February 13, 2012

SSDI “has transcended the usual ideological boundaries (as it was designed to do right from the start) and made tens of millions of Americans into wards of the state”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:38

Monty’s Daily DOOOOOM post at AoSHQ discusses the Social Security Disability Insurance program:

The SSDI component of Social Security is a perfect snapshot of how the welfare state both bankrupts and demeans our society. The program was meant to provide for people who were physically unable to work, but in practice it is simply another vast government program that can be gamed and cheated to provide a paycheck for no work at all. This is the welfare state in all its bureaucratic, amoral, spendthrift glory: rather than helping a relatively few who really need it, it instead enables millions of the able-bodied to avoid work. (Whatever you subsidize, you get more of. If you subsidize unemployment, you’ll get more of it.) Samuelson does a good job of explaining why this program will so hard to reform in any meaningful way, too:

    For starters, any crackdown could become a public-relations disaster. It might seem gratuitously cruel. Many recipients command sympathy. With low skills, their jobs prospects are poor. “People are driven into the program by desperation,” says Autor. Nor are they rolling in money; the average payment is about $14,000 a year.

Any attempt to tie off this spouting artery will bring howls of outrage, and not just from the left. To a large extent the welfare state has transcended the usual ideological boundaries (as it was designed to do right from the start) and made tens of millions of Americans into wards of the state. The end of the welfare state means the end of their monthly checks; it means the end of the “free” money they’ve been getting. Young or old, rich or poor, sick or healthy: it takes a rare soul to forgo “free” money in the face of some purely theoretical economic emergency. The welfare state will continue until this nation fails because, deep down, Americans don’t really want to give it up. Americans still — mostly — feel that if we just tweak this knob that way and pull that lever just so, it will all come out okay. It’s not so much good old American optimism as it is a deep and inchoate terror: the instinct of many an animal in dire peril is neither to fight nor run, but to crouch trembling where they are and pray that the danger passes them by.

Ontario’s other alcohol sales monopoly

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:25

I guess it’s technically part of an oligopoly (?duopoly?), but along with the KGBO LCBO, the other entity that is legally allowed to sell beer is the mostly foreign-owned Beer Store:

… the experience highlights one of the many absurdities of a system where more than 80 per cent of beer sales are controlled by three multinationals — Labatt Brewing Co. Ltd. (owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA), Molson Coors Brewing Co. and Sleeman Breweries Ltd. (owned by Japan’s Sapporo Breweries Ltd.).

“The way the system is set up unfairly limits access to customers,” Mr. Beauchesne complained. “Molson, Labatt and Sleeman are completely in control of how beer stores look and feel, what products are promoted. They get to control the whole shopping experience and I get none of that control.”

The McGuinty government is pledging to review outdated liquor laws early in the legislative session that begins this week. MPP Grant Crack, parliamentary assistant to the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister, said the Beer Store’s monopoly will no doubt come up.

[. . .]

After 85 years, the Beer Store is an anachronism.

It’s often hard to reconcile the ad world of beer — the snow-capped mountains, parties and hockey — with the utilitarian factory-like outlets where most Ontarians actually buy the stuff.

There are noisy conveyor belts, bottle crushers and cases of beer stacked on metal shelves in dank warehouses. In many stores, patrons still make their selection by picking from a row of dusty empties on a shelf.

Behind the counter, harried clerks juggle bottle returns and running the cash register.

Forget about tastings, attention-grabbing displays of new offerings or expert advice to help you choose from hundreds of selections. At the 437 Beer Stores, it’s get in line, pay the clerk, get out.

How Greece got into their predicament

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:18

Anita Acavalos wrote this article in 2010. It’s still relevant — perhaps even more so today:

Although at first glance the situation Greece faces may seem as simply the result of gross incompetence on behalf of the government, a closer assessment of the country’s social structure and people’s deep-rooted political beliefs will show that this outcome could not have been avoided even if more skill was involved in the country’s economic and financial management.

