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Archive for August 10th, 2010

Rather than raise taxes or cut state services or subsidies to reduce the federal deficit, why not make federal workers salaries comparable with the salaries in the private sector?

A recent Heritage Foundation study found the average federal worker (excluding the uniformed military) makes $78,901 a year in wages and salary versus $50,111 for the average private sector worker. When you count generous health and pension benefits, the average total compensation of federal workers comes to $111,015 a year versus $60,078 in the private sector. …

USA Today recently reported that in December 2007, a total of 1,868 civilian workers in the Defense Department earned $150,000 or more; by June 2009, the number was 10,100. In late ’07, the paper says, just one employee at the Transportation Department earned more than $170,000. Less than two years later, 1,690 workers earned that much. …

If Congress were to freeze federal pay raises until the private sector begins to catch up, the savings to taxpayers would be considerable. Heritage scholar James Sherk estimates that ending the disparity could save the taxpayers $47 billion a year.—Byron York

For more on how pay equity between government and private workers would help reduce the federal deficit, see Cut deficit without cutting services? Start here by Byron York.

I.M. Kane

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On CNN’s GPS (Global Public Square), Fareed Zakaria and Bill Gates agreed that the only way to contain rising health care costs is to establish [death] panels that will ration care:

ZAKARIA: But you don’t buy the argument that … within the health care bill there are all kinds of cost containment measures … You don’t see the beginnings of this bending of the cost curve?

GATES: No, absolutely not. … I didn’t see anything … that showed a willingness to get at the core of the issue. If every insurance plan has to stay the way it is, if you always get to choose your doctor, if nothing can be done about end of life trade-offs there, you’re not going to change this cost increase. But the thing that really makes it look bleak fiscally is that this medical inflation — that we have not changed it. …

ZAKARIA:  And the only thing that would really change it … is … some kind of panels that look at procedures and say these ones will not be paid for by the insurance.

GATES:  That’s right. If somebody is 83-years-old and wants a knee replacement, that would have to be paid for privately. Or if the effect of proton therapy is very modest in terms of the extra months you get to live, that would have to be paid for privately. Those are tough decisions [but not in Castro’s Cuba].

European countries have done better at making those decisions. They have avoided the huge number of specialists that our system has that creates difficulties. Right now, it’s as rewarding for a company to invent a chemotherapy drug that costs $200,000 a year and only gains months of life for the people involved. That is as profitable as something that keeps people healthy. And so we have to reorder the priorities of the innovation system to get it working on our behalf, and that’s the only way I see us making a change.

ZAKARIA:  But this is a pretty dire situation then, because health care costs are by far the biggest driver of the federal budget. They are going to produce, as you say, a kind of essentially unsustainable fiscal condition.

GATES:  Yeah, democracies, and particularly the U.S. democracy, has dealt with tough problems in the past. And how acute does it have to become, how do you take the complexities of it, particularly where you have many groups that love the current way the money is spent, how do you get that out in front of people when it’s a very emotionally charged subject?

And if you layer on that that the number of centrist politicians or technocratic politicians really take the time to learn an issue in depth, we have less of those today than in the past, you can get worried about this one. But this is going to rise to the top of the list of important issues. And in the past everything that’s risen like that, the country has come up with a way of dealing with it. [Age-Based Rationing of Health Care; UK’s Pathway Regimen]

For more information, see the clip of Fareed Zakaria’s CNN interview with America’s richest man, Bill Gates [Death panel discussion begins at the 13:30 mark], or read the transcript.

Robert Reich: What An Honest President Would Say About Health Reform 2:05 audio

I.M. Kane

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