A bad time to be associated with government and politics


On Saturday, the same day Oregonians began receiving our income tax kicker checks in the mail, The Oregonian released a poll showing that “Oregonians don’t think much of their lawmakers or their governor.”

The poll reiterates conclusions that pollster Adam Davis shared last month with the new Task Force on Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring in Salem. I was appointed by the Governor to represent the taxpayers on the task force.

Here are two key paragraphs in Saturday’s article:

“The poll shows that public frustration with political leaders remains as intense as ever, said Adam Davis, of Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall, the Portland firm that did the survey. That frustration, combined with everyday worries about health care and household finances, has fueled increasing cynicism about government, he said.

“‘It’s just a bad time to be associated with government and politics,’ Davis said.”

But Davis went further in front of the task force, telling us that he has never seen a time in his 30-year career when Oregonians were so cynical about government and politics. And, even if they can identify public services that are important to them (which Davis says they rarely can), today’s economic uncertainty leads them to say “I can’t pay more for government services right now: even ones I think are important. Maybe I can pay more later, but not now.”

While these findings seemed sobering to some on the task force, I took them as a hopeful sign. Learning that education and health care top the list of Oregonians’ policy concerns does not translate into a willingness to pay more for those services. We just don’t have enough faith that government can solve big problems, and we have more pressing needs in our own households.

So, at a time when most of us are getting our kicker checks in the mail, I’m confident that most will put that money to good use on their own families. Others will make generous tax-deductible donations to non-profits they believe are better at solving the problems that concern them than government.

So, don’t feel guilty about whatever you do with your kicker check. It’s your money; you earned it, and who better to decide what cause it should go to?


Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank working hard to solve public policy problems with the help of generous Oregonians.

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Posted by at 05:55 | Posted in Measure 37 | 43 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    Thanks Steve. Is it any wonder the level of public dissatisfaction with these people? They don’t seem to be able to do ANYTHING right.

    It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to have a favorable opinion of this governor or the current legislature.

    They are all so woefully inept I actually feel some sympathy for them.

    By the way, I have NO guilt in cashing my kicker check. In fact, I am quite angry that they overcharged me in the first place.

    These people could not run a free-market enterprise if their lives depended on it.

    • Steve Buckstein

      Jerry said: “These people could not run a free-market enterprise if their lives depended on it.”

      Actually, my theory is that some people who act like bureaucrats in a political system would act like entrepreneurs in private firm.

      People respond to the incentives presented to them. The incentives in government lean toward risk aversion.

      In the private sector, people are rewarded for taking risks and creating value, so they do.

      • dean

        Steve…my experience is there are creative people and non-creative people in about equal proportions in the public and private sectors. Creativity in the public sector is stymied by excessive rules, many of which are well meaning but ineffective or inefficient. Creativity in the private sector is stymied by lack of capital or fallback resources should the venture fail.

        • Sybella

          The difference between public sector and private sector, is the public don’t have to worry much about their job. Yes, there are very good public employees and very bad public employees, just like in the private sector. A government employee only loses his job and a private sector entepreneur has put their life and soul into their business, That’s a lot to lose, so they actually work much harder to keep what they have. You are correct in what you say, but does that make it right for the government to make it so much harder on the private. The government has pretty much an open purse, the private guy, you are right is limited. The difference the private guy loves what he doesl

        • Jerry

          But Dean, think about what you just said.

          Who made the stupid rules you say hurt these great people?? Those very same people. Man, what a silly statement. They can’t do a great job because they have hamstrung themselves. How funny.
          How sad. How idiotic.

          I rest my case.

          There is no way government will ever compete with the private sector and there is no way government will ever get better – it is way too late.

          • dean

            Syb…the only disagreement is when you assume government employees do not love their jobs. Many do, and choose teaching, forestry, ecology, highway engineering, policing, firefighting and so forth because they love the work and are willing to put up with the red tape.

