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Posted at 5:39 PM ET, 02/25/2011

Reconciliation

By Ezra Klein

Recap: Organized labor is in the hands of the teacher's unions; government spending cuts are depressing GDP growth; and how Medicare supports entrepreneurship.

Elsewhere:

1) The New York Times examines public-worker pay and finds, again, no evidence that they're overpaid.

2) They also seem less politically vulnerable than many thought.

3) "We beat Canada. Let me say that again: WE BEAT CANADA. There’s a reason people always cherry pick Canada to talk about wait times."

4) Avoiding the coming growth slowdown.

5) A realistic theory of judicial behavior (pdf).

Weekend question: Let's say you're writing the budget. What one government program do you eliminate? What one government program do you double in size?

By Ezra Klein  | February 25, 2011; 5:39 PM ET
 
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Comments

Ezra, I hate to say it but this whole weekend question idea is really dumb! If want people to comment on the weekend, all you have to do is put wonkbook last on Friday instead of first. There's usually enough material in there to keep the fires lit.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 26, 2011 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Eliminate: Oil subsidies. Or ethanol subsidies.

Double: If we're going small - funds for unmanned scientific space exploration for NASA. If big - the grant giving budget for the NSF.

Posted by: Caberation | February 26, 2011 11:03 PM | Report abuse

$100,000/year (salary and benefits combined) on average for a 7 month a year job (180 school days) supervising kids without oneself being supervised. That is over-paid. Enough is enough. The school stink because of the Democratic Party, not because of the taxpayer's parsimony. We spend $20,000/year in D.C.

The bell tolls for corruption in the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Commenting1 | February 26, 2011 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Eliminate: Corn subsidies. Is there a more pernicious government program? Let's kill the sugar and cotton tariffs while we're at it.

Double in size: Unemployment insurance. There is no better stimulus in a reduced-demand economy.

Posted by: gobaers | February 27, 2011 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Eliminate: Farm subsidies.

Double in size: The Earned Income Tax Credit.

@Commenting1: What evidence do you have that teachers are being overpaid?

Posted by: Filler | February 27, 2011 2:47 AM | Report abuse

A fairly simple answer would be to eliminate oil subsidies and double clean energy subsidies.

Or cut half the agriculture budget and double the EPA.

Or you could eliminate any number of military defense programs - or even the entire war in Afghanistan at this point - and double any number of non-defense discretionary programs. Scale down the war by $53 billion and double the investment in high-speed rail for instance.

I suspect that if Obama was completely unconstrained by political and electoral pressures, and just had to make decisions based on policy preferences, that would probably be his preference too. But politics and elections being what they are he's probably (genuinely) convinced himself that the war in Afghanistan is still necessary, because he needs it to avoid looking like a weak-kneed liberal on defense, particularly when he was arguing against McCain for withdrawal from Iraq.

Posted by: bigmandave | February 27, 2011 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Take the $48 billion that goes towards earmarks and double the education budget.

Personally I wouldn't be distraught if the money that goes into the budgets for the arts, humanities and NPR got eliminated. But all of them combined are only about $750 million. I don't know the specifics of any programs that small but I'm sure there's some worthwhile ones.

Posted by: bigmandave | February 27, 2011 8:34 AM | Report abuse

bigmandave wrote:

"A fairly simple answer would be to eliminate oil subsidies and double clean energy subsidies."

That makes sense. Tax the 90-95% of the economy that is connected to oil and nat gas (they go together) in order to support the 5% of the economy that isn't, most of whose jobs are overseas.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

cut a substantial amount of money to israel, until they cease the establishment of illegal settlements.
there is ten million dollars a day, right there.


under netanyahu, they are not a democracy.
they dont deserve money from american taxpayers, when they wont comply with decent humanitarian requests to stop illegal settlements, from president obama.

Posted by: jkaren | February 27, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

where else to save money...

