Archive for the ‘Welfare State’ Category

Far-Left Syriza Wins Huge Victory in Greece

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Greece’s far left-wing Syriza Party has won a big victory there, claiming about half the seats in Parliament.

What does it mean? I took a stab at analyzing it before. Even with a majority, there’s a good chance Syriza will have to continue meeting the EU’s demands (which means pretending to impose austerity measures) if they want mean old Aunt Angela to keep loaning them money. Remember: Greece has never practiced real austerity. Not once since the European Debt Crisis hit has Greece balanced its budget, and its deficit for 2014 was 12.2% of GDP.

But even the fake austerity imposed has been too much for the Greek people, who collectively want a cushy welfare state but don’t want to pay the sky-high taxes required to pay for it. Promising people something for nothing has been the left’s popular electoral strategy for more than a century, but reality can only be held off for so long. Germany is not due for a federal election, so it’s entirely possible Merkel might still underwrite another bailout or two if Syriza is willing to continue the farce. A Greece shorn of the Euro would still be broke and badly in debt, and newly Drachma-backed securities would likely be toxic investments for all but the most speculative of bond traders. (Perhaps Syriza should investigate how well that printing money thing is working out for Venezuela.) “Forgive our debts or we won’t let you give us more loans!” is a proposition Merkel would probably find quite easy to refuse, and I suspect the risk of a Greek exit from the Euro is already priced into European markets. If Syriza insists on anything more than (possibly) a token debt haircut, the EU will probably be willing to call their bluff.

It’s generally best for the driver of a 1974 Ford Pinto to avoid engaging in a game of chicken with a Tiger tank…

In Which I Point To Hot Air’s Venezuela Update and Say “What He Said”

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

It was about time to do another update on Venezuela’s failing socialist economy when I dropped by Hot Air and saw that Ed Morrissey had already done all the heavy lifting for me:

“The currency in what should be the richest country in South America has collapsed, as well as its economy, under the dual weight of falling crude prices and the Chavista socialism that has been choking the country for more than a decade.”

More:

Venezuela’s Chavista policies have always ignored economic reality. Socialism is a fantasy economic system, especially as implemented by Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.

The difference between Venezuela and the nanny-state petro-economy in Norway is that the latter preserves itself by respecting private property and foreign investment. From the beginning, Hugo Chavez attacked both, nationalizing oil production and criminalizing private investors as part of his “Bolivarian” revolution. When it did that, it chased off the talent needed to run oil production and the investment needed for all other kinds of goods and services. For a short period of time, their oil revenue allowed it to succeed in ignorance. When that failed, Chavez and now Maduro reacted to those predictable consequences by predictably imposing all sorts of rationing mechanisms which only decreased incentives for production and investment, especially in the legitimate economy. Now that the price of oil has collapsed, so has the official Venezuelan economy — and a populace used to a high standard of living now endures massive shortages and ever-increasing oppression to cover it up.

Morrissey, in turn, quotes a big chunk of this Matt O’Brien piece in the Washington Post:

Venezuela’s government is running a 14 percent of gross domestic product deficit right now, a fiscal hole so big that there’s only one way to fill it: the printing press. But that just traded one economic problem—too little money—for the opposite one. After all, paying people with newly-printed money only makes that money lose value, and prices go parabolic. It’s no wonder then that Venezuela’s inflation rate is officially 64 percent, is really something like 179 percent, and could get up to 1,000 percent, according to Bank of America, if Venezuela doesn’t change its byzantine currency controls.

What he said. Er, both of them.

Texas vs. California Update for January 21, 2015

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
  • The working poor benefit from a lower cost of living in red states.
  • Five of the top ten U.S. cities in economic growth in 2014 were in Texas: Austin, Houston, Ft. Worth. Dallas and San Antonio. (There were also two in California: San Francisco and San Jose.)
  • The Texas Comptroller has released the Biennial Revenue Estimate 2016-2017, which estimates $113 billion in general revenue-related funds available. The report details also notes that “In the past six years, Texas created two-thirds of all net new jobs in the U.S.”

