Mark Steyn’s After America: Get Ready for Armageddon is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. In fact, it was so good that there was no way I could do it justice in a single article.
So, instead I’m going to do two articles. The first is the top 10 most disturbing quotations from After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. Then tomorrow, that will be followed up with the 10 best quotations from the book.
10) Indeed, since 1970 overall public school employment has increased ten times faster than public school enrollment — with no discernible benefit to student performance. — P.148
9) Government accounting is a joke. In one year (2009), Medicare handed out $98 billion in improper or erroneous payments. A tenth of a trillion? Ha! Rounding error. Look for it in the line items under “Miscellaneous.” For an accounting fraud of $567 million, Enron’s executives went to jail, and its head guy died there. For an accounting fraud 10 times that size, the two Democrat hacks who headed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick, walked away with a combined taxpayer-funded payout of $116.4 million. Fannie and Freddie are two of the largest businesses in America, but they’re exempt from SEC disclosure rules and Sarbanes-Oxley “corporate governance.” burdens, and so in 2008, unlike Enron, WorldCom, or any of the other reviled private-sector bogeymen, they came close to taking down the entire global economy. What then is the point of the SEC? By 2005, the costs of federal regulatory compliance alone (that is, not including state or local red tape) were up to $1.13 trillion — or approaching 10 percent of GDP. In much of America, it takes far more paperwork to start a business than to go on welfare. — P.85
8) In the fifties, one in twenty members of the workforce needed government permission in order to do his job. Today it’s one in three. — P.49
7) The United Auto Workers is the AARP in an Edsel; it has three times as many retirees and widows as “workers” (I use the term loosely). GM has 96,000 employees but provides health benefits to a million people. How do you make that math add up? Not by selling cars: Honda and Nissan were making a pretax operating profit per vehicle of around $1600; Ford, Chrysler, and GM a loss of $500 to $1500. That’s to say, they lose money on every vehicle they sell. — P.218
6) In 2009, the average civilian employee of the United States government earned $81,258 in salary plus $41,791 in benefits. Total $123,049. The average Americans employed in the private sector earned $50,462 in salary plus $10,589 in benefits. Total: $61,051. So the federal worker earns more than twice as much as the private sector worker. Plus he has greater job security: he’s harder to fire, or even to persuade to take a small pay cut. — P.75
5) As Congressman Paul Ryan pointed out, by 2004, 20 percent of U.S. households were getting about 75 percent of their income from the federal government. As a matter of practical politics, how receptive would they be to a pitch for lower taxes, which they don’t pay, or lower government spending, of which they are such fortunate beneficiaries? How receptive would another fifth of households, who receive about 40 percent of their income from the feds, be to such a pitch? — P.73
4) By 2015 or so, the People’s Liberation Army, which is the largest employer on the planet, bigger even than the U.S. Department of Community-Organizer Grant Applications, will be entirely funded by U.S taxpayers. — P.6
3) The CBO numbers foresee net interest payments rising from 9 percent of revenue to 36 percent in 2030, then to 58 percent in 2040, and up to 85 percent in 2050. If that trajectory holds, we’ll be spending more than the planet’s entire military budget on debt interest. But forget mid-century because, unless something changes, whatever goes by the name of “America” under those conditions isn’t worth talking about. — P.5
2) John Kichen of the U.S. Treasury and Menzie Chinn of the University of Wisconsin published a study in 2010 entitled:
Financing U.S. Debt: Is There Enough Money in the World — and At What Cost?
The fact that sane men are even asking this question ought to be deeply disturbing. As to the answer, foreign official holdings of U.S. Treasury securities have usually been less than 5 percent of the rest of the world’s GDP. By 2009, they were up to 7 percent. By 2020, Kitchen and Chinn project them to rise to 19 percent of the rest of the world’s GDP, which they say is….do-able. Whether the rest of the world will want to do it is another matter. A future that presumes the rest of the planet will sink a fifth of its GDP into U.S. Treasuries is no future at all. But on Big Government’s streetcar named Desire we have come to depend on the kindness of strangers. — P.10
1) Within a decade, the United States will be spending more of the federal budget on its interest payments than on its military. You read that right: more on debt service than on the armed services. According to the CBO’s 2010 long-term budget outlook, by 2020 the government will be paying between 15 and 20 percent of its revenues in debt interest. Whereas defense spending will be down between 14 and 16 percent. — P.5