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October 14, 2013

I saw DOOM drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic's and his hair was perfect


(I'm staying away from Federal government shutdown news and rumors on purpose. Events are moving too fast right now to know how they're going to turn out. I'm sure the other co-bloggers will post any breaking news, and I'll write up a piece once the drama has resolved itself.)

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
-- Marcus Tullius Cicero

The SNAP computer system went down for a few hours on Saturday...and many beneficiaries just about lost their damned minds.

These are the wages of the welfare state, my groovy babies: we've been mainlining the drug so long that we can't go for an hour without it. DOOM isn't foreign terrorists or enemy soldiers or dirty bombs. It's legions of stupid people almost tearing down a Wal-Mart because their SNAP cards didn't work for an hour or two. Now tell me what's going to happen when the balloon really goes up and we can't afford to keep ladling out government cheese any more. What happens if the SNAP cards stop working permanently? Do you think these hordes of angry stupid people are just going to grumble and go back home?

This to me is probably the most important DOOM-related story that I've seen so far this year. Why? Because it illustrates how deep our pathologies run, and how maddeningly difficult -- maybe impossible -- it will be to find a political solution.

I am on record as believing that politics is not going to save us. The paroxysms now immobilizing Washington D.C. are emblematic of a system that is simply incapable of dealing with the fundamental problems facing this country, the most pressing of them being fiscal. Our debt and vast welfare state is strangling us, and yet our government is either unwilling or unable to do anything useful about it. To attempt substantive reform is to court exactly the kind of popular revolt we see in this SNAP debacle, only on a much larger and more destructive scale. Having addicted Americans to welfare, the government dare not take the drug away lest the addicts grow violent.

But here's the thing: things cannot continue like this. They cannot. It's not a matter of politics, or willpower, or kindness towards our fellow man, or abstract economic principles. The way we live now is a simple violation of physics. We are consuming far more than we produce, as a nation. Our value-add shrinks, year by year, even as the demands on the public treasury keep growing. Our productive population keeps shrinking while the ranks of the wards of the state grow.

Meanwhile the citizenry, who are supposedly the masters of their own destiny in this two-century old Republic, almost riot when they can't buy their government-subsidized crackers and Cheez Whiz.

Generosity often breeds contempt and not gratitude in the recipient. That's been true for the entirety of human history. Yet somehow it always takes us by surprise when we see it.

People used to laugh and roll their eyes when I told them that a second Civil War was becoming all but inevitable in this country. They don't laugh any more.


The headline to the story is "Social Security raise to be among lowest in years". The actual point of the story is that Social Security recipients are still getting a raise, even though the program is in dire shape.

Considered in terms of gold, American wages have been going down for many years. I suspect that this is due as much to increased foreign competition as it is to our internal pathologies, though. Also, you can buy a hell of a lot more with a hell of a lot less money than you used to be able to. Computers, TV’s, cars, etc are all much cheaper than they used to be in real terms. Some cheap things can be had now that could not be had for any price in the past: smartphones and flat-screen TV's and movies streamed over the internet. Wealth is a relative measure, not an absolute one.

A wage is the price of labor, and in keeping with the ironclad economic law of supply and demand, if supply goes up and demand either remains constant or goes down, the price will go down. Americans must compete not just with each other, but also with workers in Bonn and Nice and Mumbai and Islamabad and Shenzhen and Hong Kong and Taiwan and Seoul. And increasingly, our competition is robots -- who don't need breaks or benefits or vacation days or sick days, who don't go on strike or goldbrick on the clock or steal stuff.

ObamaCare’s web infrastructure just keeps getting more awesome. And by "awesome", I mean "broken". This makes me a racist, because according to the mouth-breathers at The Nation, all critics of ObamaCare are racist. To Democrats, race is first base: it's always the first place they run.

$250 billion dollars per month of government spending is on autopilot, with very little oversight or control.

So much for the Constitution's bedrock principle that "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law."

Our newest LOTB member: Puerto Rico! Let’s give them a big hand!

Here’s the thing: if there are no poor people, there’s no need for the vast municipal, county, state, and federal bureaucracy to care for the poor. Therefore the poor must exist.

This story reminds me of the old saying that when you owe the bank a thousand dollars and can't pay it back, you have a big problem; when you owe the bank a million dollars and can't pay it back, the bank has a big problem.

Roger Kimball reminds us that it's always worse than you think where the federal government is concerned.

UPDATE: Headline -- "Lower 2014 income can net huge healthcare subsidy." Subtext -- "Let those rich chumps pay for your boner pills, citizen! Take some time off and enjoy yourself!"

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posted by Monty at 08:20 AM

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