            A recent survey in Time Magazine had firefighters as the most satisfied workers of all by the way. Retail clerks (private sector) and social workers (public) are among the least satisfied. Grade school teachers were high up, high school teachers in the middle of the pack.

            An entrepeneur has a differnet investment in the outcome of a business than an employee does, as you are well aware. Most private sector workers are NOT business owners.

            Jerry, the people who made the rules are not “the same people” who have to live by them. When I worked at the Forest
            Service I did not get to make up my operating rules. That happened well up the food chain, and cost a lot in efficiencies.

            Government does not need to “compete” with the private sector. Government needs to do, as efficiently and professionally as possible, what the private sector fails to do, which unfortunately is a lot.

          • Sybella

            The comparison you just made has a big bunch to do with education. Most clerks are clerks because they have no education. Either by choice or lack of funds or desire, or they just like that kind of a job, because it’s partime, easy, whatever, for that matter. The people you spoke about who are in the public sector that love their jobs, generally have put themselves out to get that education. I also did not say public employees did not love their jobs, either one may love their job. I had a ball clerking in a grocery store , but, either the public employee or the clerk, when the job is gone, will go look for another, retire or whatever, maybe just vegetate at the public trough. I don’t know., I do know the business owner puts his life, soul, posessions into his endeaver. If he loses that, he loses all. Why do people hate him for that? Why does the government regulate him out of business?

          • Jerry

            My point was that it is government people who made the rules that hurt the government employees. So, there is not going to be efficient government….ever. It is an oxymoron.

          • Jerry

            The ” a lot” that the private sector doesn’t do is mainly because the government doesn’t want the competition and prohibits the private sector from competing. Like the USPS for example, or the DMV, etc., etc.
            Did you even know that one of the largest customers of Fed Ex is the USPS? And do you know why??? The government can’t move the packages themselves for the same amount of money. They simply can not, so they use the private sector.
            It happens all the time, Dean, all the time.
            Freedom always produces better results than regulations. You need to understand that sometime.

        • rural resident

          Dean …. You’re right about there being creative and non-creative types in both sectors. I disagree a little about your last sentence. There are certainly resource limitations in the public sector. Schools, cities, etc., have limited budgets. There aren’t always additional sources of revenue to fall back on when there is the need or desire to expand a program.

          Sybella …. You seem to infer that people working in the public sector have no emotional (or even, for that matter, financial) investment in the work they do. From experience, I can tell you that many people working in public jobs care a great deal about what they do — too much sometimes. They often do those jobs BECAUSE they care about kids, the elderly, the sick, and others who benefit from their knowledge and skill. In many cases, these people could easily earn more (and deal with less frustration) in the private sector. People who discount them and the work they do have very little understanding of the public sector.

          Jerry …. Are you really so blinded by your hatred of public employees that you believe that they’re that masochistic? The rules, policies, and procedures that hamstring public employees are handed down from above — just like in the private sector. (You’ve never seen an example of idiotic rules and policies in the private sector? You must not get out much.) Except with public jobs, you have an extra set of edict-makers to worry about: politicians. Too often, those who are elected to make things work better pass laws that have the opposite effect. The public often doesn’t understand the nuts and bolts of providing public goods and services. But when they get excited about something, both politicians and agency administrators react — by adding more rules and procedures.

          Government can often compete effectively with the private sector. We get effective and efficient public services when there are sensible administrators overseeing caring, talented people, and where there are enough resources to get the job done. It’s hard work to make it come out the way it should. There are effective and ineffective organizations in both the public and private sectors.

  • Steven

    If we reduced the size of government by 10% every year we could get a check every two years like clock work. I can just imagine all of these rats scuuring around spending as much as they can on wastful things. Stuffing there cheeks full of ill gotten gains. I bet it killed them to give it up. It makes me sick to my stomach to relly know what I know.

  • Steven

    ops spel chk sorry

  • Sybella

    I just read Wydens Healthy Americans Act. I think this bears some watching because at least on the surface it sounds better than anything else I’m hearing.

