Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston




Found via Jobsanger

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Out of town this weekend, but I'll be checking in to read comments.

I thought this report by a conservative think tank was stunning (but we knew this all along, didn't we):

Conservative Think Tank Ranks Countries With Government-Run Health Care As The Freest In World

[The Heritage Foundation] suggests that, far from being incompatible with freedom, countries with health care systems with as much or significantly more government control over healthcare are the freest countries in the world.


Jerry Critter said...

Just further proof that our healthcare system is a drag on our businesses and economy, and that we all would be better off with a real government run system.

Anonymous said...

Would there be better recourse and complaint compliance from a private corporation, or elected officials, that need to be reelected?
If government run, the people have a say and an avenue to address their grievances.
Good luck getting helpful responses from your complaints, from a profit making corporation.

BB-Idaho said...

Universal health care would free the private sector and whether Heritage Foundation realizes it or not, would make for better economic

Rational Nation USA said...

Of course government run health care is WHAT is responsible for the level of freedom. Working on that one.

S.W. Anderson said...

Whoa! Just a darned minute. Hong Kong, a province of communist China, and Singapore, with one of the most repressive regimes among advanced industrialized nations, are Nos. 1 and 2 in the Heritage Foundations list?!

A look at Hertiage's Web page on this confirmed my suspicions. Heritage is rating "economic freedom," not the kind where anyone can criticize the government and get away with it. Not the kind of freedom where anyone can run for office and change government policies. This take on what constitutes the be-all and end-all of freedom is exactly what I expect from Heritage.

My head is nodding, not exploding. Yes, it's good Hong Kong and Sindapore are places where anyone with a dream, some capital and willingness to assume risk and work hard can make his or her fortune. But try writing a letter to the editor of the local paper that takes the government to task, or try buying a gun, and see what happens. Economic freedom that's not allowed to lapse into exploitation is a good thing, but I strongly suspect exploitation isn't hard to find in either of the top two countries, and in several other high-rated ones. Personal freedoms, political freedoms and human rights matter more, but they're notably absent among Heritage's criteria.

Jerry Critter said...

" Personal freedoms, political freedoms and human rights matter more, but they're notably absent among Heritage's criteria."

I suspect that the Heritage people believe that "economic freedom" BUYS personal, political, and human freedom.

Silverfiddle said...

This should be no surprise. Heritage is a straight up organization, and SW Anderson read the whole title: "Economic Freedom."

I did a blog post a few years ago:

Australia vs. Germany

Here are the Heritage numbers from 2011:

United States of America
GDP: $14.2 Trillion
Total Revenue: 26.9% of GDP
Total Government Expenditures: 38.9%

GDP: $2.8 Trillion
Total Revenue: 40.6% of GDP
Total Government Expenditures: 43.7%

GDP: $851.2 Billion
Total Revenue: 30.8% of GDP
Total Government Expenditures: 34.3%

What these numbers show are gross inefficiencies in the US federal government and wastefulness of titanic proportions.

I also noted, as SW did, that Singapore and Hong Kong score higher than everybody, but who wants to live where you can get sick breathing the air or get your ass caned for chewing gum in public?

So Australia is the best on the list, and I beg every liberal here to please read the complete report on that country.

If progressives in thrall to the big mommy state could deliver services as efficiently as the Australian government, you would finally kill the elephant.

Silverfiddle said...

I want to go further in agreeing with S.W. Anderson.

What this particular study shows is that a dictatorship can score quite high, because personal freedoms are not part of the criteria, beyond "property rights" and "rule of law."

Think Pinochet's Chile. Thankfully, that country escaped dictatorship and added democracy to its vibrant economy, and it now beats the US (and they privatized their social security).

Also, think about the flip side: Personal freedoms without economic freedom. What good is that? That is what we have in many pockets of the United States.

People personally free, but trapped in crime-infested neighborhoods where unemployment soars above 25%.

So rather than just gloat or shout "AHA!" over these numbers, I invite everyone to really dig into them and do some deep thinking about what they can teach us.

What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What can we learn from Australia, Switzerland and Chile?

* - This is a non-partisan post. Although I am a conservative-libertarian, I blame both parties for the foul mess we find ourselves in.

BB-Idaho said...

Odd: Singapore-2nd 'freest' country in the world...and the
people who live there are the
unhappiest .
..go figure.

Silverfiddle said...

BB: See comments above.

And thank you for bringing that survey to our attention. It confirms what I have observed in my travels around the world.

People in Latin America are happy, and Panamanians the happiest of all.

It is a joy to live among such people, and I think they are happy because they are uncomplicated.

