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August 12, 2013

DOOM: The Fresh-Maker!


Times were so hard in England during the Great Famine of 1315 that no bread could be found even for the King himself. So, you know, perspective.

20 things 20-year-olds don't get. It's a good list, with some caveats. But I can boil the list down to only three basic items: 1. Be on time; 2. Hustle; 3. Listen more and talk less. Just showing up is half the battle. If you just arrive on time, dressed in the proper clothes for the job, and be ready to work, you'd be amazed at how far you'll go.

Incentives matter. Generous disability benefits combined with lax oversight and partisan liberal resistance to reform means that SSDI is a reliable and low-risk way for dishonest people to live off the public dole indefinitely. (The UK is suffering from almost exactly the same problem.) Check this out (emphasis mine):

We find that among the estimated 23 percent of applicants on the margin of program entry, employment would have been 28 percentage points higher had they not received benefits. The effect is heterogeneous, ranging from no effect for those with more severe impairments to 50 percentage points for entrants with relatively less severe impairments.

In a normally-functioning market economy, private businesses are not social service agencies. It's a socialist or Fascist economic system that seeks to integrate the private sector and the public sector and meld it into a single, unified bureaucracy. Much of the burden of Obamacare, for example, rests on the notion that business owners will act as de facto agents of the government. Government policy compliance is a notorious sink for cash; policy enforcement even more so.

Given a choice between wizened little gnome Paul Krugman and intellectual titan Milton Friedman, Friedman wins by such a hilarious margin that I feel kind of bad for Kruggie. But Krugman gonna be Krugman, a little ratty dog who exists only to yap and pee on the rug. Friedman looks down from on high and laughs.

Public pension shortfalls are "everyone's problem"? Maybe, but maybe not. Taxpayers can still vote with their feet, and many will choose to do so rather than be sheared like sheep by ever-more-desperate politicians in failing cities. And note this fallacy:

No matter how gracefully such changes can be accomplished, it won’t be fair to expect workers and retirees to be the only ones to sacrifice. After all, they are not the people who set the unaffordable policies in the first place.

Some jurisdictions will have to help meet their pension obligations by cutting spending elsewhere, finding new revenue or both. Those steps won’t be popular, but this is a shortfall too large to close easily or cheaply.

Taxpayers will not tolerate the kind of tax increases that would be necessary to close the fiscal hole many cities are looking at, which leaves bankruptcy. And so far, we've seen precious little "sacrifice" from public sector workers. Taxpayers and bond-holders have so far been asked to bear the full brunt of pension shortfalls, but that day is ending. Pensioners can't escape all responsibility for their own predicament, especially those who belong to unions that pushed for these unsustainable benefit packages in the first place. There are no innocents in this story.

It's not just public-sector pensions that are driving cities into bankruptcy, either. Retiree healthcare is a broken faucet gushing red ink onto the ledger. Healthcare benefits are harder to account for than pension benefits, especially given the "creative" ways that many municipalities classify the spending. Any estimate of the true costs of retiree healthcare is bound to be inaccurate, and cities have shown a marked reluctance to push for more rigorous methods out of fear of the outcome.

Elon Musk's new project reminds me of that Simpsons episode about the monorail. Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

(Thanks to Arthur K. for the DOOM kitty.)

Schrodinger Kitten 0

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posted by Monty at 08:00 AM

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