  • Marla

    Public sector employees care alot about their jobs, just like many private sector people.

    But public sector workers are very risk averse about the careers they chose. A fireman can be a very risk averse job choice in a very risking job (ie fighting fires is very risking, but getting laid off or fired for doing a poor job as a firefighter is unheard of). Public sector workers, because of unions, only have to worry about how LONG they have been a worker, not how WELL a job they have done. Public sector workers DON’T worry about PERFORMANCE, whereas private sector workers, at all levels, have to worry about PERFORMANCE.

    Dean has been a teacher (part time, lack of benefits and salary), but still carries the entitlement mentality of a public sector worker (what more can you do for me, more more more, take take take).

    Imagine if Microsoft was founded by public sector mentalities! You think Bill Gates and his first 1000 employees would have had cots in their cubicles, pulling down 15 hr days? Nope, Gates and the current Googlers are about as far away from public union workers as the public sector workers are from freedom and private enterprise.

    Just compare Microsoft and Google to your local DMV, Postoffice or OregonDept of Education. Sad but true.

    • Sybella

      Thank you, very well said

      • dean

        Marla…you are way over generalizing. Many public sector workers choose their lines not because of job security, but simply because it is the thing they want to be doing the most, and the most available or best opportunities are in the public sector. It is possible, but not easy to become a private sector policeman, fireman, teacher, park ranger, or soldier for example.

        Some are risk averse, some not. I think the error is when we compare public sector WORKERS to business OWNERSs, as opposed to other private sector WORKERS. I would bet risk aversion, assuming one could measure this, is about the same.

        Yes, I am a very part time teacher. But 80% of my income comes from my sole proprietorship consulting business, so don’t assume I have an “entitlement mentality” whatever that is. I up and quit a good paying job with full benefits and a cushy retirement to go into business.

        I have seen public sector colleagues who put in a lot of uncharged overtime, fail to use their vacation allotment, and never take a day off sick. Don’t lump everyone into the same stew.

        By the way, last I heard, Gates, his dad, and a number of other other super rich have been calling for increased taxes on the rich. Why? To pay for public sector workers to do work on everyone’s behalf.

        RR…I did not mean to imply that everything that needs doing can or should get funded. Moderation in all things.

        • Steve Buckstein

          Dean, when you say that the most available or best opportunities for police and certain other positions are in the public sector, an interesting fact is that there are now something like twice as many private security jobs in America as there are public police positions, and we spend almost twice as much on private security as we pay in taxes for police. Why?

          Because government isn’t getting the job done. Its primary job is to protect our lives and property, and it can’t get that job done partially because it’s so busy doing things it doesn’t do very well, or shouldn’t be doing at all. I think many people subconsciously understand this, which is why Adam Davis sees more cynicism about government and politics than he’s seen in his 30 year career.

          • dean

            Steve,
            We differ in our analysis of why people are so disatisfied, and what the appropriate resonse is.

            First, I don’t know too many public police officers who would opt for a private security beat in a department store. Though I hear Blackwell pays very good, they are still spending your tax money.

            Second, think of a lot of private security (i.e. personal bodyguards) it as a user fee. Those with lots of property to lose end up paying for private security, not those of us with little to lose. You should like the free market aspect of that.

            Third, like I’ve pointed out before, the US has 750 citizens in jail for every 100,000 of us. In the rest of the developed world, the numbers run 70-120. So the problem can’t be that our police are not making ENOUGH arrests or that our courts are too lenient.

            Fourth, if the rest of our government efforts on education, social welfare, drug treatment, and community development were better funded, as they are in the rest of the developed world, and if wages at the low end were high enough to keep working families out of poverty, we would need LESS private security and FEWER police and prison guards because there would be less crime to deter or punish. We might even save ourselves money in the bargain.

            The Europeans, Canadians, and Aussies figured this out a long time ago. Why are we so slow on the uptake Steve? What do we know that they don’t?