  • By contrast, with the California budget more or less temporarily balanced, Democrats want to start spending like drunken sailors with a stolen credit card again. Legislative analyst: You don’t want to do that.
  • The average CalPERS pension is up to five times comparable Social Security payouts.
  • Jerry Brown says he wants to tackle California’s pension crisis. Good luck with that. While Brown has occasionally been willing to buck his party, and may feel he has nothing to lose in his last term, there’s no reason to believe the Democrat-dominated state House and Senate share his sentiments. I predict a few cosmetic measures passing combined with a whole lot more can kicking until actual default looms. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “Central Valley farmers say farming is doomed in their areas.” California’s water regulations are driving them out of business.
  • Stockton’s bankruptcy judge: screw secured debtors, we’ve got to start paying retirees.
  • Key figure in CalPERS pension fraud case apparently committed suicide. Hmmm…..
  • California’s Set Seal retail chain files for bankruptcy.
  • John G. Westine of California convicted of 26 counts of mail fraud in a phony Kentucky oil well scheme.
  • Bankruptcy lawyers gone wild!
  • Texas vs. California Update for January 6, 2014

    Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

    Here’s your first Texas vs. California update of 2015:

  • Real personal income increased by 1.4% in Texas in Q3, the most of any state. And that with the oil bust just starting to bite, which I’m guessing helps explain why South Dakota’s personal income decline by .2%. (Well, that and getting six inches of global warming in September….)
  • Texas was the number one magnet state in the country for people moving here yet again.
  • “The real reason for the tuition increase is that the UC system needs funds to bail out the mismanaged pension system that covers retired employees of its ten campuses.”

    This is all the result of the regents’ irresponsible oversight. In 1990, UCRP had 137 percent of the assets it needed to meet its obligations, so regents suspended employer and employee contributions to the pension fund. State legislators also stopped allocating money to UCRP. This “pension contribution holiday” lasted 20 years. To top it off, during this period, university officials boosted pension benefits a half-dozen times. By 2012, more than 2,100 UC retirees were each collecting six-figure pensions for life.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Former Pasadena (California) employees arrested on 60 count, $6 million embezzling charges. (Hat tip: CalWatchdog.)
  • More on outrageous California pensions: “In 2013, an assistant fire chief in Southern California collected a $983,319 pension. A police captain in Los Angeles received nearly $753,861.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami).
  • California’s doomed high speed rail boondoggle breaks ground today.
  • More on the same theme from Twitter:

  • Opponents of California’s statewide plastic bag ban have gathered 800,000 signature for a referendum to overturn it, which will also keep the law from going into effect on July 1.
  • California charity hospitals to be sold to for-profit company to keep them open.
  • Texas vs. California Update for December 17, 2014

    Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

    Time for another Texas vs. California update:

  • California’s unfunded health care obligations for retired employees hits $72 billion. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Meanwhile, the state comptroller says that California’s unfunded pension liabilities has hit $198 billion. (Ditto.)
  • California may extend benefits to illegal aliens taking advantage of Obama’s amnesty.
  • Speaking of which, both California and Texas are on the hook for providing education for illegal alien children. “Today, those figures are $14.4 billion for California and $8.5 billion for the Lone Star state.”
  • California will go broke if it doesn’t adopt pension reform.
  • Lessons for California from Texas’ boom.
  • Costa Mesa police union tries to pin false DUI charge on City Councilman. Hilarity ensues. (Hat tip: Dwight.) And what caused the police union to go after him? Pension reform.
  • Pension spiking widespread in Cosa Contra County. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California’s high speed rail boondoggle won’t work with the current tracks.
  • Health industry software company vitaTrackr announces relocation of its headquarters from Baltimore to Austin.
  • Builders FirstSource announces expansion in San Antonio and Conroe.
  • LinkSwarm for December 12, 2014

    Friday, December 12th, 2014

    You might not know from scanning the headlines of what the mainstream media wants to focus on, but there’s been a lot of liberal meltdown this week, among the MSM themselves especially:

  • Social Security to become insolvent in 2024. Thanks Obama! (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • The Gruber hearings: More “I don’t remember” than a Peter Gabriel video.
  • Wendy Davis earns Texas Monthly‘s Bum Steer of the Year. You know a Democrat had to have an epic train wreck when the lefty sorts over there are pretty much forced to put them on the cover…
  • Rapes by Democratic bundler Terry Bean or Democratic Capitol Hill staffer Donny Ray Williams? “Meh.” “The Press isn’t all that interested in stories that reflect badly on Democrats.”
  • Feminists prefer narrative to truth. “There is nothing that is nice or kind or empathetic about the subordination of truth to narrative.”
  • More on the same theme: “When questions first emerged, a number of people treated quashing those questions as the moral equivalent of war, attacking the questioners as if being skeptical of a story was itself wrong — rather than exactly the spirit of inquiry that makes science, and public debate, work…When we get wedded to our narratives, we become blind.”
  • “After four years of disastrous liberal Democratic rule, led by President Obama, the desperation of the left is now contributing to its own decline. And it’s not just recent defeats at the ballot box: The Democrats’ systematic overreach is destroying the credibility of their messengers and belittling the causes they want to promote; making it harder for them to identify and solve real problems.”
  • 35 federal agencies plan to share your health data. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Feminists have used Title IX as a far-reaching tool to reorganize higher education to their ideological agenda.
  • “How feminism left me.”
  • We have a strong candidate for Most Clueless Example of Liberal White Female Privilege On Salon. Granted, it’s a target-rich environment…
  • Obama official who enabled illegal alien flood is resigning in advance of hearings How convenient…
  • “It is now clear beyond all reasonable doubt that Hitler and his associates believed they were socialists, and that others, including democratic socialists, thought so too.”
  • How 401Ks are killing off defined-pension plans. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • #GamerGate is winning. “The ‘gamergate’ controversy cost Gawker Media ‘seven figures’ in lost advertising revenue, the company’s head of advertising Andrew Gorenstein said at an all-hands meeting on Wednesday afternoon.”
  • “All lives matter.” “APOLOGIZE!” WTF? Congratulations, Social Justice Warriors. You’re now officially a cult.
  • ISIS beheads four children for refusing to convert to Islam.
  • Joe Biden lectures Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Islam, which is like Kayne West lecturing Stephen Hawking on quantum physics.
  • Indonesia editor to face blasphemy charges for mocking ISIS. (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • India judge decides that country’s Child Marriage Act doesn’t apply to the Religion of Peace. (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • Yet he who has never had a snake-throwing fight at a Tim Hortons cast the first stone. (Hat tip: Bill Crider.)
  • “Man With Gender Studies Degree Terrorizes Party”. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • And I’m not covering the CROmnibus debacle yet because I haven’t even read the summary of the summary of the summary of what’s in that monster…

    Venezuela Takes The Express Lane To The Dustheap Of History

    Thursday, December 11th, 2014

    There’s been a lot of talk of how low oil prices are screwing Russia, but Venezuela is, if anything, more screwed thanks to the Magic Power of Socialism™:

    U.S. currency is vital to Venezuela, which imports as much as 80% of what it consumes; 96% of its exports are petroleum products…In effect, the one-third decline in the price of oil means that the state oil company must either raise or divert enough production because Venezuela effectively owes China 67 million barrels of oil, roughly 27 million more than it did before, for this loan alone. And there are billions of dollars in other loans to consider.

    And the outlook for the immediate future is equally grim:

    Venezuela’s economy is expected to contract in 2014 and 2015, and even though it’s already recognized as the 14th least competitive economy in the world (according to the World Economic Forum) and the eighth-worst economy for doing business (according to The World Bank), [President Nicolas] Maduro’s laws seem to discourage private investments even more. The new laws reinforce bureaucracy and the difficulty of doing business in the country, particularly in the area of taxes.

    “Increasing numbers of low-income Venezuelans are souring on Maduro as they suffer a declining economy, the highest inflation in the Americas, chronic shortages of basic goods and one of the world’s highest murder rates.”

    If Venezuela’s economy collapses, they might take Cuba down with them, since the Castro brothers are so heavily dependent on Venezuelan oil subsidies to prop up their own moribund economy.

    Compounding Venezuela’s crises is the fact that it’s probably going to default on its bonds. So they’re finally reaching the point in socialism where the run out of other people’s money. Next to that singular problem, U.S. sanctions on government Venezuelan officials for killing protestors are a trivial irritation…

    LinkSwarm for November 28, 2014

    Friday, November 28th, 2014

    Here’s a small LinkSwarm to tide you over for Black Friday:

  • 62% of voters oppose Obama’s illegal alien amnesty.
  • Barack Obama: Troll in Chief.
  • “If you want to see the end point of Barack Obama’s shining path, visit Detroit.”

    The Democrats, if they had any remaining intellectual honesty, would hold their convention in Detroit. Democratic leadership, Democratic unions and the Democratic policies that empower them, Democrat-dominated school bureaucracies, Democrat-style law enforcement, Democratic levels of taxation and spending, the politics of protest and grievance in the classical Democratic mode — all of these have made Detroit what it is today: an unwholesome slop-pail of woe and degradation that does not seem to belong in North America, a craptastical crater groaning with misery, a city-shaped void in what once was the industrial soul of the nation. If you want to see the end point of Barack Obama’s shining path, visit Detroit.

