Delusional loony left, Margaret Thatcher is right, "The trouble with socialism is you run out of other people's money." Here's the proof. Are we next?
Portugal debates future of welfare state
By Peter Wise in Lisbon
Armando Costa, 73, is waiting for an outpatient’s appointment in one of the seemingly endless corridors of Hospital Santa Maria, a huge 1950s building on the edge of Lisbon, teeming with medical staff, orderlies, the sick and their families.
The retired business manager could afford private care, but prefers crowded, noisy Santa Maria because of the quality of treatment on the national health service. As well as social security contributions, patients typically pay a small amount. “I’ll be charged a few euros today, but I’d be happy to pay more,” he said.
How much the Portuguese are prepared to pay for public health, education and welfare services has become the focus of national debate after warnings from Pedro Passos Coelho, the prime minister, that the country’s economic future depends on root-and-branch reform of what the state provides.
But redefining the state’s responsibilities is highly contentious for many Portuguese, who see universal health care and education, free or subsidised at the point of delivery, as fundamental achievements of the 1974 revolution that overthrew 48 years of dictatorship. The government’s opponents fear it wants to destroy the welfare state.
The country has to choose between higher taxes or fewer state services, Vítor Gaspar, finance minister, said. “There appears to be an enormous divergence between what the Portuguese believe the state should deliver and the amount of taxes they are prepared to pay,” he told parliament recently.
Taxes have already risen substantially. The 2013 budget, the toughest in living memory, includes income tax increases of about 30 per cent. Mr Gaspar described the tax rises as “enormous” . Designed to keep Lisbon on track with its €78bn bailout programme, they are the latest in a series of austerity measures that have pushed Portugal into its deepest recession in 40 years, with record unemployment reaching close to 16 per cent.
A sweeping review of the state’s role is due to be completed by March and is required by Portugal’s international lenders – the so-called “troika” of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank - to generate an additional €4bn in spending cuts over the next two years. “About two-thirds of public expenditure goes on social transfers and employment,” said Abebe Selassie, the head of IMF’s mission to Portugal. “But benchmark indicators show a lot of inefficiencies in the way social spending is targeted.”
In this environment, means-testing charges for state health care and university tuition has moved to the top of the political agenda as the centre-right government struggles to discipline public finances.
Attempts to increase charges come as many complain existing rates are already too high.
At Lisbon University, a short walk from Santa Maria, students said many families could no longer afford annual tuition fees of about €1,000. They also argued that the economic crisis meant state spending on education was going to waste. “I have just spent six years studying to be a lawyer,” said Fabiana Silvestre, 26, “but there are simply no jobs in Portugal.” She and two fellow students plan to emigrate to Macau. “We won’t be putting back what the state has invested in us,” said Catarina Lopes, 24.
Medical fees more than doubled in January. The cost for using emergency services, for example, rose from €9.60 to €20, partly to discourage people with minor ailments from going to hospital. The number of people seeking emergency treatment has since fallen by 10 per cent.
“Paying more for better services would make sense, but not just to keep things as they are,” said Cidália Juste, 52, an unemployed clerk who was accompanying a sick relative at Santa Maria. Another outpatient, an 82-year retired shop worker with a monthly pension of just under €400 who did not want to be named, said state medical fees were already too high.
Mr Selassie said the stage was set for “an open debate in which political parties and social partners can reach a consensus on what levels of spending and taxation the country wants”. But the prospect of political agreement looks remote.
The prime minister, said António Arnaut, a member of the opposition Socialists and a founder of the national health service, is bent on a “neoliberal project to destroy the welfare state”.
Polecat, what kills me is there are so many multi generational examples of what happens when you have a welfare society which is what established socialism is. The Scandinavian countries are a unique exception that have their own issues. So how can we follow these countries down failed paths? Especially when our system has created the greatest wealth in history. No honorable "contard" is against helping the disadvantaged and needy. We just don't want to create entitlement, dependence and multigenerational families living off of the government.
Why has it become greed to want to hold onto what one earns, but not greedy to take from others?
Re: "We just don't want to create entitlement, dependence and multigenerational families living off of the government.
Why has it become greed to want to hold onto what one earns, but not greedy to take from others?"
The problem, nobeach, is that you can't see the International Corporation elephant in the room who has for decades been sucking on the biggest Welfare tit in the history of mankind.
To paraphrase, Corporations are people, too, and in fact they are now the biggest freeloading people ever.
Look, I understand you're upset. I get it. Your guy didn't win. When are you going to drop this crap and at least try to DISCUSS anything with people here? Do you really think you're accomplishing anything with your constant diatribe, other than getting people tired enough of your constant bludgeoning to finally ignore you? Get relevant here please. Election season is over, has been for awhile now, and most of the rest of us would like to get back to talking about stocks, or in my case the science behind this stock, rather than hearing incessantly about your sour grapes.