          • Jerry

            I think that what we know is personal responsibility works best. Everything you ask for lessons personal responsibility.

            And, no, we don’t want to be like Europe, Canada, or Australia.

            The reason we have so many in jail is people like you giving handouts to every lost soul – which results in a dependence mentality, which results in no self-reliance, which results in no self-control, which results in trouble.

          • dean

            Jerry…so in the nations you don’t want to be like, where they give away more to their lost souls, which presumably results in more dependence, less self-reliance and so forth…why are their crime and incarceration rates so much lower than ours? What is your explanation?

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean,

            With regard to America’s higher incarceration rate, I’m not sure it’s so much “what do we know that they (Europeans, Canadians and Aussies) don’t” as it’s the fact that our more diverse society leads to more conflicts requiring police services and resulting in more incarceration. That said, I might agree with you that some of those incarcerated in America shouldn’t be. For example, I don’t believe those who commit so-called “victimless crimes” deserve incarceration. And, the recent US Supreme Court ruling that judges should have discretion to lower crack cocaine sentences is a long-overdue step in the right direction.

            I think you meant Blackwater (not Blackwell) as an example of a private security firm paid with tax dollars. This is an example of oversees services provided by an American company which I don’t think is what we’re talking about here. Perhaps more relevant is the City of Portland (and I believe Tri-Met) hiring private Wackenhut guards because of the lower costs.

            When I first realized the Portland City Hall was guarded by private security rather than Portland police officers I saw it as another argument for getting city government out of areas it shouldn’t be in so that it can afford to provide the essential protection functions that citizens expect from their local governments.

            Less than 25% of Portland’s all funds budget goes for police and fire services combined. Only about 11% of Oregon state’s all funds budget goes for police, courts and corrections. This is not a call to raise government budgets – it’s a call to focus on essential services and get out of areas they have no business being in, such as economic development.

          • dean

            Steve…thanks for the correction on Blackwater.

            Let me pose a thought experiment. Lets say we raised public spending on education and social services by 25%, and after a few years this resulted in a drop in crime and incarceration that saved a greater amount of public money, say 30%.

            Would you support that shift in priorities?

          • Jerry

            I would say it would not work – most certainly it never has – we have been increasing funding for education since the state joined the union – and what do we have to show for it???

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean,

            I have to agree with Jerry on this one; we’ve been raising the real cost of public education for decades, without noticeable improvement in outcomes. Since the 1950s real spending per pupil (adjusting for inflation and student population growth) has risen, not by 25%, but by over 400%. Real spending per pupil has more than doubled since the 1970s.

            I don’t see how another 25% increase will make a difference, except put even greater strains on other priorities in government and our own households.

            My thought experiment would be to DECREASE public spending on education by 25% (leave social services out of it for now), but let the families choose how and where to spend the money, be it in public or private schools. If after a few years the result was better educated and more productive young people, would you support this shift in priorities?

          • dean

            Steve,

            Punting the question back is not alowed. Let me give you a more specific scenario.

            The Perry Center developed a long term study on pre school education. They concluded that spending $1 on early childhood education saves $17 in special education, incarceration, and/or lost productivity from having an under educated work force. That is, $1 spent early saves $17 spent later on.

            This is not liberal mythology. It is probably a key reason the Europeans have fewer social problems than we do. They invest in early childhood education.

            Illinois and Pennsylvania have caught on, and are phasing in access to high quality early childhood education for all. Democrats AND Republicans in those states support this, not out of bleeding heart motives but IN ORDER TO SAVE THE PUBLIC MONEY! Interestingly, rich people already know this works and spend their own money on early education for their kids, while the poor, who can’t afford it, don’t. And where do the special ed kids, the low productivity workers, and prison populations come from? The poor. Duh.

            Assuming the Perry center findings area ccurate, would you support spending public funds to provide quality early childhood education in order to save money later on in other services? In other words, should we have a public INVESTMENT policy or just a SPENDING policy?

