Monday, April 26, 2010


The Big Picture has a series of 35 photos taken of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Some of them, like the one below, are absolutely stunning:

Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the link.


Golden State No Longer

City Journal has a fine column by Steven Malanga which explains how California has been brought to the brink of economic collapse.

The Cliff Notes summary is this: A triumvirate of greedy unions (teachers, SEIU, and public safety workers) have managed to buy enormous influence in the California state legislature and have thwarted almost all attempts at reforming the enormous salaries and pensions they have inveigled from the taxpayers of the state. In order to pay these contractual obligations municipalities have raised taxes which has in turn driven businesses out of the state thus depleting the tax base. Meanwhile, the unions still gorge themselves at the public trough.

Here's a taste:

Only too late have Californians recognized the true magnitude of their fiscal problems, including a $21 billion deficit by mid-2009 that forced the state to issue IOUs when it temporarily ran out of cash. In the municipal bond market, fears are rising that the Golden State could actually default on its debt.

Municipalities around the state are also buckling under massive labor costs. One city, Vallejo, has already filed for bankruptcy to get out from under onerous employee salaries and pension obligations. (To stop other cities from going this route, unions are promoting a new law to make it harder for municipalities to declare bankruptcy.) Other local California governments, big and small, are nearing disaster.

The city of Orange, with a budget of just $88 million in 2009, spent $13 million of it on pensions and expects that figure to rise to $23 million in just three years. Contra Costa's pension costs rose from $70 million in 2000 to $200 million by the end of the decade, producing a budget crisis. Los Angeles, where payroll constitutes nearly half the city's $7 billion budget, faces budget shortfalls of hundreds of millions of dollars next year, projected to grow to $1 billion annually in several years. In October 2007, even as it was clear that the area's housing economy was crashing, city officials had handed out 23 percent raises over a five-year period to workers.

There are lessons to be gleaned from all this, not the least of which is that modern liberalism, the ideology in which public employee unions are marinated, is totally hostile to the economic well-being of the people who pay their salaries. One gets the distinct impression from Malanga's essay that virtually every ill that afflicts California was aided and abetted by liberal Democrats and their union masters.

Read the article and catch a preview of the peril much of the rest of the country will find itself struggling to escape over the next decade.


Obama's Boondoggle

Grace-Marie Turner at National Review Online summarizes a startling report on Obamacare by HHS Chief Actuary Richard Foster and the prognosis looks bleak.

Turner opens with this assessment:

Not one of its major programs has gotten started, and already the wheels are starting to come off of Obamacare. The administration's own actuary reported on Thursday that millions of people could lose their health insurance, that health-care costs will rise faster than they would have if the law hadn't passed, and that the overhaul will mean that people will have a harder and harder time finding physicians to see them.

She goes on to itemize some of the liabilities. Here are just a few:

People losing coverage: About 14 million people will lose their employer coverage by 2019, as smaller employers terminate their plans and workers who currently have employer coverage enroll in Medicaid. Half of all seniors on Medicare Advantage could lose their coverage and the extra benefits the plans offer.

Huge fines for companies: Businesses will pay $87 billion in penalties in the first five years after the fines trigger in 2014, partly because they can't afford to offer expensive, government-mandated coverage and partly because some of their employees will apply for taxpayer-subsidized insurance.

Higher costs for consumers: Tens of billions of dollars in new fees and excise taxes will be "passed through to health consumers in the form of higher drug and devices prices and higher premiums," according to Foster. A separate report shows small businesses will be hit hardest.

Spending increases: Under the new law, national health spending will increase by $311 billion over the coming decade. And instead of bending the federal spending curve down, it will move it upward "by a net total of $251 billion" over the next decade.

There's much more in Foster's report, which, be it remembered, was written by administration actuaries, using actual costs and revenues, not the numbers contained in the bill which the CBO has to use. Moreover, it was on the news today that this report was in the hands of the administration a full week before the vote, but the most transparent administration in history chose not to make it public.

Obamacare is shaping up to be a fiscal disaster. It should be repealed and every congressperson who foisted it upon us deserves to be turned out of office for their incompetence and irresponsibility. They knew the plan was deeply flawed, but they did as their leadership advised and repeated like robots that it would reduce spending. As the Foster report makes clear this was totally false.

They had every reason to know they would be enacting a massive failure, they had plenty of precedents to examine in Europe and elsewhere, and still they voted to saddle us with this millstone because either they lacked the courage to buck Obama, Reid, and Pelosi or they were simply bought off.

With luck they will all be sent back to private life at the earliest possible date which, I don't need to remind you, comes up for many of them on the first Tuesday in November.