The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Pension Tsunami Now Rolling over Police, Firefighters

Once considered sacrosanct, the pensions of cops and firefighters are increasingly coming under the budget knife, says Reuters.

Even in the recent showdown in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker was careful not to extend the curbing of collective bargaining rights to police and firefighters. But now dire fiscal straits across the country are threatening even the pensions of public servants who put themselves in harm’s way.

From San Diego, San Jose, and Stockton to St. Louis, Detroit, and Suffolk County, the story sounds much the same. Especially after 9/11, when New York police and firemen put the everyday heroism of public safety officials in the spotlight, politicians agreed to generous pension plans. How generous? Recent police retirees in Suffolk county, New York, earn $86,702 on average, versus $37,270 for other (non-teacher) employees. And the rest of New York state has kept pace with the upward trend:

The Manhattan Institute estimates nearly 10 percent of New York State cops and firefighters who retired in 2011 will receive six-figure pensions, from 2 percent in 2001.

The problem is, no one ever figured out how they were going to pay for these gold-plated plans. Now the bills are coming due. In San Bernadino, California, for example:

public safety spending eats up 73 percent of its general fund budget, with overtime for firefighters especially onerous. Pension costs are expected to reach $25 million this year, double the 2006 level.

With voters rejecting tax increases as an option, cities are facing difficult choices between massive service cuts and reneging on past promises via bankruptcy:

In some cases, contracts that may once have seemed fair are helping to bankrupt cities and leading to severe cuts in services, including fire station closures and reductions in police forces. Eight municipalities have sought protection from their creditors so far this year, following 13 that filed in 2011, and many others are having to slash their budgets.

When the bills come due, and the numbers don’t add up, fiscal arithmetic doesn’t care if you’re a teacher, firefighter, or police officer. Someone has to pay or your pension won’t get paid.

Advice for all VM readers in defined benefit pension programs: Union leaders and politicians can and will lie about how safe your pension is. The only one who really cares about your retirement is you: plan prudently, save aggressively, and if something sounds too good to be true, don’t believe it.

Published on July 30, 2012 12:00 pm
  • Anthony

    “When the bills come due, and the numbers don’t add up, fiscal arithmetic doesn’t care if you’re a teacher, firefighter, or police officer. Someone has to pay or your pension won’t get paid.” That ‘someone’ generally is the general public (municipal taxpayers).

  • Susan

    “That ‘someone’ generally is the general public (municipal taxpayers).”

    Spot on. Unfortunately when the ‘someone’ paying for year one runs out of money and is forced onto the government’s slave-plantation who will pay the bills for the next thirty years.

    Me, I am running hard with CL Byrant’s “Runaway Slave”. Run away and run hard from government’s slave-pantation!

  • thibaud

    Fortunately for the people of Wisconsin, their representatives are hard at work bringing home federal money to stimulate economic development and help treat melanoma.

    Who’s leading the fight for more government to help working and sick Wisconsites? Why, none other than the leading young Ayn Rand groupie himself, Congressman Paul Ryan!

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/08/06/120806fa_fact_lizza?currentPage=all

    Here’s ace reporter Ryan Lizza, exposing the ludicrous hypocrisy of Ryan’s campaign for millions for Janesville WI:

    “When I pointed out to Ryan that government spending programs were at the heart of his home town’s recovery, he didn’t disagree. But he insisted that he has been misunderstood. ‘Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature,’ he said. ‘As if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians…’

    /excerpt

    The nerve! Can you imagine? Calling Paul Ryan a LIBERTARIAN? It’s all so unfair.

    More from Lizza on Janesville’s millions that Ryan has angled its way – he interviews the comical, albeit sympathetic, right-wing leader of the local economic development group, John Beckord:

    “Through 2007, Ryan regularly requested government money for special projects back home. Earmarks grew out of control during the Bush years, but most of what Ryan asked for, and got, was defensible: four hundred thousand dollars for a water-treatment plant; three hundred thousand for a technical college where G.M. workers could be retrained; seven hundred and thirty-five thousand for Janesville’s bus system; and $3.3 million for highway projects throughout Wisconsin. …

    When we got beyond the auto plant, Beckord pointed out some of the promising initiatives in town. “We’re finding a new identity,” he said. Since the plant closed, Janesville, which sits almost at the center of a ring of major cities, including Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Des Moines, and Minneapolis, has partly reinvented itself as a distribution hub for major companies.