STOP THE BILLION DOLLAR CONTRACTS TO MERCENARY FIGHTERS LIKE XE/BLACKWATER, hidden from the sight and accountability of the american people. who knows what they are doing.
~~stop excessive foreign aid.
i am no expert.
but i do know that you cant take care of other people, when you are not in good condition.
we need to strengthen our own country, internally.
we need healthy children, benefits for our last, least and lost, good medical care, education, energy efficiency, brand-new infrastructure.
if our country is in better shape, we will be less divided and in a place of spiritual renewal, instead of teetering on the edge of a civil war, here.
start taking money away from israel, who thumbs their nose at our beloved and wise president, end these endless wars, where americans are really seeing no tangible achievements,
stop giving so much money away, and help to rebuild the body and spirit of the united states.

Posted by: jkaren | February 27, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

and where to give more money


~start fixing the infrastructure in this country.
we need fast trains, like every other country...
make our cities efficient and beautiful again, so we feel civic pride, that our cities work well, and we can have a transportation system to be proud of, that works.
parts of the country are looking like fields of rusting dinosaurs.

~bring back excellence and innovation in education.
THIS IS NO TIME TO BE CUTTING BACK ON TEACHERS.
education is our absolute last defense for a healthier, smarter, more competitive country...we cant be running around with teabags hanging off of our hats and militia suits, and think we are going to compete with other countries where education, innovation and culture still mean something....unlike this country, where the forces of anti-intellectualism and disdain for higher learning and science, are spreading like a cloud of locusts.

~~ energy efficiency. whatever it takes.

Posted by: jkaren | February 27, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse


it wont matter to help others, if the example in your own home, is crumbling and unwell.

LOOK WITHIN. we must fix what is broken here.
there were other decades, when we were stronger and healthier, and we had the wherewithal, to do more for others.
but that is not the case right now.
especially to governments that are insolent to the requests of our president, but put their hands out for our money, anyway.
in understand, i think, that it is a strategic safeguard, but what difference, if we are falling into physical and spiritual disrepair at home.
our country is crying out to be fixed.

Posted by: jkaren | February 27, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

maybe all the above suggestions are simplistic...
i almost completely dont understand what the "new normal" is.
many people seem to have taken leave of their senses.
and i think many other people are feeling like they are in the same boat, as i am.
the america that i grew up in, had shining cities, beautiful trains, schools that were working.
people revered higher education, they were proud of our scientific achievements.
they didnt mock nobel laureates.
they didnt fly in the face of science...they were proud of america's scientists and scientific accomplishments.
they valued higher education.
they wanted to see their fellow americans healthy and cared for.
they were proud of headstart programs,
they were proud of what government could do.
doing good things for others.
they respected laborers and the people who built america...and our teachers.
the mentality now, is almost unrecognizable.
:-(
now, it seems, many people want to hole up in their cabins, with a box of bandaids, a gun, and let everyone else take care of themselves.
like living on the edges of civilization, in the wild west.
each man, out for himself, like savages.
and here we are,
IN THE 21st CENTURY.

Posted by: jkaren | February 27, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I'd eliminate the IRS.

If a program receives twice as much money from voluntary contributions as it does now, then that program can double.

Posted by: justin84 | February 27, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

and what does it say about democracy, in the united states,
when decisions and legislation are passed, covertly and organized secretively, at one o'clock in the morning, when people are asleep? what is this, a shadow government in that state????

what does it say about a democracy, when an insolent, willful governor REFUSES to negotiate, and by now, thousands and thousands of people are demonstrating against across his state, and across the country... and the police and firefighters are marching with them, and sleeping with them?

and what does it say about a democracy when a spectator says a terrible and foreboding thing about the president of the united states, and a political official does not speak out for his safety and for the decency and sanctity of the president of the united states?
why wasnt that man taken away by the police for questioning?

why are these things happening?
whatever one's political opinions are, these things are unacceptable in a democracy.