I don't see much more correlation between the happiness survey and the Heritage index, so I don't think your observation tells us much.

Again, as others have pointed out, the survey measures economic freedom, not personal liberty.

Jerry Critter said...

I bet our numbers would look more like Germany and Australia if we spend the same proportion of our revenue on defense as they do.

Anonymous said...

Blaming both parties does not reflect the reality of which party created this mess. It only deflects from another mistake, following the Republican party policies ongoing.

Curt Fouts said...

Jerry: Perhaps.

Sounds like a good blog post topic.

What struck me was the gap between what the government collects and what it spends.

taospeaks said...

Looking at SF's numbers comparing the US/Germany/Australia it does appear that we have a REVENUE problem!

We spend 4.7% of our GDP on defense, Germany spends 1.3% and Australia spends 1.9%.

Of course that only includes government spending for defense, it does NOT include the cost of wars.

So, raise our revenues to the levels of other countries, cut our defense spending to the levels of other countries, and don't go to war anymore and we have a BUDGET SURPLUS!


SF has just given us all the magic numbers to solve our deficit problem and we get to keep SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and PBS!

Rational Nation USA said...

There is something called paralysis by analysis. Perhaps we are approaching that fine line.

Your observations during your worldly travels SF have great value IMNHO. I have detected the same in people I have know from different cultures who immigrated to the USA. Most have commented on how anal natives of the USA seem to be.

I tend to agree with their assessment.

Silverfiddle said...

TAO: You make one mistake. The overall numbers I cite do indeed include the cost of the wars.

Supplemental appropriations don't make it into the preliminary budget numbers, but they do go into the final numbers that the government produces.

Also, you need to tell us how you keep Social Security solvent as well. That is its own program, and the government custodians say it will be broke in 20 years.

And good luck trying to collect 40% of GDP in revenue. What's your plan for that, without collapsing the economy?

Cutting DoD back to $500 billion per year, which gives it a more historical slice of GDP, you still have to find another 800 billion per year.

So you've still got some math to do.

Silverfiddle said...

We've also got to address the tens to perhaps hundreds of trillions in unfunded liabilities.

This politifact article balks at calling them unfunded liabilities, but nonetheless agrees that they are real future obligations:

This Brookings paper explains it well:

Defense spending is a drop in the bucket, and brings with it relatively low future fiduciary liability.

Entitlements continue to grow in future budgets.

Go here:

Look at table 3.2 and tell me what is growing and what is shrinking.

Zero out defense, and we still have an unsustainable budget.

Entitlements and interest on the debt will eventually consume the entire budget. No one can explain how we escape that.

Republican Racism said...

Inefficiencies, waste in government bureaucracy, no, I would never have thunk it. But who would have thunk a national party would embrace deficit spending, like the Republicans.

skudrunner said...

"So, raise our revenues to the levels of other countries, cut our defense spending to the levels of other countries, and don't go to war anymore and we have a BUDGET SURPLUS!"

If only that would happen. Just like the "I hate the rich" tax just passed, our elites would spend whatever revenues are raised. They raised taxes on people over 400k and gave that revenue to NASCAR, Alaska Salmon industry and several other businesses in tax breaks. Seems like the democrats are working off the GOP playbook, it's is all about big business.

They present a disaster relief bill for Sandy and allocate billions to Amtrack, FBI and a host of other things not associated with Sandy relief.

Jerry Critter said...

Social Security will not be broke in 20 years. Going broke implies it will have no money and will pay no benefits. That is absolutely not true as explained in this article.

Silverfiddle said...


I know you are a fan of the Angry Bear, and he is impressively angry (I would say mad), but I urge you to read government documents for yourself instead of relying on others.

You are technically correct about social security not being broke in 2020, but as the trustees report:

Social Security and Medicare are the two largest federal programs, accounting for 36 percent of federal expenditures in fiscal year 2011. Both programs will experience cost growth substantially in excess of GDP growth in the coming decades due to aging of the population and, in the case of Medicare, growth in expenditures per beneficiary exceeding growth in per capita GDP.