    “They don’t make anything here,” Beckord explained. “But they distribute their products from here.” …

    As Janesville increasingly becomes a base for the business of distribution logistics, its single most pressing economic concern is good roads. Beckord pointed toward Interstate 90, which runs southeast a hundred miles to Chicago.

    “From an economic-vitality and economic-development perspective, transportation infrastructure is huge,” he said. Next year, I-90 around Janesville will begin expansion from four lanes to eight.

    The project, the top issue for the local business community since the G.M. plant closed, will be financed as part of a billion-dollar federal and state highway project.

    “Paul has been as helpful as he can be to encourage that development,” Beckord said. “But, as you know, he also has a philosophical disconnect with the idea of earmarks.”

    [A "philosophical disconnect," indeed. Awkward.]

    We passed a warehouse-like building under construction where several men in hard hats were at work. Beckord explained that it would soon house the Janesville Innovation Center, providing entrepreneurs with commercial space in which to launch their ideas. The money came from a $1.2-million government grant through the Economic Development Administration, one of Obama’s major stimulus programs.

    [Oops.]

    There was one more success story that Beckord wanted to share. A few years ago, he had a melanoma that was treated with a radioactive isotope; this isotope is administered to fifty-five thousand patients a day but has a half-life of sixty-six hours after manufacture, so it must be delivered quickly.

    The isotope, known as a medical tracer, is made outside the United States by a complicated process requiring highly enriched uranium from nuclear reactors.

    The government offered twenty-five-million-dollar matching grants to companies that could devise a way to produce the material domestically, without using enriched uranium. “Two of the four companies that won that competition, incredibly, are going to build plants in our county, and one of them is going to be in Janesville,” Beckord said. In May, the federal government announced that it would contribute more than ten million dollars to the new facility, which could employ some hundred and fifty people….”

    / end excerpt

    Long past time we stopped viewing Paul Ryan’s starve-the-state proposal as anything other than a ludicrous, massively hypocritical con job by someone with an adolescent, Randian cartoon-influenced understanding of government and politics.

  • thibaud

    #2 – “Run away and run hard from government’s slave-pantation!”

    Perhaps the slaves should keep their “pantations” on and take a closer look at what the libertar- oops, we’re not supposed to call him that! – I mean, what the esteemed federal largesse-gatherer from Wisconsin, Representative Ryan, has been able to sluice out of Washington into his district.

    Of course, a reasonable person might think that crippling the government’s ability to fund, say, highways, treatments for cancer, help for communities devastated by industrial decline, etc is a rash and foolish thing to do.

    But if such a person had any honesty, of both the intellectual and the moral variety, he wouldn’t be on both sides of this issue.

    Can’t wait to see Ryan’s position on generous government-provided health insurance packages for Congressmen, including those who’ve spent their entire professional lives drawing their salary from the public purse.

  • Corlyss

    Saving agressively is 100% antithetical to an economy that is 70% consumber spending.

    You think life is going to get tough for public pensioners, just wait till the truth dawns on the economic geniuses that think they can “tweak” their way to full employment, cradle-to-grave social spending, and prosperity for all.

  • SteveMG

    Thibaud, brevity is welcomed.

    Please summarize – one or two bullet points, a key graf – and then link. Nobody’s going to wade through all that.

    Thanks.

  • http://fat-city-usa.blogspot.com/ Walter Sobchak

    If you want a really depressing perspective on life in California in 2012, by a brilliant writer who lives in the Central Valley, not LA or the Bay Area, read Victor Davis Hanson’s essay:

    California: The “Road Warrior” Is Here

    http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/california-the-road-warrior-is-here/

  • Richard S

    I understand why policemen and firemen might be able to get full pensions after 20 or 25 years on the job. As we age, we’re less able to do physically demanding tasks.
    But why should those pensions start to pay out before the retirees hit 65?

  • Kris

    “Especially after 9/11, when New York police and firemen put the everyday heroism of public safety officials in the spotlight, politicians agreed to generous pension plans.”

    I am not familiar with the concept of civil society. “Everything within the State, nothing outside of the State.” If a majority of us disapprove of something, then the government should outlaw it. If we approve of something, then the government should throw money at it.

