Greece this past weekend saw the worst rioting since the debt crisis began. After Athens had announced new tax hikes and budget cuts to reduce a deficit of 13 percent of gross domestic product, mobs drove guards from Greece's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and attacked police.
In our own country, students, teachers and administrators at UC-Berkeley held a "Strike and Day of Action to Defend Education" to demand more money from taxpayers -- for themselves.
How badly are they suffering?
According to Peter Robinson of Hoover Institution, California spends $13,000 per student in the state system, compared to $6,000 in New York.
Yet riots in Greece and demonstrators in California do portend a time of troubles. For the budget cuts and tax hikes needed to keep the welfare states of Europe operating as populations age and fewer children are born will be staggering and endless.
And, in the U.S., California is where we all are headed.
Nevada, Arizona and New Jersey are staring at budget gaps of 25 percent. New York and Illinois are not far behind. Michigan has an unemployment rate of 14 percent. Detroit is the quintessential sick city.
Republicans may get by this fall surfing an anti-government wave. But they will soon have to reveal where exactly they propose to cut.
Fortunately, good politics and good policy give the same answer. USA Today's lead story on Friday -- "It Pays to Work for Uncle Sam" -- contrasted the wages and benefits of federal workers with those of employees in the private sector.
Using federal figures from 2008, reporter Dennis Cauchon found:
U.S. government workers earned an average salary of $67,691 for occupations that exist in both government and the private sector, which was $7,600 a year more than workers in the private sector doing the same jobs. Health and pension benefits for U.S. government workers average $40,795 per year, but $9,882 per worker in the private sector.
Nurses employed by Veterans Affairs hospitals earn an average of $74,460 a year, which is $10,689 more than private-sector nurses.
Chris Edwards of Cato Institute has compared the pay and benefits of local and state government employees with private-sector workers.
He found the average hourly compensation, wages and benefits of state and local government employees in 2009 was $39.66 per hour, 45 percent higher than the $27.42 per hour package of private-sector workers
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