Matthew Yglesias argues
today that "the viability of high-tax political units is driven by a belief among citizens that they are receiving valuable public services in exchange for their taxes." This was the central point of two articles
I've published recently. "Paying off pension obligations to now-retired public employees, however, doesn't fit that bill," Yglesias says. As I wrote in the Los Angeles Times
, the advocates for imposing high taxes that fund extensive public benefits "ought to be leading the charge against every excess and inefficiency that deprives taxpayers of good value for their dollars." No such advocate can argue with a straight face that Californians are "receiving valuable public services in exchange for their taxes" when 9,223 retired public employees currently receive pensions worth more than $100,000 per year. It would be nearly as difficult to contend that the best and highest use of the money available to the state is to guarantee that, before they retire, California state and local employees receive higher compensation than their counterparts in any other state.
A blog post from a prominent liberal writer like Yglesias, combined with a strongly worded column
from a retired Democratic muckety-muck like Willie Brown, doesn't add up to "leading the charge" against wasteful, ineffective government spending, and the unions that insist on it. The two arguments are
, however, signs that some people realize liberalism is a house divided against itself. It can favor expansive and ambitious government, or acquiesce in sloppy and wasteful government, but doing both is increasingly becoming untenable.