    [/sarc]

  • thibaud

    Hi Steve – ask and ye shall receive: Paul Ryan has steered many millions of federal government stimulus and other funds to his hometown while he rails against those very programs!

    No wonder he bristles at being called a libertarian. As a movement, it’s a joke, and it will be thrashed at the polls this fall.

  • http://fat-city-usa.blogspot.com/ Walter Sobchak

    Thibaud: silence is golden. Especially from you.

  • dearieme

    @Walter: I opened the Hanson link. Golly, Americans are wordy.

  • Bruce Russell

    thibaud:

    Get back to work on your government job!

    A taxpayer.

  • tomw

    Thibaud:
    What exactly does Wisconsin projects and Congressman Ryan have to do with over-extended pension funds? Even the last brouhaha in WI did not meddle with pensions.

  • Squid

    Shorter thibaud: I have no rebuttal to Tea Party arguments, so I shall attack their messengers for insufficient purity.

  • Moneyrunner

    I originally skipped thibaud’s cut-n-paste from the New Yorker but at SteveMG’s prompt I went back and read it. I’m puzzled how this is relevant to Meade’s post. I suppose thibaud thinks it’s a devastating attack on Ryan, but it’s pretty much the usual stuff printed in the New Yorker whose Jonah Lehrer was just shown the door for fabricating quotes. So after all this sturm und drang, that’s it, that’s all the Left has on Ryan? And we’re going to pay for the police and firemen their retirement how? Look a squirrel!

  • Ben

    You can always count on thibaud for some super-long version of an “everybody does it” (or sort-of did it a long time ago) argument. When you need ideas rather than posturing, you won’t find them in thibaud’s comments.

    How does “everybody does it” magically create money to pay for pensions?

  • Fred Z

    “public servants who put themselves in harm’s way … ”

    Yeah? Which ones are those? It sure is not the firemen and police, whose jobs are quite safe compared to many manual jobs, from farming and fishing through construction and logging.

  • JWW

    thibaud:

    1. The post is about pensions and has nothing to do with Ryan, so your comment is not relevant. I am sorry about your reading comprehension problem.
    2. So what if Ryan is against high govt spending, but also tries to get govt spending for his district. Try and think about this.

    Just because Ryan wants to change the rules of the system doesn’t mean that while the CURRENT rules are in place he shouldn’t get as much money for his district as possible.

    Frankly, I am surprised you are unable to figure this rather simple concept out.

    3. The rest of your post is just childish name-calling. Kind of pathetic.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Nobody’s going to wade through all that.

    That’s a feature, not a bug.

  • SDN

    Thibaud, as long as the government keeps stealing, I want as much of my money back as possible.

  • John

    Two words: Clawback Tax. A 100% tax on all pensions and benefits for any public sector retiree before the age of 67.

    This way it mimics SS. It’s time for cops and firemen and teachers to start living like regular people.

  • LTC F

    I’m not a police officer or firefighter for the record. I think there is a legitimate reason for 20 year retirement for cops and firemen. Do you really want to dial 911 and have a truck full of 65 year old firemen showing up at your house? Or watch a 62 year old cop try to chase down the 17 year old purse snatcher?

    The problem came when other unions got the sweet deal cops and firemen did, and suddenly secretaries, teachers, and DMV clerks could suddenly retire at 45.

  • Person of Choler

    Perhaps thibaud and Lizza are assigned to prepare the battle space for the eventuality that Ryan is Romney’s Vice Presidential selection.

  • thibaud

    #24 – if Romney is stupid enough to choose Ryan, then I will rush to InTrade to bet the maximum sum on Obama’s re-election. Ryan-Romney would not top 100 Electoral College votes.

    As to the other comments, Norquist & Ryan’s anti-tax nuttiness is acutely relevant here. They’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    The big problem here is bad governance. The way forward has been shown us by those heavily interventionist, frugal, sober nations Canada, Holland and Sweden.

    As the Dutch, Canadians and Swedes have shown, if you want solvent pensions, you will have to not only regulate them but also fund them appropriately through a mix of DC (Sweden moved from DC to DB years ago) and broad-based, appropriate levels of taxation.

    Holland by law requires their funds to maintain 100% solvency ratios, and the Dutch agree to tax themselves appropriately to achieve this statutory requirement.

