I Won't Be Calming Down Any Time Soon

[WARNING: Freakishly long, screedy post follows. Run. Run like the wind. You’ve been warned.]


At the official back-slapping, high-five-ing ceremony at the White House today, VP Joe Biden introduced the Commander-in-Chief and, while, well . . . slapping his back . . . leaned into his ear and said, “This is a big f#$%ing deal.” (It’s true.)

Well, yes. Yes it is. For once the vice-president and I agree on something. It is a very big deal. Today the Californiafication of America took a giant leap forward.

California is, of course a dysfunctional nanny state, insolvent, and a hostage to its powerful public employee unions. That last condition is why it is powerless to take the necessary steps to remedy the first two.

This is why a group of Tea Party protesters rioted in California the other day, setting  stuff on fire and clashing violently with police. No, wait. That was actually a bunch of 28 and 30-year-old “students” in Berkley enraged over some modest increases in their massively tax-payer-subsidized tuition.

Just how much trouble is California in and how intractable are its problems? It is long, discouraging reading, but you won’t find a more thorough tour of the wreckage than the piece by Prof. William Voegeli I saw in my fall issue of The Claremont Review of Books. It’s appropriately titled, “Failed State.

For a stiff chaser, throw back this Steven Greenhut piece from City Journal called Plundering California.

It’s instructive reading because its a peek at our near-term future as a nation, no matter who ends up running the show in Washington two years or four years from now. The damage has already been done. The boulder has already been pry-barred from its ledge and its rolling happily down the hill.

Want a longer term preview? Look to Greece, only one of several candidates for the title “the sick man of Europe” as I write.

An anecdotal post by Victor Davis Hanson beautifully illustrates why Greece (literally) doesn’t work:

I lived in Greece for more than two years, and one of my best memories is of a small hotelier at a seaside resort. He checked you in; he cooked; he did the landscaping at night; he did all the maintenance during the day.

I asked him why he didn’t hire more help, since his hotel wasn’t all that small and he seemed to be going 24/7.

What followed was a harangue about the cost of hiring a permanent worker in Greece, the difficulty of ever firing him if he proved worthless, and why he preferred to do everything himself rather than fill out all sorts of forms and hire unmotivated but tenured employees. Besides, he said, almost everyone was on some sort of pension, disability, or government benefit, and was unwilling to work, so his choices were either illegal immigrants or broke foreign students.

Then he launched into a blast against socialism, and explained how he was forced to become an expert tax dodger, how he would barter for all the transactions he could, and why he hated the government. He finished by sighing that in Greece, the people spend their time either devising ways to get government money or scheming to avoid the tax collectors — or, preferably, both.

I think the medicine for Greece’s current crisis will prove more unpalatable than the wasting disease.

Hanson titled the above story, “Is Greece our Future?” I suspect it is.

In response to my previous post expressing both dismay about the Obamacare cram-down and the latest advance of creeping sharia, an old college buddy left the following comment.

Armaggedon, end-of-times, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!!!

Great, can we all calm down now? If we could survive 8 years of George W. Bush, we can survive this. And it will give Rush, Hannity, and Beck some more show material.

The commenter is a good man. And I always enjoy a good Ghostbusters reference. But I’ll have to leave it to my friends who are state and federal government employees to be all Zen-like about the rocket-sled to national insolvency and servitude we’ve been on the last 14 months. They’ll be the last to feel the pain. But it’s coming–even for them. (Ask the state employees in California holding IOUs instead of checks.)

Meanwhile, those of us in the lowly entrepreneurial class have been under increasing attack for a couple of years now. Calm down? I guess I lost my smiley-face button when I had to lay off every single one of my employees one-by-one over the last year. Good people. People I kept on paying longer than I could really afford to–to the detriment of my own family.

Starting a business means risking all; pouring blood, sweat and years into it with no guarantees; working ridiculous hours in order to build something that, hopefully, will not only provide well for your family but generate jobs for other families as well.

For this privilege, the business owner has to hack through a dense and expanding jungle of government regulations, taxes, fees, and conflicting expectations. And deal with the default presumption that he or she is evil and greedy.

Right now our government has six or seven regulatory guns pointed at the head of every business owner in the country. Retirement plan? The success of the business IS the entrepreneur’s retirement plan. But today’s Beltway hootenanny was only the beginning.

If the bunch grinning and congratulating themselves in Washington today have their way, the top marginal tax rate will increase. So will the tax on capital gains, the tax on gasoline, and we’ll get a “carbon tax” that will essentially be a penalty for breathing.

Here’s a news flash for my chipper friend. We can’t all work for the government. Someone’s going to have to actually run businesses (profitably) and employ enough folks to keep the giant Ponzi scheme going.

In 2008, 48% of American adults either paid NO federal taxes or worked in a taxpayer funded job. That figure has been creeping higher every year. Ironically, Obama-Reid-Pelosi speak of the creation of tens of thousands of new government jobs if it were a type of “stimulus” rather than an additional load for the beleaguered productive class to carry.

Think about it. If that continues, a clear electoral majority of Americans will soon be able to vote themselves raises and cradle-to-grave benefits programs for which the tax-paying minority will have to shoulder the financial burden. This is precisely what has happened in California.

My Dad was a teacher. A wonderful one. After putting 25 years in as a teacher, he retired at the age of 54, fully vested in the Oklahoma teacher retirement system. He’ll be 81 in June. Ponder the math of that for a moment.

Growing up, Dad told my brother and I that our smartest course of action was to go to work for the federal government. As usual, he was right.

Instead I followed my heart and have been self-employed virtually all of my adult life. As things currently stand, I will have to work until I’m 90 and the government will continue to confiscate large chunks of everything I earn all along the way.

My brother listened to dad. He went to work right out of college for an agency of the federal government in a job that, along with the paycheck, gave him the equivalent of an officer’s commission in the U.S. Navy.  In the next year or so, he’ll be able to retire before his 50th birthday with a gold-plated Captain’s pension.

Today, I’m the one feeling like a sucker. But 10 years from now when the government is faced with the no-win choice of either defaulting on its debt or plunging us into hyper-inflation. The Ponzi scheme will catch up to even the Cadillac federal pension holders.

The real losers in all this will be our children and grandchildren.

It’s always the last ones into the Ponzi scheme who end up holding the empty bag. Sorry kids.