Social Security’s expenditures exceeded non-interest income in 2010 and 2011, the first such occurrences since 1983, and the Trustees estimate that these expenditures will remain greater than non-interest income throughout the 75-year projection period. The deficit of non-interest income relative to expenditures was about $49 billion in 2010 and $45 billion in 2011, and the Trustees project that it will average about $66 billion between 2012 and 2018 before rising steeply as the economy slows after the recovery is complete and the number of beneficiaries continues to grow at a substantially faster rate than the number of covered workers. Redemption of trust fund assets from the General Fund of the Treasury will provide the resources needed to offset the annual cash-flow deficits. Since these redemptions will be less than interest earnings through 2020, nominal trust fund balances will continue to grow. The trust fund ratio, which indicates the number of years of program cost that could be financed solely with current trust fund reserves, peaked in 2008, declined through 2011, and is expected to decline further in future years. After 2020, Treasury will redeem trust fund assets in amounts that exceed interest earnings until exhaustion of trust fund reserves in 2033, three years earlier than projected last year. Thereafter, tax income would be sufficient to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through 2086.

By the Trustees:

Timothy F. Geithner,
Secretary of the Treasury,
and Managing Trustee

Kathleen Sebelius,
Secretary of Health
and Human Services,
and Trustee

Charles P. Blahous III,

Hilda L. Solis,
Secretary of Labor,
and Trustee

Michael J. Astrue,
Commissioner of
Social Security,
and Trustee

Robert D. Reischauer,

What this means is, SS will start calling in chits from the general treasury, which drives up the deficit, since government did not initially book the money it stole from SS.

The first thing we should all demand, liberal or conservative, democrat or repub, is that the Federal Government give us an honest accounting. And it must start by keeping its own books according to the accounting rules it demands under pain of law that businesses follow.

We are looking through opaque glass and funhouse mirrors. No wonder we can't even agree on what the established facts are.

I again ask my liberal interlocutors to go look at table 3.2 and tell me what you see in the out years.

Jerry Critter said...

I am glad that you agree with me that SS is not going broke.

Now, you said, "...SS will start calling in chits from the general treasury, which drives up the deficit, since government did not initially book the money it stole from SS."

That is absolutely wrong also. The government did book the money from SS. It is accounted for in the total federal debt as intragovernmental debt. SS cashing in some of that debt will not increase the total federal debt by one cent.

Silverfiddle said...

Jerry: But it does take money from the treasury. The money to pay back SS must come from somewhere. Either China or the printing press.

You're a sensible guy. Are you really satisfied with the way the federal government keeps the books?

Silverfiddle said...

Also Jerry, please go read the trustee's report. They paint a bleak picture. Social Security and Medicare will become unsustainable without significant changes.

2012 Trustee's Report

Jerry Critter said...

SF - " But it does take money from the treasury. The money to pay back SS must come from somewhere."

Since we are running a deficit, the money to redeem the SS securities will come from the sale of other Treasury bonds, possibly to China, but they certainly are not the only people who buy Treasury bonds. If we were running a suplus, the surplus would be applied to SS, thus paying down the debt.

Essentially it is like many people do. It is called debt consolidation -- using one credit card to pay off another. They are simply trading intragovernmental debt for public debt. There is no increase in total debt, just its distribution between public and intragovermental debt.

We do not print money to pay our bills. Sorry, but there will be no billion dollar platinum coin.

I have no particular problem with the way the government keeps its books. Should I assume you do?

Jerry Critter said...

SF - "Social Security and Medicare will become unsustainable without significant changes."

I have looked at parts of the trustee' report. Social Security and Medicare are two completely separate issues.

SS has no critical problem as we have discussed earlier on this post. To say it is unsustainable is a gross exaggeration of its problems. Even if nothing is done, and payable benefits are reduced to about 75% of scheduled benefits, that 75% is still more money than current benefits in 2012 dollars.

The problem with Medicare is not really with Medicare. Medicare is simply a medical expense payment program, better know as insurance. The problem we face is with the cost, total cost, of healthcare in the US. We pay about twice as much as the rest of the industrialized world for a mediocre performance compared to the rest of the industrialized world. We need to attack the cost of healthcare, not how we pay for it. People should not lose their homes, go through bankruptcy, spend all of their retirement saving, or die because they cannot afford healthcare.

Silverfiddle said...

Jerry: Your argument is with the trustees, not me.

You are free to keep your head planted firmly in the sand, but the trustees, in the opening statement of their report, strongly caution against it.

And we do indeed print money, over three trillion over the past four years.

Jerry Critter said...

SF - "And we do indeed print money, over three trillion over the past four years."

When and where did we print that money and what debts were paid off with it? Are you implying that we would be 3 trillion more in debt if we did not print that money?

Silverfiddle said...

It's called monetizing the debt, Jerry.

As a bonus, the banksters get the money first, so they can leverage it at a higher value before it gets into the economy where it erodes the value of each dollar.

I realize their are nuts out there who believe we can do this with impunity, but my simple question is, if so, why not just print off 15 trillion and wipe out the national debt?