A guide to writing editorials as a columnist in one of the nation’s “leading” newspapers in five parts.
- Pick a topical disaster/social controversy.
- Name something you really hate. This hatred must be unconditional and you cannot/will not mitigate your position at all. This something has to be a lifelong passion.
- Then, ask yourself how #2 caused #1. Come up with a superficial reason, for drama, but then bam!, follow up with the deeper, more insightful reason.
- Use facts that do not prove or directly relate to your argument, preferably these are numbers, but take care to at least make it sound like they do.
- Now place this singularity, in which you have wildly applied blame to a longstanding hatred, to every other similar entity worldwide.
For Robert J. Samuelson’s WP formulaic editorial titled The welfare state’s death spiral earlier this week, he chose:
- Greece debt crisis
- Welfare states
- Superficial reason: monetary constraints of the euro. Real reason: these states have welfare! Grrrr!
- Then he throws in budget deficit and debt as percentage of GDP for some European countries in trouble, comfortably omitting Germany, a socialist welfare country with a budget surplus.
- And then says that all socialized countries have the same welfare problem and will probably follow Greece eventually, because they’re not trimming their welfare states now. Awesome deduction…
Greece is in trouble because the previous government borrowed and spent too much, cooked their books, and has terrible revenue collecting mechanisms, making creditors scarce and austerity measures necessarily harsher. Due to book cooking, their debt per GDP more than doubled, practically overnight. This is why Greece is in crisis. And of course austerity measures will contract the economy when you need to make up for a doubling of your debt. That has nothing to do about welfare costs, which are infinitely more predictable than revelations of vast government and Wall St conspiracies to hide debt.
Greece can’t get out of the self-made crisis, because no one would loan to them (until recently) and because Greece can’t set its own monetary policy, as Samuelson points out.
Then Samuelson has to bring in Obama’s health care expansion as an example of the welfare debt spiral, not noting that the status quo – where less and less people are given coverage – has been estimated to expand the US citizens and government debt more than the reform. Just click on the health care category in this blog for sources. In fact, with its Medicare trimmings to offset expansion of coverage, Obama is doing exactly as Samuelson proposes: trying to trim the welfare state and pushing people into market coverage. (The new plan does expand Medicaid, but nothing’s perfect.)
As Germany, with its budget surpluses demonstrate, welfare shows no signs of being an inevitable death spiral for all European welfare states. But poor governance and repeating mistakes do.