Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Essay: Who’s Eating Your lunch?

They’re Eating our Lunch!” It’s become a cliché in the competitive worlds of sports and business, right up there with, “Thinking Outside the Box” and “Threw Her Under the Bus.”

But sayings become clichés because of the kernel of truth behind them. “They’re eating our lunch” is colorful shorthand for they are taking what’s ours, beating us at our own game and rubbing our noses in it. It means, “We are losing.”

Let’s assume that you’re a taxpayer, and that you’re employed in the private sector. Or perhaps retired and trying to get by on your dwindling 401K. Is someone, “Eating your lunch?” You bet.

Unfortunately, there are so many crowded around your table, they’ve already finished breakfast and lunch, and are working on supper. I suggest you hide that midnight snack, because it’s next.

Here’s a partial list of those to whom you are providing unwelcome but lavish hospitality:

Public Employees: As the bitter quip goes, working for the government is just like working in the private sector, except for the permanent employment, guaranteed raises, better benefits, and excellent retirement. True, as state and local governments have run up against the deficit wall when they tried to emulate Washington and Athens, there has been some belt tightening and layoffs. But government employees still make well more than comparable private sector employees, get better benefits and have been feeling a lot less pain than the rest of us. USA Today says that the average federal worker now earns $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector. It also reports that Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14 percent to 19 percent during the recession's first 18 months. Not bad for hard times, huh?

Lately comes the news that public employees take an average of eleven sick days a year, versus an average of five days a year in the private sector, proving, I suppose, that high living isn’t good for you.

Public employees like to point out that they pay taxes too. Even if they pay 50% of their total income in taxes, the other 50% has to be made up by the rest of us. So the next time the SEIU “Purple People Beater” goons attack you at a Tea Party, you might try telling them how much better off they already are. Or maybe not.

Illegal Immigrants (or “Undocumented Voters” as the Left like to call them): Sure, some businesses and consumers are making out on the cheap labor source, and we wouldn’t want to deprive wealthy liberals of cheap maids and gardeners, of course. But it doesn’t take much for the rest of us to figure out that the failure of the Government to do its first duty and secure the boards is costing the rest of us a bundle in taxes for schools, healthcare and welfare. Not to mention the costs of the additional crime in our cities and incarcerating the Undocumented Thugs we catch and convict. That might be why 70% of Americans support Arizona on SB1070. A study conducted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates it costs the rest of us $113 billion a year. That’s billion with a B. Your share is, what?

Islamists: Sure, you know your taxes are paying for a dedicated military putting their lives on the line to keep the Jihadists from imposing Shari’a law, tearing down your church or synagogue, and stuffing your daughter in a burka at gun point, after mutilating her genitals on the kitchen table with a pocket knife, because their Seventh Century worldview says God wants women to be chattel.

But think also about the costs they have permanently imposed on the economy through travel restrictions, the taxes to pay for additional security and the huge security bureaucracy. (By “economy” I mean you and I.) Airports are only the most visible. Then think of the costs to us of the steady drip, drip, drip of appeasement as government at all levels tries to buy off Muslims, who unless catered to, might think of becoming murderers, with creeping Shari’a law. Not that paying Dane Geld ever works, but each generation of cowardly politicians apparently needs to learn this painful truth for themselves. The bill for educating them will, of course, come to us.

Trial Lawyers: What other country has multi-millionaire (or even billionaire) lawyers, like John Edwards (D-The Other America)? We need to restrict lawyers’ fees to an hourly rate, not a chunk of the settlement, and to establish “loser pays.” We need tort reform. We need to allow the public to vote on the continuation of Supreme Court Justices and other judges. And we have bugger-all chance of doing any of that with lawyers controlling not only the courts, but the Democrat party at every level.

The costs of our tort system add many dollars to every product and service you buy. It’s a hidden tax, not a VAT, but a LAT (Lawyer Aggrandizement Tax). And it trickles out of your back account every single day.