            On your school spending figures, are those based on what is being spent from Oregon’s state budget?

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean,

            I think you’re playing with semantics when you ask if we should have public “investment” policy or just “spending” policy.

            Sorry to put the question back to you, but it’s my original post and I’m trying to stay as close to topic as possible.

            Give those parameters, I will say that if certain programs save money in the long run then of course we should consider them as replacements for existing, less productive programs. I just tried to answer your original question by showing that we’ve already tried massive spending increases in public education without results. Adding another 25% won’t help. Show me a different way to use those funds and we have something to discuss. My suggestion for that different way is letting families direct the money rather than the public school system.

            My 400% increase since the 1950s and 200% increase since the 1970s are total public school budgets, not just the state portion. Before 1990 the state put in about 2/3 of those funds, now it puts in about 1/3, but all the money comes out of taxpayer pockets.

          • eagle eye

            Well, Steve, enjoy your fantasy all you want, but Oregonians had a chance to vote on vouchers a few years ago and vouchers got creamed about 2-1 as I recall (even without the idiotic proposal to cut education spending 25%).

            This is an example of how out of touch with reality the Oregon conservatives/libertarians have become.

          • Steve Buckstein

            eagle eye,

            Just because voters said no to a proposal 17 years ago does not mean the idea is a fantasy. Reality is not decided by public votes. I recall Robert Heinlein making this point by asking what would happing if a state legislature passed a law mandating that the mathematical value of Pi were changed from 3.14159… to an even 3, so it would be easier for people to remember and work with. Making the change in law wouldn’t change the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter.

          • dean

            Steve,

            If the funding were for early childhood education, then it would need to be “new funding” since we spend very little on that now. I’m not using semantics. My point, agreed to by most economists, is that some government spending, is akin to capital investment in business. It makes government and society more productive. Developing a port, building dams for hydroelectricity, building transportation systems, building universitues, these are all public capital investments.

            Even the overly expensive OHSU tram fits this category if it makes the doctors and staff and researchers more productive by increasing their access to new facilities.

            Some government spending is just spending, like when we take from the rich and give to the poor, wage war, or warehouse prisoners. This spending may be useful or necessary, but it does nothing to increase our productivity.

            Hasn’t Oregon’s population also increased by about 400% since 1950? I recall we have gone from 1 million to nearly 4 million since 1950, so your increase in spending, which sounds astounding otherwise, may be matched by the population increase no?

            And I think you might have reversed the state vs. local share. State share went up a lot after the property tax limit in 1990.

            Lastly, your original post cited a survey on disatisfaction with “government.” The same survey says people think government needs to be doing MORE, not less on education. So yes, you may have a fantasy problem Steve.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean,

            Debating which government “investments” are productive and which are wasteful may be a long process. What is a good investment at a relatively low cost becomes a bad investment, actually wasting resources, at a relatively high cost. The OHSU tram fits into the latter category.

            Yes, Oregon’s population may have increased 400% since 1950 (I haven’t checked) but my 400% increase in education spending figure is per pupil, so it doesn’t matter whether population rose or fell.

            You’re right, I did mix up the switch in state versus local share of spending since 1990. The percentage provided by the state did rise after passage of Measure 5. Thanks for catching that.

            Finally, while you’re right that the same survey I alluded to in the original post did find that many people thought government needs to do more on education, pollster Adam Davis told the new Revenue Restructuring Task Force at the end of November that people also are saying that they are not willing to pay more, even for government services they think are important.

            It’s easy to say somebody else should pay more for something; harder to agree to pay more yourself. I think the fantasy is being engaged in by those who Frederic Bastiat referred to in 1848 when he said:

            “The state is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”

          • eagle eye

            Steve,

            Try on vouchers again, the same thing will happen. More recent votes in California and Michigan have gone even more heavily anti-voucher than the 2-1 vote in Oregon. No state that votes for Susan Castillo over Rob Kremer 2-1 for super of schools is going to vote for vouchers. But try it again, the voucher people will look just as silly as before.

