We’ve Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makers

By STEPHEN MOORE – Wall Street Journal

If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.

It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?

Every state in America today except for two—Indiana and Wisconsin—has more government workers on the payroll than people manufacturing industrial goods. Consider California, which has the highest budget deficit in the history of the states. The not-so Golden State now has an incredible 2.4 million government employees—twice as many as people at work in manufacturing. New Jersey has just under two-and-a-half as many government employees as manufacturers. Florida's ratio is more than 3 to 1. So is New York's.

Even Michigan, at one time the auto capital of the world, and Pennsylvania, once the steel capital, have more government bureaucrats than people making things. The leaders in government hiring are Wyoming and New Mexico, which have hired more than six government workers for every manufacturing worker.

Now it is certainly true that many states have not typically been home to traditional manufacturing operations. Iowa and Nebraska are farm states, for example. But in those states, there are at least five times more government workers than farmers. West Virginia is the mining capital of the world, yet it has at least three times more government workers than miners. New York is the financial capital of the world—at least for now. That sector employs roughly 670,000 New Yorkers. That's less than half of the state's 1.48 million government employees.

Don't expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government. Why? Because in recent years only government agencies have been hiring, and because the offer of near lifetime security is highly valued in these times of economic turbulence. When 23-year-olds aren't willing to take career risks, we have a real problem on our hands. Sadly, we could end up with a generation of Americans who want to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The employment trends described here are explained in part by hugely beneficial productivity improvements in such traditional industries as farming, manufacturing, financial services and telecommunications. These produce far more output per worker than in the past. The typical farmer, for example, is today at least three times more productive than in 1950.

Where are the productivity gains in government? Consider a core function of state and local governments: schools. Over the period 1970-2005, school spending per pupil, adjusted for inflation, doubled, while standardized achievement test scores were flat. Over roughly that same time period, public-school employment doubled per student, according to a study by researchers at the University of Washington. That is what economists call negative productivity.

But education is an industry where we measure performance backwards: We gauge school performance not by outputs, but by inputs. If quality falls, we say we didn't pay teachers enough or we need smaller class sizes or newer schools. If education had undergone the same productivity revolution that manufacturing has, we would have half as many educators, smaller school budgets, and higher graduation rates and test scores.

The same is true of almost all other government services. Mass transit spends more and more every year and yet a much smaller share of Americans use trains and buses today than in past decades. One way that private companies spur productivity is by firing underperforming employees and rewarding excellence. In government employment, tenure for teachers and near lifetime employment for other civil servants shields workers from this basic system of reward and punishment. It is a system that breeds mediocrity, which is what we've gotten.

Most reasonable steps to restrain public-sector employment costs are smothered by the unions. Study after study has shown that states and cities could shave 20% to 40% off the cost of many services—fire fighting, public transportation, garbage collection, administrative functions, even prison operations—through competitive contracting to private providers. But unions have blocked many of those efforts. Public employees maintain that they are underpaid relative to equally qualified private-sector workers, yet they are deathly afraid of competitive bidding for government services.

President Obama says we have to retool our economy to "win the future." The only way to do that is to grow the economy that makes things, not the sector that takes things.

Campaign-trail frowns could burn Harper

By CHARLES ADLER, QMI Agency

The Canadian dollar is rising. The Canadian economy is humming. Job creation is happening virtually everywhere.

You would think this is a time when the prime minister of such a fortunate country would be a happy warrior, above the parochial fray and well on his way to a very big victory on May 2.

But when you see the PM these days on the campaign trail, he looks tired and irritable. When you see his chief opponent, he looks like he is having the time of his life. This isn't some namby-pamby, lefty spin job. I am simply doing my job, telling the truth to people who are reading the words of someone who did the CBC compass test and was officially declared conservative.

I am not saying the sky is falling for the Conservatives because the prime minister is looking like he needs a good night's sleep and/or a bottle of happy pills. But there is one fact of life in the age of TV campaigns, as shown a half-century ago during the Kennedy-Nixon debates. Voters listen with their eyes. If they see a knight in shining armour brimming with confidence, they tend to react positively.