Gangs and Drugs. The thugs who have made our inner cities no-go zones for decent citizens in many areas are costing us more than the value of what they steal, and the loss of the cops (three in two months here in Chicago) and innocent bystanders they kill. It’s not just the price of the cops to fight them—if we’d let that happen. It’s not just the cost of the courts and the prisons. It’s the cost of drugs that are at the heart of the gangs, from Chicago to Juarez. Drugs cost our society many billions annually in lost productivity, broken families and lost lives. They are the root of much of the other costly crimes in our society, because if you have a heavy drug habit, you can’t hold the kind of job that would pay the tariff. There are only three ways to support that habit. You can sell your body, if it’s at all saleable, with the resulting uptick in disease and ruined lives. You can steal, with the cost to all of us. Druggies don’t just steal from strangers, they also steal from family and friends, so the social costs of families ripped apart may be as high as the property loss to the society at large. Third, you can sell drugs, spreading the deadly virus. All those billions come out of the pockets of folks like you and me.

Chicago alone is estimated to have 70 gangs and 100,000 gang members As the website “Chicago Gangs” proudly proclaims, “Street Gangs are a rich part of Chicago's underworld, they have been around for many years and will continue to be a secret culture among Chicago's Society.” Makes you feel warm and fuzzy to be paying for that rich culture, doesn’t it?

Who are the street criminals? According to a column in the New York Times, “Based on reports filed by victims, blacks committed 66 percent of all violent crime in New York in 2009, including 80 percent of shootings and 71 percent of robberies. Blacks and Hispanics together accounted for 98 percent of reported gun assaults. And the vast majority of the victims of violent crime were also members of minority groups.” But stepping up enforcement in minority areas (or even citing the facts!) is viewed as “racist” even though it is minorities who suffer most, though we all pay the costs.

Let us not just include street gangs here. More organized, and less visibly violent criminal gangs, from Asia tongs, to Russian crime syndicates to the Chicago Outfit in league with corrupt politicians are getting a huge serving of your midday meal, if not so many of the headlines in your paper. Crime, gangs and drugs are cultural, not racial, and our culture is sinking into third-world status.

Fraudsters: Maybe I’m just getting old, but it seems to me the integrity level in our society is dropping like Obama’s poll numbers, while the level of fraud and bunko squad schemes is rising rapidly. The government, paid for by you and I, is a huge target. Fraud in contracts, fraud in billing, on it goes. Estimates of fraud in the Medicare program alone run as high as $60 billion a year. Figuring that 47% of the people pay no income tax at all, what does your share come to?

Then there are the fraudulent schemes ripping off taxpayers in other federal programs, in state programs and in local government. You can hardly open the paper in Chicago without reading about some elected or appointed crook in Cook County being investigated or prosecuted. (My favorite is Cook County Clerk of Courts Dorothy Brown, who’s loving employees give her cash gifts on her birthday and Christmas—“because we’re like family”—, and pay $3—cash only—a day to wear jeans, into a no-records “charitable” fund.) And they’re just the crooks we learn about.

Next add in all the embezzlers and con artists ripping off charities and businesses. Since those costs get passed on to customers and donors, that’s your wallet too. Fraud costs you, personally, hundreds, probably thousands of dollars a year.

Special Interests: Businessmen love to talk about the free market and how competition makes things better, but damn few of them believe in it, when they can collude with politicians to fix prices at your expense. And anti-trust laws are usually about keeping prices high, not preventing monopolies.

You pay more than a fair market price for sugar, milk, tobacco, produce and many consumer goods, because business, unions and politicians have conspired to keep prices artificially high through tariffs, price supports, production controls and other government market interventions. This put dollars in all their pockets, of course, but those dollars have to come from someplace. That “someplace” would be you. Of course, the poorer you are, the more the business-union-politician-bureaucrat cabal hurts you, because you have fewer disposable dollars. Democrats, who prate endlessly how much they care about the poor, are especially bad at this, but Republicans hardly have clean hands—or campaign accounts lacking in special interest contributions. As the joke goes, free enterprise is a good idea—we should try it sometime.

Environmentalists: Think you pay too much for gas, home heat and electricity? Well, thanks to the environmentalists, we don’t get a lot of power from nukes, as even leftist countries like France do. We can’t drill for oil in Alaska, much of the West or in shallow coastal water in sight of the wealthy folk’s estates (there a reason why the BP well that popped was so deep). We can’t use coal efficiently, our best energy resource. And we have to subsidize inefficient but politically-connected boondoggles like ethanol and wind power. But they want you to pay even more for imported energy to support terrorism from the Middle East. Cap and Trade isn’t dead, just sleeping. It’ll be back. These guys never give up on fleecing you so they can feel all gooey—and provide jobs to their politically-connected “green” pals. “Green” is the new Red.

