The signs are all around us. Even as Barack Obama and the Democrats lower their heads and prepare to bulldoze a huge new entitlement through Congress, the results of profligate government spending are everywhere apparent. It requires a prodigious degree of ideological blindness to miss this.
In Greece, decades of lavish spending on public employees and social programs have led to national bankruptcy. Greece’s budget deficit last year was 12.7 percent of GDP. Want to know what an economic dead end looks like? It looks like this: A socialist government is forced to try to adopt austerity measures on an infantilized citizenry gone soft and dependent. Public employees respond with strikes and violence. “Tax collectors began a two-day walkout,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald, “court employees launched a week-long series of work stoppages and garbage collectors also mobilized against state spending cuts that are meant to save 4.8 billion euros (6.5 billion U.S. dollars).” These smaller walkouts fall between last week’s general strike and the general strike called for Thursday.
In related news, thousands of students and faculty took to the streets to protest cutbacks and tuition increases at the lavishly funded University of California at Berkeley. Arrests were made after about 200 students rioted, vandalizing a university building and lighting trash cans on fire. An ethnic-studies professor at San Francisco State lamented the violence, explaining that it “casts a shadow on the majority of our students who are working constructively toward budget justice.”
No doubt many New Jerseyans also think of themselves as crusaders for justice. But last month, newly-elected governor Chris Christie delivered a frank assessment of the need for budget continence: “There’s no time left. We have no room left to borrow. We have no room left to tax.” New Jersey, he warned, is “on the verge of bankruptcy.” New Jersey faces a $68.9 billion long-term liability for retiree health care and other benefits, one of the steepest obligations of any state, but has not set aside the funds to cover it. The recession played a role in bringing New Jersey’s woes to a head. But part of competent government is planning for contingencies. Consider what even the liberal Newark Star-Ledger acknowledged:
We have the highest-paid police officers in the country, and they can retire after 25 years at 65 percent of their highest salary. We have the nation’s highest-paid firefighters, too. Salaries for our teachers are always at the top of the nation, or close to it. And most pay nothing for red-carpet health benefits for life.
This year, in the middle of a punishing recession — when more than 10 percent of New Jerseyans are out of work, when others are having their pay and hours cut, when many are losing homes to foreclosure — teachers’ average base salaries rose by nearly 5 percent, double the rate of inflation.
Unlike most private-sector employees, New Jersey police officers can cash in on unused sick days. A retiring New Brunswick officer received $376,234 for unused sick days, on top of his annual $115,000 pension. It’s a common pattern. New Jersey has run itself into a ditch, led by liberal Democratic officeholders and their public-union backers and beneficiaries.