Michael Ignatieff may not be anywhere close to the second coming of John F. Kennedy. Stephen Harper may not be the man Oliver Stone would ever cast as Nixon. But three facts are clear:

1) Harper is presiding over a successful economy in troubled times. That's a car you don't have to sell. You just have to put it in the showroom and online and then stand beside her.

2) From now until May 2, Harper has every reason to congratulate the Canadian people for performing like troopers and creating robust economic growth. In doing so, ordinary Canadians fought the headwinds created by doom merchants like the PM's political opponents and many members of the media, including some in the business media.

3) Harper has every reason to be happy about the country's great accomplishments since he became prime minister. For anyone who doubts how well this country is doing, take a quick trip to Florida, California, Arizona or Nevada and ask anyone if the price of their home is worth much more today than it was a decade ago. While many middle-class people in the U.S. have lost a decade in family-wealth creation, Canadian families have prospered. As they say in some parts of the U.S., "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Canada has earned its bragging rights.

When John and Mary Canadian Tire watch the prime minister on the tube for the next four weeks, they should be seeing a happy and proud papa. He should be looking like a young father whose kid just scored the winning goal in the most important game of the season.

Stephen Harper needs to step up his game right now. His loyal supporters are counting on it. If the PM doesn't get happy in a hurry, his coalition nightmare could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Coalition of the losers (WITH AUDIO)

Listen to the full monologue here:

Adler monologue march 28th

If this election yields yet another Tory minority, expect a three-headed monster to grab at power

By Charles Adler, QMI Agency

Last Updated: March 27, 2011 9:31am

OK, Canada is not Libya or Egypt or Yemen.

We are not economic basket cases that have been governed by psychos, superstition and savagery. We are not teetering on the abyss.

But this would be a very poor time to exercise typical Canadian complacency. The election nobody wants could suck us into a black hole that nobody needs.

In your high school physics class you may remember the teacher describing parts of space where nothing, absolutely nothing could escape, not even a flicker of light. Nothing.

If the Harper Conservatives end up with something short of a majority, the Black Hole Coalition is activated. Michael Ignatieff has no plans to go back to Harvard. The plan is to go back to the drawing board, to the game called "Let's do something European. Let's have a coalition."

Now we remember how Canadians reacted the last time to the prospect of a coalition government where the first liners, to borrow a hockey term, would be Stephane Dion centering for Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe. But that was then and this is now.

Here's what Now looks like. The Tories fail to get a majority in May and when Parliament reconvenes they fail to win a vote of confidence following another attempt at a budget.

Michael Ignatieff reaches for his posterior and pulls out a piece of paper with a lot of signatures on it. They all have one thing in common. None of them are members of the Conservative party. All of them are members of parties that lost.

Some could call it a coalition of losers. But it would be a coalition that could easily win the day with the Governor General.

This time the GG could not allow Stephen Harper to prorogue or to have another election so soon after the previous one. He would have to take seriously the notion that this cast of characters now in opposition could between them have the numbers to sustain power for a period 18 months to two years.

Stephen Harper with a minority government facing the opposition he has now and is likely to have after this election wouldn't have much of an argument to counter the Coalition forces. What's Stephen Harper going to say? "Your Excellency. Give me a chance to dissolve Parliament, declare Martial Law and we can make this country purr like a Ferrari."

And you can stop laughing now.

The problem with this joke is it's no joke. Before Christmas of this year one of the most successful economies on the planet could be in the hands of three people who should never be allowed near the National Vault. Can you imagine a scenario where Michael Ignatieff is the Prime Minister, Jack Layton is the finance minister?

His highest priority would be keeping his eyes on his BlackBerry, where Gilles Duceppe is updating the Separatist Shopping list every hour.

The crystal clear message to the West would be “Create your own Bloc Quebecois.” That’s the only way to have real clout in Ottawa.

The Black Hole scenario along with the decaying of the Daddy Dalton brand is why the Tories ought to be able to crush the Liberals in the Greater Toronto Area. That would be the key to snatching victory from Michael Ignatieff who at this moment is channeling Mick Jagger. " I see a Red Door and I want to paint it Black."

