My local news paper, the Falls Church News Press (FCNP) had two interesting articles its December 13th edition. While they seem unrelated on the surface the two actually help to make an interesting point. First off, the FCNP is run by a proud leftist, and his newspaper as a whole and particularly his main editorial pages reflect that. They include four weekly columns, generally including himself, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and for balance the Republican hating Republican David Brooks. Brooks’ December 10 syndicated column was a series of miscellaneous observations that included this bit of controversy:
Organic foods may make you less generous. In a study published in Social Psychology and Personality Science, Kendall J. Eskine had people look at organic foods, comfort foods or a group of control foods. Those who viewed organic foods subsequently volunteered less time to help a needy stranger and they judged moral transgressions more harshly.
This is exactly the kind of junk science where I point out that correlation does not mean causality. But there is more to this “study” if you look deeper, and I’ll circle back to it in a bit.
The second article that caught my eye was not in the editorials, but one of the front page stories. First let me give some background on Falls Church. It proudly calls itself “The Little City”, with its population of just under 13,000. It’s what I would call an upper middle class suburb of Washington DC, being one of the inside the beltway beneficiaries of the growth of our federal government (Full disclosure: I work as for a contracting company that supports federal contracts). For being located so close to one of the busiest cities in the country, Falls Church does have a nice small town feel to it, and is part of why Sister Babe and I decided to live so close to its downtown area. But everything is not perfect is suburbia. Falls Church, along with a few other localities are going to have trouble funding their share of the retirement plan for Virginia’s public employees (emphasis that follows is mine). From the Falls Church New Press:
The state budget process will begin with a “state of the state” address by Gov. McDonnell on Monday, and local lawmakers say they’re not optimistic that Richmond (Virginia’s state capitol – ed) will have much to offer Falls Church or other localities this round.
Asked by Councilman Ira Kaylin about chances that Richmond will accept a greater burden for funding the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) , Saslaw said that Richmond will not give, but “will ask for meaningful amounts for everything.”
Echoing Kaylin’s concern for the VRS balloon payment coming in the next couple of years was Lilla Wise, speaking to the F.C. School Board Tuesday night. Wise, who represents the school boards of Falls Church, Alexandria and Arlington as their legislative liaison in Richmond , confirmed that, without a legislative change, a 20 percent jump is coming in a couple of years in terms of what localities will be required to pay to maintain the solvency of the VRS.
Tentatively adopting its legislative agenda Tuesday night, the School Board noted about the VRS issue, “By continuing to pass employer contribution increase to municipalities for Commonwealth has put at risk the financial sustainability of many communities and, consequently, the VRS itself.” The complete School Board statement reflected almost verbatim the paragraph included in the City Council’s legislative agenda document. It reads as follows:
“We recognize that increases in VRS rates are required to retain the soundness of the system and recommend a long-term plan that would minimize the fluctuations that occur from year to year. We request that a plan be implemented to ensure the sustainability of VRS and its benefit for public employees. The Commonwealth should be responsible for paying some fixed portion of the VRS Trustee determined employer share and localities should not be asked to bear an increased share of VRS costs now or in the future due to the Commonwealth’s unwillingness to properly fund the VRS. By continuing to pass employer contribution increases to municipalities the Commonwealth has put at risk the financial sustainability of many communities and, consequently, the VRS itself.”
I honestly could not believe what I was reading. My first problem with what I read is these municipalities asking “Richmond” for more money. Exactly who do these local leaders think that this Richmond person is? I react the same way when I hear about poorly managed, financially struggling states ask the federal government for money to bail them out. What do these states think makes up our federal government, and where does it get its money from? Do they not realize that the Unites States government is nothing more than the sum of its 50 states and the citizens and employers of those states? And why should the residents of states that have elected competent leadership be forced to pay for decades of bad choices made by states that have mismanaged themselves into the ground? The same principle applies to counties and towns in any state, which brings me to my second point of contention with this article. Let me provide some more background info – note in the second paragraph of the article the three localities asking for financial help that I cited in bold – Falls Church, Arlington, and Alexandria. According to Wikipedia,
“There are 95 counties and 39 independent cities located in Virginia , ten of which are in the top 100 richest counties in the country .” Guess which ones are the top three in terms of per capita income:
The state of Virginia itself has a per capita income of $33,671. Yes, you read correctly. The three wealthiest municipalities in the state are saying that the poorer residents should shoulder more of the bill to keep the state retirement system afloat. The question that should be getting asked is how we can reform this defined benefit plan to retain at least part of the commitment to our public sector employees without crippling the state budget for future generations. What should not be happening is the wealthy asking to sustain their generous lifestyles on the backs of the middle class. Why am I now throwing out this populist rhetoric here?
Here is how each of the big three voted in the last presidential election:
Arlington County: Obama; 69% Romney: 29%
Alexandria City: Obama; 71% Romney: 28%
Falls Church City: Obama; 69% Romney: 30%
In other words, the same people who voted for candidates who ran on platitudes like “Economic Patriotism”, “Social Justice” and “Fair Share” suddenly drop their pretense when they’re actually asked to… pay what they would call their fair share. In a related story (H/T The Iowahawk @DavidBurge), the citizens of the ever so blue state of New York (62% for Obama) are seeing the consequences of what they voted for, and they are not too happy about having to pay for it. Which brings me back to the David Brooks piece from the top of this post.
Organic food does not make you less likely to help someone in need directly. It’s being the kind of person who favors organic food that makes you less likely. In general, the people who favor organic food are more likely to be on the left. As a number of studies have shown conservatives give more of their time and money to charities than their lefty counterparts. It’s not that the left cares less about those in need, but it’s the philosophical difference between the two ideologies. In a nutshell, it comes down to if you see someone in need, who you believe should help that person. This is a generalization, but if you look across the issues their philosophies on how to help others they can mostly be summed up as:
Conservative: “I should do something to help”
Leftist: “Someone else should be forced to do something to help”
This last presidential election saw these two philosophies go head to head. One side felt that compassion for the less fortunate would be to remove layers of red tape and taxation that would enable them to start/expand their business or get hired by someone doing so. The other side felt that compassion was shown by regulating and taxing people out of business and then “saving” them with unemployment, food stamps, and welfare. We all know which side won the day.
Another favorite example of the difference in the two sides was seen in how they treat public property. Most of you reading this have seen the images comparing what the National Mall looked like after President Obama’s 2009 inauguration versus the Tea Party rally. This leads to a quick look at what the Occupy Wall Street did the public places that they took over. In Washington DC, their main protest camp was at McPherson Square, where they cost taxpayers $7,000 to fix the damage they did to that park. Over the course of a few months a beautiful, green space in the middle of a busy city was transformed into a crime and disease ridden cesspool, leaving a mess that needed to be cleaned up by crews in HAZMAT suits in their wake. You can see some images of the damage that they did and some of the cleanup here. It’s interesting that the people who preach against pollution, protecting the environment, war on women (how many rape free zones were needed at Tea Party rallies?), and sustainability would leave this trail of destruction in their wake, nor would they see the irony of how they live clashes with what they preach.
In a phrase, leftism is not sustainable. This is why a few weeks ago I argued that us going off of the Fiscal Cliff, while painful in the here and now, would be good for us in the long run.
Because until this country comes around to the fact that it’s not somebody else’s problem, things are only going to get worse.
Cross posted from Brother Bob’s Blog
Cross posted from Brother Bob’s Blog