Posted by: jkaren | February 27, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

jkaren:

With all due respect, you talk about an America that never existed except on TV shows and moves by LB Mayer.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Should have said "movies". LOL

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

"jkaren:

With all due respect, you talk about an America that never existed except on TV shows and moves by LB Mayer.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446"

that is not true.
i am sixty-two...how old are you?
i am a witness.
i rode beautiful silver trains across this country, when there were no planes for average people, like me.
they worked, they gleamed.
people were PROUD of them.
i and my friends, worked i headstart programs.
so dont tell me i remember this from tv shows.
we marched in civil rights marches.
that is the america i know and remember.
we were proud of that america.
most of my friends, growing up, had parents who were union members. my best friend's father was a humble painter, member of a union...and he and his wife raised two children in a one bedroom apartment, and both of their children went on to college and became professional people, because the most important thing to them, was EDUCATING their children.
dont tell me what i did and did not live through.
i grew up in a lower middle class and poor community, and we the parents wanted us to be educated, MORE THAN ANYTHING.
and they wanted their children to become scientists and doctors, and contributors to society, MORE THAN ANYTHING.
and they wanted their children to have a social conscience, MORE THAN ANYTHING.
and we had buses that worked, and clean downtowns and thriving main streets....and maybe it was a very different america, and people worked very hard, and many of us didnt have cars or tv sets, but our parents wanted us to learn and make a contribution.
and we had respect for the smart and learned people in our community....and for people who were making a difference.
it was just as i remember it.
it wasnt an easy time....but there was a strong ethic, a respect for others, a social conscience, and a love for learning and learned people.
it was a different world.
and furthermore, john marshall....i grew up in a struggling neighborhood....do dont tell me it was the world that louis mayer created in the movie theater.
it was nothing like it.

Posted by: jkaren | February 27, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

jkaren:

I actually had a similar experience, but ours was not true of the country as a whole. We do you think you HAD to walk in civil rights marches? You only needed head start because of parents who neglected the early education of their children. The trains gleamed back then, the planes do today. How is that a loss in any way?

Please don't make the mistake of extrapolating your experience, (or mine for that matter), to the nation as a whole.

Three things determine your success in life (however you define success) circumstances of birth, drive, and luck.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

"I actually had a similar experience, but ours was not true of the country as a whole. We do you think you HAD to walk in civil rights marches?"

i know very well why we had civil right marches.
and i remember very well, the assassinations of john and robert kennedy, martin luther king and malcolm x.
but... i also know that there was a strong, active social conscience in the country.
that people respected higher education, science, the accomplishments of science.
in the fifties...we stood in line for the salk and sabin vaccines, we watched the landing on the moon.
there were beautiful cities with architecture of skyscrapers, and things we had never seen before.
technology of wonderful airplanes, and freeways and turnpikes, and i remember the building of the verrazano bridge.
things were happening every single day, to make americans very proud.
and you felt that there was, in spite of the everpresent forces of darkness and repression and anti-intellectualism....voices that were strong, and leadership that valued right action and social justice.
there seemed to be a political system in place, that one could have faith in...and it seemed that you really felt that right action, and community and social activism could make a difference and turn the tide.
it felt like one person,
could still make a difference
for the good.


and in my heart, i have to believe, that it still can
:-)

Posted by: jkaren | February 27, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Eliminate: Medicaid and the Department of Education.

Double: IRS


Forgive me for cheating.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 27, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Eliminate: Medicaid and the Department of Education.

Double: IRS


Forgive me for cheating.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 27, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

@the New York Times Link

"The census data analyzed by The Times do not include information on pensions and other benefits, which is crucial for a fuller comparison because public sector workers typically receive more in benefits than workers in the private sector do. California’s corrections officers, for instance, can retire at 50 with pensions worth 90 percent of their salaries, an option open to very few private sector workers. New Jersey pays 92 percent of the cost of health care for its workers, much more than private companies typically pay. Studies have regularly found that state and local governments offer more valuable retirement and health benefits than the private sector. And many state workers enjoy harder-to-calculate nonmonetary benefits like greater job security and shorter work hours."


WTF??????????


