The people of Illinois don’t expect their government to be corrupt; they insist on it. That’s why nary an eyebrow was raised when it recently came out that two lobbyists for the Illinois Federation of Teachers were able to qualify for generous teachers’ pensions by working as substitute teachers for one day.
One man could receive up to $3.8 million if he lives to age 84. This is in addition to the 401(k) the union gives him as an employee. The Chicago Tribune reports:
Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.
His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.
Nationwide spending on K-12 education is around $13,000 per child per year. Not all of that spending is actually for the children, contrary to popular rhetoric. Fortunately, it appears only two people took advantage of this scheme. But the real kicker is that one of the two actually helped write the legislation that made it possible.
I’ve argued for a long time that stimulus bills are poorly named; it implies that they stimulate the economy. “Spending bill” is a non-loaded term that has the added advantage of being accurate. Both parties have passed spending bills over the years in the hopes of stimulating the economy. Intentions being different than results, Democrats are finally starting to agree with me on this misuse of language, as The Hill reports:
Democrats are now being careful to frame their job-creation agenda in language excluding references to any stimulus, even though their favored policies for ending the deepest recession since the Great Depression are largely the same.
The article continues:
Recognizing the unpopularity of the 2009 package, however, Democratic leaders have revised their message with less loaded language – “job creation” instead of “stimulus” and “Make it in America” in lieu of “Recovery Act” – in hopes of tackling the jobs crisis.
Spending bills work by taking some money out of the economy and then putting it back in, minus transaction costs and political malfeasance; one can see why they don’t have much effect. The thinking is that Congress can invest money more wisely than private investors. If Solyndra is any indicator, that isn’t true.
Public opinion has soured on spending bills after some initial optimism. That same public also wants its politicians to do something, anything to get the economy going.
But the only tool available to Congress is spending. That’s why politicians insist on following the same failed policy over and over – it is their only tool. The only alternatives are doing nothing, or actively paring back spending and regulations. And those don’t look nearly as glamorous on camera.
Stimulus, spending bill, job creation bill – a rose by any other name has thorns just as sharp. And this particular rose refuses to bloom. That means it’s time to try something else. Maybe reducing spending to sustainable Clinton-era levels, which isn’t even particularly austere. Congress should also try a deregulatory stimulus sometime.
I have a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post:
Richard Cohen fretted that Tea Party activists have “shrunk the government.” He need not worry. Federal spending has gone from $2.9 trillion in 2008 to $3.8 trillion in 2011. Thirty percent spending growth in three years is hardly shrinkage. Even under the Boehner plan, federal spending will continue to increase every year for at least the next decade.
Meanwhile, federal agencies continue to finalize more than 3,500 new regulations per year. They repeal almost none, no matter how loud the Tea Party’s howls.
If anything, Tea Party activists have been devastatingly ineffective at shrinking government. Mr. Cohen can rest easy.
Ryan Young, Washington
The writer is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Eleven people were arrested for staging a sit-in today inside the U.S. Capitol. They were protesting budget cuts. They must not have known that spending is set to increase every year for at least the next decade, even under the Boehner plan.
Take a look at this handy discretionary spending chart that Cato’s Chris Edwards put together:
Workforce Central Florida, a government agency, is spending $73,000 to give away 6,000 capes and some cardboard cutouts.
In this new CEI video, my colleague Lee Doren and I talk about the budget debate.
Have a listen here.
Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow Kathryn Ciano analyzes the Continuing Resolution passed by the House today that will keep the federal government open for another 6 months. She also looks at proposals from President Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan to reduce the budget deficit over the next decade.
Democrats want the federal budget to be about $3,730,000,000,000. Republicans want it to be about $3,630,000,000,000. As with many other issues, the difference between the two parties is less than three percent. Even so, it nearly led to a federal government shutdown.
The deal that the two parties recently struck to avoid a government shutdown meets somewhere in the between. It is advertised as cutting $38.5 billion of spending. But on closer inspection, it would actually cut $14.7 billion. That would cut total federal spending by 0.39 percent.
I have a hunch that even those small cuts may not actually happen. This blog post I wrote in 2005 explains why.
The rules of the game in Washington are severely stacked in favor of spending increases. Presidents Bush and Obama grew the federal government by about 100 percent in only a decade with little political pain. And it apparently takes the specter of a government shutdown to reduce spending by 0.39 percent.
If anyone is looking for a reason for fundamental institutional reform, that would be a big one.
President Obama’s policies are remarkably similar to President Bush’s. Most of their differences are in matters of degree, not principle. Both presidents believe in expanding federal involvement in health care, education, energy, you name it. Both grew regulation, spending and deficits at tremendous rates. Even their foreign policy is almost identical.
Over at the Daily Caller, I analyze last night’s State of the Union address (I also live-blogged it here) and find it wanting. There are some real stretches of logic:
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched a satellite into space. Therefore, taxpayers should give more money to politically favored corporations. This is not a rigorous line of thought. But it was typical of yesterday’s State of the Union address.
It wasn’t all bad, though:
There was some good in yesterday’s speech. The president would like to lower corporate tax rates. After Japan’s recent rate cuts, America now has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world — nearly 40 percent in most states. This is not the way to encourage businesses to invest in America.
I wish the president had spent a little more time on the rate cut. He could have explained to the country and his party that businesses don’t actually pay corporate taxes. That’s because businesses pass on their costs. Consumers — you and I — foot the bill.
Read the whole thing here.
Posted in Economics, Political Animals, Spending
Tagged barack obama, bush, corporate tax rate, daily caller, deficits, obama, regulation, sotu, spending, state of the union