The population has a deep-rooted suspicion of and disrespect for business and private initiative and there is a widespread belief that “big money” is earned by exploitation of the poor or underhand dealings and reflects no display of virtue or merit. Thus people feel that they are entitled to manipulate the system in a way that enables them to use the wealth of others as it is a widely held belief that there is nothing immoral about milking the rich. In fact, the money the rich seem to have access to is the cause of much discontent among people of all social backgrounds, from farmers to students. The reason for this is that the government for decades has run continuous campaigns promising people that it has not only the will but also the ABILITY to solve their problems and has established a system of patronages and hand-outs to this end.

Anything can be done in Greece provided someone has political connections, from securing a job to navigating the complexities of the Greek bureaucracy. The government routinely promises handouts to farmers after harsh winters and free education to all; every time there is a display of discontent they rush to appease the people by offering them more “solutions.” What they neglect to say is that these solutions cost money. Now that the money has run out, nobody can reason with an angry mob.

[. . .]

Greece is the perfect example of a country where the government attempted to create a utopia in which it serves as the all-providing overlord offering people amazing job prospects, free health care and education, personal security and public order, and has failed miserably to provide on any of these. In the place of this promised utopian mansion lies a small shack built at an exorbitant cost to the taxpayer, leaking from every nook and cranny due to insufficient funds, which demands ever higher maintenance costs just to keep it from collapsing altogether. The architects of this shack, in a desperate attempt to repair what is left are borrowing all the money they can from their neighbours, even at exorbitant costs promising that this time they will be prudent. All that is left for the people living inside this leaking shack is to protest for all the promises that the government failed to fulfil; but, sadly for the government, promises will neither pay its debts nor appease the angry mob any longer. Greece has lost any credibility it had within the EU as it has achieved notoriety for the way government accountants seem to be cooking up numbers they present to EU officials.

H/T to Steve Baker MP for the link.

Greek government expands categories of disabled to include “compulsive gamblers, fetishists and sadomasochists”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Government, Health — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:04

At a time most people expect the Greek government to be cutting back, the Labor ministry just expanded the recognized disabilities to include a few categories that will raise eyebrows:

Disability groups in Greece expressed anger on Monday at a government decision to expand a list of state-recognized disability categories to include pedophiles, exhibitionists and kleptomaniacs.

The National Confederation of Disabled People, calling the action “incomprehensible,” said that pedophiles could be eligible for a higher disability pay than some people who had received organ transplants.

The Labor Ministry said the categories added to the expanded list — that also includes pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists and sadomasochists — were included for purposes of medical assessment and used as a gauge for allocating financial assistance.

Der Spiegel: Is it too late to save Greece?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Government — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:48

The Greek civil service is overstaffed, and has lots of quirky habits, proving the old adage that there’s nothing as permanent as a “temporary” government program:

One of Greece’s purported saviors is a short, rotund, 72-year-old man named Leandros Rakintzis. He was once a respected constitutional judge on the country’s highest court, the Areopagus. Since 2004, he has been the head of a government agency that is the first of its kind for Greece. Rakintzis is Greece’s general inspector of public administration.

His body twitches and shakes with delight as he talks about his successes and discoveries. For example, he discovered that on weekends, hospitals admit elderly people who require nursing care or are confused because their children bring them there so that they can take a few days of vacation. This, of course, drives up healthcare costs.

[. . .]

Rakintzis has stories to tell that take place throughout Greece, and some are downright unbelievable. For example, the government agency that was created to manage a bid to make Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, a European cultural capital in 1997 is still humming away. Its employees are supposedly working on winding down the major event and settling up the accounts — 13 years later.

How many people work there? “I don’t know. Not even the government knows that,” says Rakintzis. He adds, in an almost threatening tone: “Not yet.” Rakintzis and his staff are now in the process of investigating about 4,000 government offices and agencies in similar situations.

[. . .]

Greece has more than five times as many civil servants per capita than the United Kingdom. The country’s inflated government apparatus consumes tens of billions of euros a year. It’s money the Greek state doesn’t have — and actually never did. Greece’s gross domestic product is only slighter higher than that of the German state of Hesse and is just one-tenth the size of Germany’s total economic output.

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