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You have to hand it to modern conservatives — their cynical plan to “drown government in the bathtub” is succeeding. It works like this:

Yell and scream that government spending is “out of control” and then use the manufactured confusion and anger that results to justify big tax and spending cuts. Then, when the quality of government services plummet as a result of the cuts, yell and scream that government is inherently inefficient, wasteful and incompetent and restart the whole vicious cycle.

The saddest thing about all of this is that the underlying premise (a premise frequently parroted by well-meaning, if inattentive progressives) is all wet. Government spending in North Carolina is quite demonstrably not out of control now and has not been out of control anytime recently.

As Ed McLenghan’s post just below explains, it’s all there in the numbers.

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Thirteen years after the 1998 State Tobacco Settlement, North Carolina ranks just 21st in the nation in supporting programs to prevent young people from smoking and helping adult smokers quit.

The report released Wednesday by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and several other public health organizations notes that North Carolina took a big step backward this year by abolishing the Health and Wellness Trust Fund.

The HWTF previously received 25 percent of the state’s tobacco settlement funds and provided dedicated funding for the state’s tobacco prevention and cessation program.

The report’s other key findings for North Carolina include: Read More

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This morning’s “must read” is this post by economist Dean Baker.

The final paragraph, in particular, is worth ruminating on:

“In reality, both left and right can agree that the broken U.S. health care system is the problem. The United States already pays more than twice as much per person as the average in other wealthy countries. If our per person health care costs were the same as those in Canada, Germany or any other wealthy country, we would be looking at huge budget surpluses, not deficits.” 

In other words, while the President has certainly made some errors during the last three years — not pushing for a large enough stimulus right from the beginning comes to mind — he was  clearly right in his initial assessment that the U.S. has to  make health care reform a (if not the) top priority. Would that he could have promoted a Canadian or German-style system.