    This is why their pensions are in very good shape – despite facing the same actuarial/increased longevity
    challenges that we and every other advanced nation face.

    Note also that our pension funds’ overall annual returns would increase by 100 basis points or more if we were to reform the absurd heads-they-win, tails-we-lose payout structure.

    This represents an extraordinary loss to the nation, sluicing probably $40-50 billion annually into the pockets of the likes of Mitt Romney and the other 2-and-20, non-clawback bandits running the PE/hedgefunds that make up most of the alternative investment asset class. IIUC, the Canadians, Dutch and Swedes are much savvier and tougher when it comes to minimizing this waste.

    I know it’s more fun to sneer and slag on OtherSide, but if you’re serious about fixing this mess, then it would help to get out of the American partisan echo chamber and actually look at what other nations have done successfully.

    Again, the issue is one of extremely bad state and local governance in America. Not “socialism” vs “capitalism.”

  • http://www.miserabledonuts.blogspot.com LTC (ret) John

    LTC F, if a department would put 60 soemthings on the street or on the truck then I should think they have a real problem in personnel management.

    That which cannot continue, won’t. Cops, FF will have to rejoin the rest of us on Planet Financial Reality.

  • thibaud

    correction to above: “Sweden moved from DB to DC years ago”

  • teapartydoc

    It’s all about Thibaud, all the time. Oh, by the way. That Blue Thibaudian Model isn’t working out so well, is it? Perhaps that’s why the subject keeps changing.

  • thibaud

    Re. the path forward, some links for those who want to actually solve the problem.

    From the Economist, a comparison of America’s hack-ridden pensions and Canada’s extremely professional, well-regulated pension management:

    http://www.economist.com/node/21548970

    Also from the Economist, a review of the scathing critique of the payout terms that crush pension fund managers, by a JP Morgan fund-of-funds 23-year veteran:

    http://www.economist.com/node/21558231

    From Mercer, the pensions and benefits experts, here’s a deep dive analysis of the quality of pension fund management and pension funds’ solvency and sustainability.

    Four heavily interventionist countries (Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada) outranked the US by a country mile overall, and on all the individual counts as well.

    http://www.mercer.com/referencecontent.htm?idContent=1359260#What

    So much for the canard that what we need is starve-the-state policies, not more integrity and competence of our public officials.

    Here’s Mercer’s Global Pension Index rankings:

    Grade B+
    Index Value 75–80
    Countries:
    Netherlands
    Australia

    Grade B
    Index Value 65–75
    Sweden
    Switzerland
    Canada
    UK

    Definition of Grade “B+” or “B”: A system that has a sound structure, with many good features, but has some areas for improvement that differentiates it from an A-grade system.

    Grade C+ Index Value 60–65
    Chile

    Grade C Index Value 50–60
    USA

    Definition of Grade “C+” or “C”: A system that has some good features, but also has major risks and/or shortcomings that should be addressed. Without these improvements, its efficacy and/or long-term sustainability can be questioned.

  • Ritchie The Riveter

    Shorter Thibaud: Alinsky Rule Four, followed by long-winded yet simplistic appeals to authority to defend the status quo of fearing those with mere money … as opposed to those with the coercive force of law in their hands and delusions of omniscience, who can leverage their positions to feed their greed under the cover of “non-profit” status.

    It’s not starving for an overweight Uncle Sam to go on a diet and return to his fighting trim.

  • Jeffersonian

    The piper is here, and he has his invoice ready.

  • thibaud

    Actually Doc, it’s about good governance, not “blue” or “red.”

    As opposed to smirks ‘n’ sneers that get us nowhere.

  • http://fat-city-usa.blogspot.com/ Walter Sobchak

    Dearieme: Hanson lives there. I think that his perspective as a long time resident and farmer, is valuable. Most everything else we read about the huge troubled state comes from the most gentile parts of the bay area or the west side of LA. Like I said, read it and weep.

  • thibaud

    Nice straw man, Ritchie. Greedy public sector unions? I’m agin’ ‘em. Unsustainable deficits? Agin’ those too.

    What I favor is a rational, balanced approach that recognizes that we * ALSO * need to reform taxes, spread the burden more evenly, rein in the bankers.

    In other words, appropriately fund our commitments, as the frugal and sober, non-berserker Dutch do.

