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Jeff Ackerman: Simple logic could free us of this ball and chain

An Alameda court judge’s ruling last week is proof positive that California’s economic collapse is inevitable and necessary.

You can’t fix stupid. All you can do is start from scratch and hope the next model is smarter than the last.

If you don’t believe it, check to see how Greece – the birthplace of democracy – is faring these days.



Last week’s court ruling determined that our governor was wrong to furlough state workers and ordered him to give them back pay which could total as much as $1 billion. In other words, it’s now illegal for the state’s chief executive officer to order government union workers to take unpaid days off, even if we can no longer afford to pay them. Even if the state is facing a $21 billion budget shortfall.

What does Greece have to do with California? It’s broke, too. It collapsed under the weight of a government system that allowed its employees to retire at 38 years old, with 20 years of government service, and then receive a pension and benefits for life, or probably four times as long as they actually worked (assuming they live to 80). It collapsed from a system that felt it was the government’s role to provide social services it could never possibly afford to provide. It collapsed because it violated every economic principle there is, starting with the fundamental notion that we should never spend more than we have.




The housing market collapse should have taught us that much.

The Greeks’ problems today, they say, can be traced to unrestrained spending, cheap lending and a failure to implement financial reforms, leaving them with a $413 billion national debt. Greece spends 12 percent more than it takes in … again defying even basic economic principles.

Where have we heard that before?

Greece is controlled by the Socialist Party, which might explain the basic economic challenges it faces today, or why some are deathly afraid of President Obama’s policies.

Most all employees – private and public – are unionized and threatening massive strikes if the leaders even try to cut into the deficit that is choking that nation. We see similar traits among California’s government labor unions, which is why they sued after the governor had the audacity to ask them to sacrifice in order to help stop a complete economic meltdown.

In order to reduce the deficit from 12 percent to 8 percent, Greece’s government leaders have frozen wages and bonuses, stopped hiring and have asked the unions to agree to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 years old.

None of those measures seem dreadful, if you consider the alternative. What Greece seems to have is a spoiled bunch of citizens who should have been weaned from the government teat long ago. Mother’s milk eventually dries up.

The good news is that millions of Americans still have some common sense left, which is why groups such as the Tea Party Patriots are gaining traction. Last week I spent an hour or so with Mark Meckler, a local attorney who co-founded the Tea Party Patriots. If you Google him, you’ll see that he has become a national figure and that despite the critics who want to brush away Tea Party advocates as just a bunch of elite Republicans, momentum is growing. A fellow named Scott Brown should have given those critics reason for pause after he blasted a giant hole into what had been an impregnable Kennedy stronghold in Massachusetts. I suspect there are a few more surpises in store for those critics later this year.

“I think the situation in this country is as dire as it has ever been,” Meckler told me. “We are on our way to a collapse. At some point the economic foundation will crumble under the weight of massive social debt and our children will need to work as slaves for the government in order to pay for the debt we will leave them.” He reminded me that most of us already work from January to May just to pay federal taxes.

Meckler echoed the words of Thomas Jefferson, who tried to warn us early on against leaving our debts unpaid.

“We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt,” Jefferson wrote. “We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds … [we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account, but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers … And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for [another] … till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery… And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.”

Jeff Ackerman is the editor/publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299 or jackerman@theunion.com.


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