This is probably not someone readers would expect me to honor, but way back when I was 19 my first college internship was working for Michael Novak at AEI. Mr. Novak was a friend of my dad's, and I always secretly wonder if my dad saw that I was migrating away from traditional Conservatism and thought some time with Mr. Novak would head this off.
I ended up going in a different direction from Mr. Novak, but I had an enjoyable summer working with him. I spent most of my time in the Georgetown University library researching papal encyclicals and commentary on them. For someone who grew up around much more fundamentalist religions in the South, the more overt intellectualism of Catholic writing was fascinating. I learned a lot, and Mr. Novak was as kind and generous as someone could possibly be. He did a lot to defend capitalism in a world where it was increasingly questioned, and even if I have very different epistemology than he, I thank him for his work.
The American Left generally spends most of its time telling us how much better things are in Denmark or France. I can't find a lot of reasons to like Trump, but he has apparently convinced the Left that they need to defend the American economic model against other countries. This post by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones reasd more like what one might expect from Mark Perry at AEI.
"We're a poor country now." I wonder how many people believe that just because Donald Trump keeps saying it? In case anyone cares, the actual truth is in the chart on the right. There's not a single country in the world bigger than 10 million people that's as rich as the US.
I agree! In fact, not only are American rich richer, but the American middle class is richer and the American poor are richer. From an earlier post, here is the purchasing power of individuals across the income spectrum in the US vs. Denmark
Administrative bloat is a natural tendency of organizations. I am not entirely sure why, though I understand some of the drivers. Never-the-less, I have seen it in nearly every organization I have worked in or consulted for.
Even the best-run private companies still have this problem. To remain competitive, then, they have to come through every few years and wield the ax on these growing staffs, almost like trimming back a hedge that keeps trying to overgrow your house. I spent a depressing amount of time as a consultant helping them. It is uncomfortable, sometimes heartbreaking work, and one wonders the whole time why there is not some better way to keep staff in check. To my mind, there is a still a great academic work to be written on this topic some day.
The alternative, in organizations that can get away with it, is administrative bloat. Like, for example, in this public institution:
via Mark Perry, now at AEI
That staff adds up to an incredible billion dollars in administrative salaries, or nearly $21,000 a year per full-time student. And remember, if this is just salaries, the actual cost is much higher because they all need offices, supplies, travel, etc.
The CBO, which Democrats frequently tell us to pay close attention to only when it is giving them the answers they want, is not particularly sanguine about the US budget deficit:
President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget will generate nearly $10 trillion in cumulative budget deficits over the next 10 years, $1.2 trillion more than the administration projected, and raise the federal debt to 90 percent of the nation's economic output by 2020, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday.
In its 2011 budget, which the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released Feb. 1, the administration projected a 10-year deficit total of $8.53 trillion. After looking it over, CBO said in its final analysis, released Thursday, that the president's budget would generate a combined $9.75 trillion in deficits over the next decade.
Bruce McQuain, as always, has some good analysis.
States, apparently, are not in much better shape:
Pension plans for state government employees today report they are underfunded by $450 billion, according to a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. But this vastly underestimates the true shortfall, because public pension accounting wrongly assumes that plans can earn high investment returns without risk. My research indicates that overall underfunding tops $3 trillion.
The problem is fundamental: According to accounting rules adopted by the states, a public sector pension plan may call itself "fully funded" even if there is a better-than-even chance it will be unable to meet its obligations. When that happens, the taxpayer is on the hook. Yet public pension plans ignore market risk even as they shift into risky foreign investments, hedge funds and private equity....
In a recent AEI working paper I've shown that the typical state employee public pension plan has only a 16% chance of solvency. More public pensions have a zero probability of solvency than have a probability in excess of 50%. When public pension assets fall short, taxpayers are legally obligated to make up the difference. The market value of this contingent liability exceeds $3 trillion.
Productive people in this country are about to get plastered with huge new taxes. Hang on.