  • Kurmudge

    Two things. 1) Every Congressman could help him/herself to a large ration of pork, and it would make virtually no difference in the budget and solvency of the US. Thibaud wants to block entitlement reform of trillions of dollars, so he tries to divert attention pointing at paltry amounts of the budget- maybe 3% if you add it all together, and less if you get rid of the egregious programs like “green energy”. BTW, few of us conservatives object to federal involvement in basic research which is cheap, just in capital subsidies to commercial businesses. 2) What I object to is the government stealing my retirement savings to bail out ridiculous pensions paid to union thugs. I’ve given up things over the years to be responsible and avoid debt, and these morons are eager to inflate it all away.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ritchietheriveter Ritchie The Riveter

    thibaud, your problem is a misplacement of trust; you trust the government more than the “banksters” … when in fact the government is run by people with the same proclivities for greed and self-service, only with the coercive force of law at their disposal to impose their will upon you.

    That is why, until we get back to a Federal government that is limited to its legitimate mission … securing our unalienable rights … and WE get back to working, alone and/or with our neighbors – or through local and state governments with appropriate limits and oversight — to resolve the rest of the problems we face … the kind of compromises that you keep proposing are a fool’s errand, because we will keep going back to the Feds to find an easy way out of the messes … and as a result of such “outsourcing” of OUR responsibility, they will be able to fold/spindle/mutilate our liberty again and again in the name of their definition of “the common good”.

    Our governance is NOT about “the common good” as the be-all-end-all, despite what you and I have been fed all during our lifetimes. You apparently are used to that status quo … as are the Dutch and other Europeans, including some like Greece and Italy who are now highly dysfunctional as a result.

    Our governance is about securing the rights of the INDIVIDUAL, not imposing your or my vision of the “common good” upon them by the coercive force of law.

    We should be VOLUNTARILY coming together for the “common good” … not having the vision of that, defined by an elite few, jammed down our throats, because we are too lazy to do the job ourselves … even as we add to that common good by doing everything we can to take care of ourselves first.

    If our founding citizens had your attitude, we’d still be British.

  • thibaud

    “you trust the government more than the “banksters” … when in fact the government is run by people with the same proclivities for greed and self-service”

    Aside from a few amazing cases, not so. Not even close.

    Someone with your “proclivity for greed and self-service” can make 1000s of times more money in our financial sector than he ever could in Springfield or OK City or Sacramento or Anchorage.

    In Germany, Canada, Sweden etc they have far less corruption than we do – both in government AND in the private sector.

    Part of it is cultural: Americans are more comfortable with corruption generally, and are more likely to believe that a primary goal of life should be to try to become extraordinarily rich.

    That yields more Buffetts and also more Blagojeviches. (Note that the truly creative and productive enterpreneurs aren’t much interested in money; they seek glory, putting their stamp on the world etc).

    We’d be much better off with fewer hedgefund gazilionaires AND cleaner, more boring politics.. More boring, sure, probably also with less (debt-enabled) consumer stuff. But a stronger pro-family culture, better communities, richer lives generally.

  • Otis McWrong

    <>

    I’d rather see a 62 year old male cop than a female cop. Dangerous and physically demanding jobs that women can do are by definition not dangerous and demanding.

    The VAST majority of cops are little more than armed meter maids. The VAST majority of fireman do little more than get cats out of trees and spray bbq grills with fire extinguishers. Their unions will tell you the cops all live LAPD existences and the firemen are all Chicago in the 19th century. It’s all self-serving gibberish. Every time you see a cop hiding in the bushes with a radar detector, make a note to yourself that police department is overstaffed by at least one.

  • The Snob

    Thibaud, I think you’re getting short shrift here, but you’re also eliding a couple things. There is an axis of expropriation that runs between public and union pension funds and Wall Street, especially private equity.

    But to your point you also need to account more for public choice theory and its implications. Canada and Sweden are the size, population-wise, of a larger state and a smaller state respectively, and are much less diverse in the ways that matter. If you compare them to, say, Minnesota and Texas, the US doesn’t look so bad by comparison. While its easy to look at something that works well in a small ethnically homogeneous country and say we should apply that here, some things don’t scale up so easily. I mean, look at Illinois and Indiana. They’re right next to each other and their public sectors are quite different.

