them to adopt pro-growth policy).

I can’t resist making two additional comments. Ms. Staller is identified as being a member of the “libertarian Radical party.” But the story also says that she introduced legislation to have the government finance “love parks and hotels.”

At the risk of speaking for all libertarians, that doesn’t sound like a legitimate function of government. Maybe the reporter should learn the difference between libertarian and libertine.

Last but not least, I wonder whether Ms. Staller’s parents were more embarrassed when they learned she was a porn actress…or when they learned she was a politician.

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The 2011 edition of Economic Freedom of the World, published by Canada’s Fraser Institute (with help from groups like Cato), has been released.

Covering data through 2009, the new report provides damning evidence of the negative impact of the Bush-Obama policies of bigger government and more intervention.

Here’s a relevant passage from the Executive Summary.

The world’s largest economy, the United States, has suffered one of the largest declines in economic freedom over the last 10 years, pushing it into tenth place. Much of this decline is a result of higher government spending and borrowing and lower scores for the legal structure and property rights components. Over the longer term, the summary chain-linked ratings of Venezuela, Zimbabwe, United States, and Malaysia fell by eight-tenths of a point or more between 1990 and 2009, causing their rankings to slip.

This chart, taken directly from the book, shows how the United States has been of the world’s five-worst performers over the past decade, putting America in a very unfortunate category.

The previous chart shows the decline in America’s absolute ranking. And here’s a chart I created showing how the United States has declined relative to other nations. Simply stated, America is on the verge of falling out of the top 10, after being the 3rd-freest economy in the world at the end of the Clinton Administration.

Thanks George and Barack.

By the way, Hong Kong and Singapore are the top two nations, where they’ve ranked for quite some time. Here is the full top-10 list.

1. Hong Kong

2. Singapore

3. New Zealand

4. Switzerland

5. Australia

6. Canada

7. Chile

8. United Kingdom

9. Mauritius

10. United States

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