Monday, December 26, 2005

Jonathan Zasloff, writing atMark Kleiman's site, claims the fiscal crisis in state and local budgets has a "lot more to do with the dysfunctional health care system than with pensions".

He's right, only in a technical sense, and then only to the extent that spending on health care uses up more tax dollars than money paid out in pensions.

But I gather he's trying to subtly make the (liberal) point that if only we had some kind of national health care plan, then all would be right in the world.... that if state and city governments were able to offload their obligations to somewhere else - for, in effect, state and city workers already have government-provided health care - then all of a sudden state and local budgets would be in surplus, potholes would be fixed, schools improved, drug treatment programs expanded and so on..... everything a good liberal would like to see happen.

But Jonathan doesn't follow through by looking at what would happen if the federal government had to pick up the hundreds of billions in health care costs... or even the tens of billions of dollars required to offload merely state and local worker health care expenditures. Perhaps Congress might not be so generous in other areas, requiring states to pick up a bigger share of just about everything the federal goverment pays for or helps to subsidize: public transporation, road construction and repair, education, police support and so on.... leaving the state and local governments no better off than they were before.

Or perhaps he's simply thinking that Congress - being so generous in picking up the tab for everyone's health care - would pass tax increases in order to pay for this new spending, somewhere in the neighborhood of, say, $300 billion a year, and that everybody would gladly pay.

Yeah, that's the ticket... the key to solving our state and local spending problems is the imposition of an incredibly high tax on every worker and business in America... so Congress can dole out health care and do a more inefficient job of it than is now being done.

Or, state and local governments can simply stop buying votes from government workers by throwing money their way, by offering ridiculously high wages ($55,000 a year to drive a bus in NYC?) and instead start acting like the responsible trustees of the public purse that they are supposed to be.