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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 22, 2011 / 18 Adar I, 5771

The progression of pain

By Michael Gerson



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In readjusting the size and role of government, there is a natural progression of pain. Cuts tend to begin with the poor and vulnerable, who have limited political clout. There is barely a peep of protest. But it quickly becomes obvious that most public benefits don't go to the poor and vulnerable. They go to people in the broad middle class, who are more prone and prepared to defend their interests. Thus, the Madison showdown.

Along the continuum of pain, states are now touching people who vote, organize and protest. The Great Recession has torn large holes in state budgets, only barely patched by federal stimulus spending. Over the last few years, governors have made cuts in welfare programs, services for the elderly and disabled, legal aid and medical benefits for the poor. It has not been nearly enough. "The cost," says Daniel Disalvo of the City College of New York, "of public-sector pay and benefits (which in many cases far exceed what comparable workers earn in the private sector), combined with hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities for retired government workers, are weighing down state and city budgets. And staggering as these burdens seem now, they are actually poised to grow exponentially in the years ahead."

It is the paradox of the state fiscal crisis. The cost of maintaining government structures is making it impossible to maintain government functions. To fund commitments made to the providers of services, services must be cut. So piles of money go to government pensions and benefits instead of roads, educating children or mental health services. This is one of the primary reasons the public resists tax increases. A tax increase used to provide an actual public service might have a shot at support. But a tax increase to prop up a system that consumes endless resources while cutting services is a harder sell.

Many governors face more than a spending crisis. They preside over failed systems that have discouraged fiscal restraint and sometimes preferred the interests of state employees to the interests of taxpayers. "The most important changes," says John Hood of the John Locke Foundation, "will be structural reforms ... that eliminate the perverse incentives that got the states into this mess in the first place."

This is the theory of Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. His critics, including President Obama, argue: spending cuts may be necessary but let's not take away the collective bargaining rights of public employees on benefits. Walker's supporters counter: spending cuts are important but they do not change the system that has turned an upward ratchet on public employee benefits for decades -- helping produce more than $1 trillion in unfunded state liabilities across America. The real problem, in this view, is not merely government spending but massive, unsustainable government obligations.

Walker does not have an easy political case to make. There is a natural and appropriate sympathy for teachers and other public servants. But precisely because many public employees provide essential services, they can have disproportionate leverage in collective bargaining. "A strike of public employees," said President Franklin Roosevelt, "manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable." In addition, public employee unions have the unique power to help pick pliant negotiating partners -- by using compulsory dues to elect friendly politicians. This influence has been used to protect public employees from the hard realities of the current labor market, which has increased public resentment. In this environment, a closer alignment of public and private benefits is reasonable.

The outcome of the Wisconsin struggle will be a signal to other states. But events in Madison are also a preview of the federal debt debate. On the continuum of pain, Obama has targeted home heating oil subsidies for the poor and Teach for America. House Republicans' reductions have been broader but included foreign aid and low-income housing. Few protesters have emerged to scream and chant. But these cuts are distractions from the problem of unsustainable entitlement obligations to the middle class and the wealthy, which threaten to eventually consume the other functions of the federal government. Structural change is required -- reforming benefits to reduce costs while focusing benefits on those in the greatest need.

If this happens, as it must, the protests may move from Madison to the Washington Mall.


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Previously:



02/18/11 The seriousness primary
02/11/11 Do Egypt's protests mean American decline?
01/27/11 No-bend Obama
01/21/11 Two good arguments for civility -- and passion -- in politics
01/11/11 Obama's staff changes give him a second chance
01/11/11 Is Arizona shooting an empty search for meaning?
01/07/11 WikiLeaks gives dangerous ammunition to a tyrant
01/04/11 Michael Vick: Symbol of the second chance
12/28/10 Social Security reform is the answer to Obama's problems --- and the nation's
12/21/10 When foreign policy realism isn't realistic
12/17/10 When it comes to politics, Obama's ego keeps getting in the way
11/26/10 Libs resort to conspiracy theories to explain Obama's problems
11/19/10 With Holder at the helm, detainee policy is a disaster
11/12/10 Blue-state budget crises spell even more trouble for Dems
10/19/10 Obama the snob
10/12/10 Seeds of victory in Afghanistan
10/05/10 Believers' remorse
10/04/10 Pound-foolish on national security
09/28/10 Babylon on the Potomac
09/27/10 Our reluctant commander in chief
09/21/10 Blue strongholds are becoming Democratic graveyards
09/17/10 For the GOP, a bittersweet brew from the Tea Party
09/15/10: Insanity's great enablers
09/13/10: The lost communicator
09/08/10: Will 2010 midterms be 1994 all over again?
09/01/10: Obama's economic wandering
08/27/10: Miracles from abroad
08/25/10: Address these issues in order to strengthen the Tea Party
08/20/10: The lost promise of Barack Obama
07/23/10: Obama's greatest nightmare
02/04/09: The Reality of Innocence
01/07/09: The Risks in Obama's Ambitions
12/31/08: Support Obama Will Need
06/13/08: Prince Charles, Organic Conservatism Icon
06/11/08: No longer a bankrupt political joke but still overshadowed
04/23/08: McCain's anger management
04/10/08: A Country for Old Men
03/06/08: Does the America Need a Hug?
03/06/08: Obama's First 100 Days
02/29/08: Words Aren't Cheap
02/22/08: He Said, They Said
02/20/08: Dying silently in Zimbabwe
02/15/08: Hillary's Unappealing Path
02/13/08: NATO's Afghan Stumbles
02/08/08: Why McCain Endures
02/06/08: One surge that led to another
02/01/08: In North Korea, Process Over Progress
01/30/08: Compassionate to the end


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