"Still, an examination of wages alone is useful in informing the debate. For one thing, public sector workers have long contended that their enviable benefits make up for paltry pay rates."


No.....it isn't.

What all these articles fail to talk about is the EXCESS of state employees compared to 1990. Job growth in the public sector has greatly exceeded the private sector.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 27, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"THIS IS NO TIME TO BE CUTTING BACK ON TEACHERS."

One wonders how jkaren was educated when the nation had so many fewer teachers.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 27, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

johnmarshall5446 wrote:

"That makes sense. Tax the 90-95% of the economy that is connected to oil and nat gas (they go together) in order to support the 5% of the economy that isn't (clean energy), most of whose jobs are overseas."

Yep. That's how you help divert growth and investment to a new industry which, in the long run, we're going to need to switch to anyway. If there aren't enough domestic clean energy jobs being created, what's a good step towards solving that? Subsidising them. The US imports about two-thirds of its oil from abroad, so it's not like we're talking about a completely domestic industry here anyway.

Posted by: bigmandave | February 27, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

bigmandave:

I'm sorry this will come out harsh, but you are wrong about almost everything. We import the majority of our oil from Canada.

We also have perhaps the largest resources of oil in the world, in shale oil in the Midwest-Rockies region. As oil stays over $100 a barrel this will become more economical and begin to be exploited. It's not good for the environment, but with a GOP Congress, that will be disregarded. Estimates vary but the amount is thought to be somewhere between 800 billion and 1 trillion barrels worth.

You and I will be long gone before you ever see alternate forms of energy occupy more than a niche in this country. I am not debating the relative right or wrong now, but talking about reality.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

jkaren:

You are talking about the trajectory of your own life, not the nation. Today's scientific achievements are no less marvelous or celebrated, you just aren't impressed by them personally.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

--*i rode beautiful silver trains across this country, when there were no planes for average people, like me.*--

That must have been before Amtrak took what was left of the private railroads and turned it into its usual tenement.

Of course, the private railroads were largely driven out of business by the government.

Wikipedia, Amtrak: "By 1930, the railroad companies had constructed, with private funding, a vast and relatively efficient transportation network, but when the federal government began to construct the National Highway System, the railroads found themselves faced with unprecedented competition for passengers and freight with automobiles, buses, trucks, and aircraft, all of which were heavily subsidized by the government road and airport building programs. At the same time the railroads were subject to property and other taxes. Every foot of rail was taxed, and some localities treated them like cash cows."

And here's a prediction for you: All the federal and state governments' interest in high speed rail will amount to one of the biggest boondoggles in the history of the planet. Personally, I'm hoping the government goes broke before it can spend too much on it, so that it won't go broke later with all those half built monuments to high speed rail sitting out there for people to laugh at.

Posted by: msoja | February 27, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

msoja:

That interpretation is completely, utterly and irrefutably wrong. Nothing about railroad funding was EVER private in this country. No business has ever been the recipient of more governmental largesse than the railroads. Finally, nothing like a national highway system came into being until at least twenty years later. Whoever wrote that entry simply did not have any idea what they were talking about.

That is why you have to take everything in Wikipedia with a grain of slat, of sometimes the whole shaker!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 8:00 PM | Report abuse

. . . or a grain of salt even. LOL

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 8:01 PM | Report abuse

msoja:

However, we agree on HSR as a complete and utter huge waste of money!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 8:03 PM | Report abuse

"You are talking about the trajectory of your own life, not the nation. Today's scientific achievements are no less marvelous or celebrated, you just aren't impressed by them personally."

Posted by: johnmarshall5446


my community was not so unusual, at that time.
and i think that my story was the trajectory of many lives, and many communities at that time.
it was a middleclass/lower middle class/poor communty of hardworking families and extended families.
and i am greatly impressed by the scientific accomplishments of today.
i just find it greatly demoralizing that the research of nobel laureates, on the climate, is disbelieved and mocked, and that when we are making maps of genomes, there are people who still are disputing the theory of evolution.
that there are still bookburners, and those who are against stem cell research....
that leaders in the republican party make jokes about the dietary health of the american people and the science of nutrition as related to illness....and make wisecracks about something as important as breast feeding.
that is what i am referring to.
there are leaders today, who probably still secretly believe that the earth is flat.

