Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why We're Going Under

An article in The New York Times gives us a glimpse of why our economy, like economies around the world, is in increasing peril:

According to pension data collected by The New York Times from the city and state, about 3,700 retired public workers in New York are now getting pensions of more than $100,000 a year, exempt from state and local taxes. The data belie official reports that the average state pension is a modest $18,000, or $38,000 for retired police officers and firefighters. (The average is low, in part, because it includes people who worked in government only part time, or just a few years, as well as surviving spouses getting partial benefits.)

Roughly one of every 250 retired public workers in New York is collecting a six-figure pension, and that group is expected to grow rapidly in coming years, based on the number of highly paid people in the pipeline.

Some will receive the big pensions for decades. Thirteen New York City police officers recently retired at age 40 with pensions above $100,000 a year; nine did so in their 30s. The plan's public information officer said that the very young retirees had qualified for special disability pensions, which are 50 percent larger than ordinary police pensions. He said several dozen of the highest-paid New York City police retirees had disabilities related to 9/11 and the rest of the disabilities resulted from injuries in the line of duty.

These entitlements are unsustainable. The beleaguered taxpayers of New York must pay people in their thirties and forties over $100,000 a year for the rest of their lives, and then when they're eligible for Social Security they'll get that, too.

New York is a synecdoche for the United States. Public pensions, welfare, health care and public spending of all kinds require an ever increasing tax burden on those who are still working, but this diminishing income pool can't bear this staggering load indefinitely. Almost half the people in the country are paying no income tax so half the population is essentially getting a free ride paid for by the other half. The socio-economic pyramid is beginning to look more like a flattened-out Hershey's kiss.

It might be possible to pay for our extravagance if the administration and Congress were enacting policies which stimulated business growth, but they're not. There's only one way out of the mess they've gotten us into and that's to decrease government spending and reduce the regulatory and tax burdens they've placed on businesses. Unfortunately, the current crowd in D.C. is ideologically averse to reducing taxes and cutting spending, and, in fact, they're eager to do just the opposite.

November can't come soon enough.


Very Superstitious<b>*</b>

A gentleman who occasionally writes letters to the local paper to criticize Christianity and extol atheism took the occasion in one recent epistle to trot out the tired old shibboleth that Christianity is a mere superstition. This is certainly an amusing claim coming from an atheist. The definition of a superstition is any belief unreasonably upheld by faith in magic, chance or dogma. Consider some of what an atheist must believe in order to believe atheism is true:

They have to believe firstly that something (the universe) can come from nothing. Then, in order to avoid the conclusion that the cosmos is purposefully designed for life, they have to believe, in the complete absence of evidence, the only other possibility: that there are a near infinite number of universes of which ours is just one.

Believing as they do in a naturalistic origin of life they have to also believe that the equivalent of a library full of information (the DNA molecule) was somehow assembled by random chance and then, despite the enormous improbability of it, DNA just by accident developed the highly complex process of self-replication. They have to believe, without any evidence, that human consciousness - the awareness of one's surroundings and the ability to reason, abstract, and experience sensations - somehow arose by chance from chemical reactions occurring in the brain.

They often also believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that atheism is superior to theism in terms of offering a reason to hope that justice will prevail, a meaning for human and individual existence, a ground for moral obligation, and a basis for thinking that human beings have dignity and should be accorded human rights. On atheism there's no absolutely no reason whatsoever to think that there's any real justice, any ultimate meaning to life, any ground for moral obligation or moral judgment, or any reason to think humans have dignity, worth or inherent rights. Yet many atheists believe in all of these things.

So who's being superstitious?

*Superstitious by Stevie Wonder