Multiculturalism mine

You almost want to excuse Trudeau for falling into dad’s trap. Almost

By CHARLES ADLER, QMI Agency

Last Updated: March 18, 2011 2:00am

Everyone knows by now that Justin Trudeau is uncomfortable being out of the limelight.

This week he Charlie Sheened himself back into the spotlight by saying he was “uncomfortable” with the word “barbaric” being associated with certain cultural practices in Africa and Asia. Justin was hurling this politically correct vomit all over Twitter. He thought he had an opportunity to make the Harper government look insensitive to visible minority immigrants and he seized it.

Michael Ignatieff defended Justin. Canada’s “visiting professor” would sooner flunk the Christ child than mark “incomplete” on the report card of Pierre Trudeau’s eldest son. Pierre Trudeau, the patron saint of the modern day Liberal Party, is the midwife of state-sponsored, state-subsidized, state-corrupted multiculturalism.

A tiny part of me wants to give Justin a pass.

Perhaps it’s not really his fault that he slipped on the multicultural banana peel. It was left for him by the 800-pound gorilla, his father.

Read the full article HERE.

Like it or Gump it

As per Forrest's maxim, stupid acts sinking otherwise bright Tories

By CHARLES ADLER, QMI Agency

Last Updated: March 11, 2011 2:00am

 

Welcome to the Forrest Gump election.

"Stupid is as stupid does." That was the most memorable phrase from the 1994 Oscar winner that cemented Tom Hanks into the hearts of moviegoers. Stupid is as stupid does told us, as if we had any doubt, that a person's intelligence doesn't matter beans. If he does stupid things, he is judged as stupid.

Without drilling down deep into the in-and-out bookkeeping, Bev Oda's spin altering and Jason Kenney's clumsy letterheading, the truth is simple. This government is being defeated, though not because Stephen Harper is stupid. He's not. Neither is Oda or Kenney.

But stupid is as stupid does. And the acts are more important than the basic IQ of those who commit them, and those who have to answer for them.

Everyone knows Stephen Harper rode into power on the high horse of accountability and shooting straight.

The feedbag for the Harper horse was Adscam. Actually, it was more like a feast bag. It was a once-in-a-generation scandal.

Odagate and In-and-outgate and Letterheadgate are unicellular life forms compared to the beast of the east that was Adscam.

Nobody is saying Bev Oda's integrity has cost Canadians tens of millions of dollars. And while the in-and-out scandal can be argued as a raid on the taxpayer, it was chump change compared to Adscam. So it would be stupid to assert that these issues add up to Adscam. They don't.

On the other hand, the daily drip-drip of evidence that the Tories don't care about the supremacy of Parliament can create an odour of arrogance. That's what results in e-mails to my inbox from longtime Tory supporters, like this one from Calgary:

"As of late, the Conservative Party has gotten a little too arrogant and too careless for even my liking and I'm not alone with that thought. Simply put, there have been far too many 'issues.' The good work they are doing with the economy will get lost in all the noise."

Even the faithful are starting to wonder whether the relatively long-in-the-tooth minority government may be down a litre in competence while overflowing with arrogance.

Now there are those who think that none of this will lead to a dropping of the writ because Jack Layton will find a way to offer his crutches to Stephen Harper. It's true that Jack's prostate is in a 15-round bout with cancer. It's also true his hips must feel like they left the operating table five minutes ago. But it would be stupid to conclude Layton would ever willingly cave to cancer cells or hip pain.

This is a man who refuses to say "uncle" to Father Time.

You can disagree with his politics, but you have to bow to his stamina. Layton is a middle-aged marvel. He leaves people half his age in the dust.

His partner in life, the terminally youthful Olivia Chow, would never discourage Jack from going pedal to the metal in what will likely be his last campaign.

Anyone who doubts Jack's desire to compete is also suffering from a bad case of stupid.

In that quirky Tom Hanks movie, we learned that life is unpredictable and that anything could happen to and for anybody.

Anything in this Forrest Gump vote could see the election of Prime Minister Ignatieff.