  • “The group toward whom [Obama]‘s shown the greatest contempt, however, is low-skilled American workers, particularly blacks.”
  • “At what point do we stop enabling the grievance industry to override our core constitutional protections?”
  • Did Obama prevent Missouri from deploying the National Guard to prevent Ferguson rioting?
  • Communist agitators stirring up a civil rights protest sounds like a bad ‘60s flashback, but that’s just what happened last week in Ferguson.”
  • Jim Webb’s career show’s how badly Democrats have been hollowed-up in the Obama era:

    Consider: There will be only five red-state Senate Democrats left in the next Congress if, as expected, Sen. Mary Landrieu is defeated in next month’s runoff. Even more striking, there will be only five House Democrats left representing districts that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. The once-influential Blue Dog Caucus of fiscally hawkish Democrats is all but extinct. Republicans now boast twice as many blue-state senators (10) and five times as many blue-district representatives (25) than their Democratic counterparts in red territory.

    While lots of ink has been spilled charting the GOP’s drift rightward, the Democratic Party’s move toward ideological homogeneity has been shorter and swifter.

    (Hat tip: Instapundit, who notes “The Democratic Party has become an aging, regional party with a diversity problem.”)

  • It’s not that the Vietnamese communist leadership is good, it’s just less bad than all the other communist leaderships.
  • Ann Althouse is right: They really did choose a superbly illustrative picture for this Chuck Hagel resignation piece.
  • Only 50% of climate scientists think climate change is human induced.
  • Who should be Secretary of Defense? “America needs Dick Cheney. Now more than ever.”
  • You could read this Penny Arcade as a parable about Islam. Or trusting Obama.
  • Texas vs. California Roundup for November 26, 2014

    Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

    Who knows how many people will read this in the rush of Thanksgiving travel:

  • Texas’ economy continues to kick ass.
  • In fact, Texas set a record for new jobs for the third month in a row. (Hat tip: The Twitter feed of Texas’ incoming governor.)
  • Texas also leads the nation in oil and gas jobs created. (Hat tip: Texas’ incoming Comptroller.)
  • CalPERS retirees will soon soon outnumber active workers. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California’s death by pensions.
  • Bankrupt San Bernardino caves in to CalPERS.
  • Still, court rulings make it possible that bankrupt cities may shed pension obligations in the future.
  • You know how California’s Prop 30 tax hikes in 2012 were supposed to prevent university pension hikes? Guess what? “Despite the massive tax hikes ostensibly to keep higher education affordable, the University of California Board of Regents just announced a sizable increase in tuition.” Let’s hope that students at California universities learn the proper lesson: tax hikes are never temporary.
  • Indeed, tuition will increase around $15,000 by 2019.
  • The underfunded liabilities across all California pension systems adds up to $130 billion.
  • Pension crisis divides California Democrats on UC tuition hikes.
  • Demands from union-backed environmental group torpedo plans for a Japanese-owned factory in Palmdale, California.
  • Education reform loses in California.
  • California is spending $33 million to get rid of 800 non-endangered birds.
  • Costa Mesa motel residents sue over a law requiring them to move every 30 days.
  • Some Tweets:

  • LinkSwarm for November 22, 2014

    Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

    I had an entire set of stuff lined up for yesterday’s LinkSwarm, but in the rush of amnesty-related news I managed to forget to paste it into the right file. D’oh!

    So enjoy your rare complimentary Weekend LinkSwarm!

  • Support for ObamaCare continues to decline, with the law hitting a new low in approval.”
  • Among the many acts of Gruber: Scheming to remove insurance plan deductability by subterfuge (and without offsetting tax credits).
  • How do Democrats react to near-historic loses? By reelecting their entire leadership team.
  • “Democrats did lose the South, but they didn’t lose it because of the Civil Rights Act.”(Hat tip: Ann Althouse.)
  • Last year, illegal aliens were on pace to use $650 million in welfare benefits in L.A. County alone. And that was before Obama’s new amnesty.
  • Hillary Clinton seems to view Obama’s illegal alien “dreamers” as a permanent menial labor underclass as well.
  • 30,000 of Lois Lerner’s IRS emails have been miraculously found. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Some Twitter liberals decided it was a swell idea to lie about Instapundit. There’s a technical term for these people: Morons.
  • Putin is increasingly yanking NATO’s chain.
  • GamerGate: “A new, radical and dangerously illiberal left which marinates in a hideous quagmire of resentment, smugness, vacuousness and contempt for free discussion.”