Posted by: jkaren | February 27, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

johnmarshall5446 wrote:

"I'm sorry this will come out harsh, but you are wrong about almost everything. We import the majority of our oil from Canada."

Which is abroad. I don't understand your point?

Posted by: bigmandave | February 27, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Ummm, no it doesn't. Abroad has always meant across the ocean, never Mexico or Canada. Sorry.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 8:58 PM | Report abuse

jkaren:

Why would you let that bother you, that's what I don't get. There were all sorts of naysayers around about flying and space travel and every other advance. Today is nothing new. Turn off Fox News because it only represents one channel out of hundreds.

C'mon, it was 70 degrees today, spring is coming!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 27, 2011 9:04 PM | Report abuse

" it was 70 degrees today, spring is coming!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446"

:-) yes...."one can cut down all of the trees, but spring will return every year."


"it's really a wonder that i havent dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. yet i keep them, because in spite of everything i still believe that people are really good at heart. i simply cant build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. i see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, i hear the ever approaching thunder which will destroy us too. i can feel the sufferings of millions, and yet, if i look up into the heavens, i think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.
in the meantime, i must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when i shall be able to carry them out.
yours,
anne
~~~saturday, 15 july, 1944

" ann frank~~the diary of a young girl"

Posted by: jkaren | February 27, 2011 9:43 PM | Report abuse

I have a thirteen year old girl, and honest to god every day I wake up I am thankful that I have an incredible insurance policy that pays for my medical insurance. I found insurance from Wise Health Insurance website and it doesn’t pay 100% on everything, but when I receive the bill and find out just how much I would have had to pay had I not been insured I realize that there is no way in the world that I could have afforded kind of care without it.

Posted by: alicebassy123 | February 28, 2011 5:46 AM | Report abuse

johnmarshall5446 wrote:

"Ummm, no it doesn't. Abroad has always meant across the ocean, never Mexico or Canada. Sorry."

Nope. Merriam-Webster and the OED both define abroad as "a foreign country" or "beyond one's borders". Not necessarily overseas. In any case we were discussing how the oil and clean energy industries affect domestic jobs. You claimed the oil industry was better at supporting domestic jobs. My point is that continuing reliance on a source of energy two-thirds of which has to be imported is not good for domestic jobs in the long run. Better to build up a strong domestic clean energy industry. Better for domestic jobs, better for national security, better for the environment.

Posted by: bigmandave | February 28, 2011 9:30 AM | Report abuse

bigmandave:

Ok, we'll leave the semantics behind, or this might turn into Greg Sargent's column. There is no such thing as clean energy. All energy sources are reliant on mining at some level. Electricity is no cleaner than oil, but far less powerful and useful for tranportation purposes.

Yes, there will be a post-oil world, but it almost certainly will not be one where cars run on lithium batteries. To the extent that we penalize our current economy to subsidize a move in that direction would be like the subsidizing of betamax players.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 28, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Ezra:
In your "Elsewhere" list, you say the NYT examined public vs private wages and found no evidence that public workers are overpaid. This is a strangely misleading characterization of the piece. They indicate that the picture is complex and a more comprehensive, state-by-state, job-by-job analysis is required, but conclude that workers w/o college degrees are typically paid more in the public sector. I understand the reluctance to accede to Repub and some Dem claims that public workers' compensation packages have become excessive and I understand that many on the right are pushing these claims in part due to a perverse hostility toward unions and government but I would have thought that all sides could agree that we need to understand the data and make decisions about whether the discrepancies should be narrowed. It seems inevitable that the pay structure for public employees will need to be more closely conformed to the private sector (i.e., larger salaries but an end or curtailment to pensions and retirement health benefits).

Posted by: wswest | February 28, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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