  • crankyjoe

    is anyone else so tired of the hero cop/fireman meme, and how they strap on the old six shooter every morning to hit the mean streets of wherever, the average cop was in the bottom 10% of his high school class and would be working at burger king if he hadn’t hit the cop lottery

  • Jim.

    @thibaud-

    I agree that Americans are comfortable with too much corruption, of the “someone else needs to pay my bills for me” variety.

    One wonders whether expanding the Entitlement State would do anything to combat this mentality.

    “If you ain’t getting something for nothing, you ain’t getting your fair share!”

  • eatingdogfood

    Eventually, these retirement benefits will bring the USA to it’s knees !!! And when there is No Money; There will be No Money !!! No Monthly Checks, No Medical Payments, etc.

  • lee

    Fred Z says
    “Yeah? Which ones are those? It sure is not the firemen and police, whose jobs are quite safe compared to many manual jobs, from farming and fishing through construction and logging.”
    Point well taken… except for one thing, while there are many occupations that are statistically more dangerous, those occupations are “accidental” instead of “intentional and unlawful homicide” BIG difference…

  • thibaud

    Snob – “Canada and Sweden are the size, population-wise, of a larger state and a smaller state respectively, and are much less diverse in the ways that matter. If you compare them to, say, Minnesota and Texas, the US doesn’t look so bad by comparison. ”

    Canada’s less diverse than Minnesota? Huh?

    You do realize that Canada is officially bilingual, don’t you? That Canada’s francophone minority has produced a violent separatist movement in living memory?

    The Netherlands is also a diverse nation – and yet their solvency ratios are over 2x greater than the solvency ratios for states like Oklahoma, Kentucky, Alaska etc.

    Even comparing US states internally to each other, the presumed correlation between homogeneity and pension solvency doesn’t hold.

    You do realize which state’s pensions have the highest funding levels of all, don’t you? That would be New York.

    I agree that culture matters – not, btw, as Mitt the Twit thinks it does (but that’s another discussion!).

    The cultural tendency that matters here is the public’s attitude toward

    a) elected officials

    b) financiers.

    The common thread across the frugal ex-Protestant northern nations, plus Canada since the mid-1990s, is their cultural consensus that both groups, a) and b) must be held by the public on a very short leash.

    The Dutch, Canadians and Swedes tightly regulate their banksters. They scrutinize their politicians closely.

    And they are willing to tax themselves appropriately in order to make good on the promises they make to themselves.

    THAT’S the “culture” that we have lost.

    How ironic that the poster child for piggish, self-serving, gaming of the tax code and our sad-sack pension management system is the candidate blathering about the importance of culture.

    Mitt the Twit is half right, anyway: it’s HIS culture, of heads-I-win, tails-the public-loses, that needs to go.

    best,
    T

  • Fred Z

    Lee thinks there is a big difference between dying from a villain’s gunshot as opposed to drowning in an arctic ocean after a fishing incident. He seems to think that the former is better.

    Anyone else agree? I sure do not. Further, the police and firemen will get immediate and high quality medical help. Not so much on a fishing boat, a logging camp or a remote oil well site.

  • richard40

    Thibauds post on Ryan is the same bogus logic behind other claims that libertarians must refuse to accept benefits like social security if they advocate cutbacks. A simple refutation:
    1. It is not hipocritical to advocate that gov programs be reduced, but simultaneously trying to make sure that as long as we are currently stuck paying for them we may as well get our fair share.
    2. It would only be hipocritical to reduce spending for everybody else, but not for me, which as far as I know Ryan has not done. If his reductions pass, his share of the proceeds, as well as everybody elses, would be proportionately reduced.
    3. Similar logic would dictate that if thibaud advocates a tax hike, he should be willing to voluntarily donate a huge share of his own income to the fed gov until that tax hike happens, but I have never heard of him doing that. Leftists love to be generous with other peoples money, but never their own.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ritchietheriveter Ritchie The Riveter

    Someone with your “proclivity for greed and self-service” can make 1000s of times more money in our financial sector than he ever could in Springfield or OK City or Sacramento or Anchorage.

    True … but very few have the skill set to capitalize on greed at that level, so they settle for the environments that they can exercise their greed within.

    You seem to think that greed is a function of pocket depth … when in fact greed can rear its ugly head all over the economic spectrum.