All this so Al Gore can live in mansions, drive big cars and fly around in private jets, while proclaiming that the warming trend from 1970 (when global cooling was the settled science) to 1995 is an anthropomorphic problem. So the scientifically-observed warming on the other planets isn’t due to the sun, but to Martians driving SUVs? What will it cost us to fix that? In my view, if you’re greener than Gore, you’re green enough!

Politicians: I’m voting straight Republican in November, because the Republicans are ruining the country. But they are doing it at a somewhat slower rate, so they might postpone the collapse until after my IPF catches up with me and I check out. Buying votes with our grandkids’ IOUs has become a way of life for both parties, but since the Reid-Pelosi gang took over congress in 2006, and brought the Eurosocialist Emperor Barack I. on board in 2008, the lid has blown off. People laughing at Greece don’t get that we are probably in worse shape, but are still able to kick the can down the road—a little—because of our size.

The waste in government on programs that make a few happy enough to vote for the patrons of largess, but make the rest of us poor, is proverbial. If too many government spending programs are a joke, the joke’s on us.

It’s not just vote buying, of course, it’s politicians’ perks, inflated salaries and the kind of benefits from lobbying groups that politicians feel entitled to that suck a lot of air out of the economy. And it’s not just the federal politicians. Often local pols are insulated from scrutiny or able to fly under the radar while ripping us off. There’s the now-famous case of Bell, California City Manager whose perks may have brought his $800k salary to $1.5M. I bet you could get by on that, with a little frugality of course. You can bet there are thousands more raking in big bucks, but holding their greed in check enough to avoid headlines. Usually.

I think it’s time to officially declare the deficit and fiscal situation hopeless, because no politician of either party could get elected on a platform of doing half what needs to be done. It would be too politically painful to contemplate, so we’ll just have to wait for the collapse when the fiscal disaster can no longer be postponed. I hope my granddaughter survives the turmoil and can help pick up the pieces in twenty or thirty years.

I’m sure I could think of more guests lining up at your table, but I already feel like crawling out on a ledge and making a splash the next time the Emperor’s in town for a fund raiser for mob-connected pols.

You’ll be lucky if you can get a morsel by scrambling among the crumb snatchers under your table. Who’s eating your lunch? Everyone but you, pal. Everyone but you.

Robert A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam Veteran who served five terms in the Massachusetts Senate. He is the author of three books, which may be found on his blog under July 31, 2010. “I recommend you not buy any of them,” Hall said. “You’re going to need your cash for taxes—and lunch.”

Resources for this essay:

For feds, more get 6-figure salaries

Illegal Immigration Costs U.S. $113 Billion a Year, Study Finds

Blatant Medicare fraud costs taxpayers billions

Chicago Gangs

Fighting Crime Where the Criminals Are

Bell, Calif. city manager who was making $800k a year was actually making $1.5 million

Jeans days another way candidate Brown raises cash for pet causes from workers

U.S. Debt Load Among World's Worst


  1. Spot on re trial attorneys. We phsysicians are your allies on this issue, and others. By the way, Cleveland paper today reported that we may be mandated to print our ballots in both English and Spanish at a cost of $500,000 to taxpayers. See www.MDWhistleblower.blogspot.com under Legal Quality for why tort reform should matter to ordinary patients.

  2. RE: Public Employees:

    The unions fight for the rights of all working people. You sound jealous that the unions have it so "good." Instead of complaining about how good they have it why don't you complain to your emoployers about how lowsy your benefit package is? Afraid of being fired? Band together with your fellow disatisfied coworkers and give it a try then... Collective barganing... you are half way to being union! Why does everything have to be a race to the bottom in this country? That is not a solution to our problems. Let's fight for workers right together so that all workers have 11 days or 12 days or 15 days of sick leave per year. And why stop there let's make 3 weeks vacation per year the standard for all workers... The sky's the limit! It's not going to be handed to you...You will have to fight hard. How bad do you want it?

    1. Wow!! A Liberal trying to cause a class war by saying that union riches should be envied by the poor private sector??

      I have entered Bizzaro World.