    Greed can even be outsourced … to, say, public-sector union leaders who are able to collude with elected officials to get you more (while feeding their own greed for money and power and influence), for the same level of productivity on your part, at the expense of the taxpayer to the point of becoming unsustainable, even if your and my pursuit of happiness is SEVERELY limited through higher and higher taxes in the attempt to sustain it.

    Greed can involve more than money … as in using your management position in government to build an empire around yourself, bringing you more power, influence, and advancement potential in the process, even if the raises aren’t given to you today … irregardless of whether or not the existence and growth of your empire actually serves the interests of the citizens, and again threatens their ability to pursue happiness by its demand for resources.

    When a scientist shades his findings to match the political agenda of the Powers That Be, in the hopes they will award him another grant … is that not a form of greed?

    When an activist sensationalizes a problem by playing fast and loose with the reality of it, hoping to create a crisis that they won’t let go to waste in the hopes of increasing both private funding and government attention (monetary and with respect to access) for their cause … is that not greed?

    Yes, most of them don’t have the ability to amass the amounts of money “banksters” can … but they have access – either directly as government operatives, or indirectly through collusion with government, to something that is far, far worse when even garden-variety greed is leveraged with it …

    … the coercive force of law, to impose their will upon the rest of us … or shield themselves from expressions of our will that might upset their nice way of life at our expense.

    The monopoly our leaders and government operatives have on that force can be just as threatening, when it comes to threatening our liberty and ability to pursue happiness, as the monopolies of the 19th-century robber barons were in their day

    The strict oversight you tout as a solution with respect to preventing corruption, however, has two major flaws … it hobbles the honest right along with the greedy, with respect to requirements for compliance and demand for resources … and it simply changes who has the monopoly power of law, to another set of people who, as human beings, are just as susceptible to greed as any “bankster”.

    No, just like with any monopoly, we must limit the monopoly on the coercive force of law if we are going to protect our liberty as citizens.

    But not by more and more regulations … instead, by limiting its reach and focus to the one mission that works against the greed inherent in the humans who operate it: the tasks that DIRECTLY pertain to securing our unalienable rights.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ritchietheriveter Ritchie The Riveter

    The common thread across the frugal ex-Protestant northern nations, plus Canada since the mid-1990s, is their cultural consensus that both groups, a) and b) must be held by the public on a very short leash.

    The Dutch, Canadians and Swedes tightly regulate their banksters. They scrutinize their politicians closely.

    And they are willing to tax themselves appropriately in order to make good on the promises they make to themselves.

    THAT’S the “culture” that we have lost.

    In other words, a culture where a ruling elite leverages the coercive force of law to force their socio-economic morality down everyone else’s throat … and the people are willing to settle for that.

    From 04 July 1776 until the early 1900′s, we didn’t have that kind of “culture”, either … until we convinced ourselves that an elite few “smart” people could solve our problems FOR us, better than we could ourselves. That’s when we started to absorb that “culture”.

    A “culture” that now, here and over there, is showing significant cracks when it comes to being sustainable … and was even only somewhat sustainable here, only as long as the rest of the world was rebuilding from World Wars and not able to compete with us economically.

    A “culture” that works AGAINST America’s ace-in-the-hole when it comes to economic progress … respect for personal initiative.

    Some of the “culture” you are supporting, thibaud, is the kind you run into here where I live on Long Island … where those starting and/or expanding enterprises have to run a gauntlet of regulations and permitting that does more to hobble the honest than interdict problem entrepreneurs, a gauntlet managed by petty party hacks who keep that process strong in order to justify their own keep on the government payroll.

    From what I understand, starting and expanding business in European nations is a similar nightmare … unless you have been established for years, grown to major corporation status, and have the political connections that go with all that.

    It’s just another form of serfdom, where a few at the top impose their will upon all … not by royal edict and force of arms, but by red tape and financial penalties.

    That is a soft, cuddly fascism that holds us all back … because government is allowed to go beyond securing our ability to secure what is best for us and our neighbors, to imposing a “common good” in area after area that is defined by an elite few that is just as susceptible to greed and self-service as any other human being.

  • Tough Love needed

    That last paragraph was darn good advice for Public Sector workers (Save, save, save), because WE (the Private Sector Taxpayers) have absolutely ZERO intention of paying for your overstuffed pensions and retiree healthcare costs.