            The comparison of a vote on a public policy measure with the value of pi is downright silly. To say the value of vouchers vs. public schools is known with the precision of the value of pi. The illogicality of this beggars description.

          • Steve Buckstein

            eagle eye, granted that the value of Pi is precise while the value of most public policy decisions is far less certain, but I was trying to make the same point Heinlein made; that the political process can’t change reality.

            I believe school choice would improve educational outcomes; most voters have disagreed with me. So be it. That doesn’t mean that I should stop trying to make the case.

          • eagle eye

            Fair enough. I voted for vouchers myself, but have accepted that people don’t want or aren’t ready for them, and moved on. I also have doubts about them that didn’t concern me in 1990: mainly, Hispanic and especially Islamic separatism.

          • Steve Buckstein

            eagle eye, I have no problem with people who don’t share my enthusiasm for school choice. I will simply note that during the campaign in 1990 a big concern was the Rajneesh cult in Eastern Oregon. The teachers union ran ads ominously warning that if voters passed Measure 11 (a refundable tax credit – not a voucher) that “even cult schools” like the Rajneesh would spring up. Of course the cult imploded shortly after that, but scare tactics are often effective in the political process.

  • CRAWDUDE

    But I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

    –Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

    • dean

      CD…Perhaps that is what our Latino friends say to themselves when they come north looking for low paying work.

      Steve, how about we all chip into the pot instead and start seing ourselves as in this boat together?

      • Steve Buckstein

        Dean,

        “Chipping into the pot” and “seeing ourselves as all being in the boat together” sound nice, but imply too much of a collectivist mentality for my taste. Of course, we are all part of many communities, and we all “chip in” as we see fit, but we should be able to do so as voluntarily as possible.

        In you boat analogy, for example, the farther the captain (Mayor, Governor, President) is away from us, the easier it is for him to impose rules and costs (taxes) on his passengers without our consent.

      • CRAWDUDE

        True, which is why we need enforce of our borders and immigration laws.

        Dean, 50% of illegals are Mexican, 20% are from Latin and South America; that leaves a full 30% that are non-hispanic. Labeling every illegal as hispanic or latino makes it a racial argument, I know that’s a favorite liberal ploy, I personally think it shows a bit of racial bias when they use it.

        A citizen of ANY other country who is here illegally should be sent home and our borders secured so they can’t return illegally.

  • Jerry

    Dean – if early childhood education is so great then the parents of the children can get that job done and pay for it themselves.
    Not government.
    How idiotic.
    Gimmee, gimmee, gimmee.
    Man, this is sickening.

    • dean

      Jerry…I’m not sure why you can’t get my point other than the ideological blinders you seem to have welded to your head.

      Parents who have the money do sign up their kids and do pay. It is other parents, working families at low wages, who can’t aford to pay $300 or more a month for their kids to be in early childhood programs. My point, and read this slowly: IT IS A GOOD IDEA FOR US, meaning you and me the taxpayer, to yes, subsidize these low income families because it will SAVE US MUCH MORE MONEY down the road.

      You say you are in business. Why is the value of this sort of investment so hard for you to grasp, even after it has been proven to work?

      Steve, you are far more reliant on “the commons” than you think. By the way, it was a PUBLIC employee who saved lives yesterday by investigating a landslide hazard that apparently originated ON PRIVATE TIMBERLAND that buried 6 homes and a PUBLIC HiGHWAY in mud and logging debris.

      If it had not been for his heads up field work lives would have been lost. Not to mention he was trained as a geotechnical engineer, and that specialized training is only offered at our PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES.

      I agree with you that it is better in general to have our rules and decisions made close to home, for many reasons. But our “boat” is bigger than just our local community. The southern states were able to disenfranchise millions of African Americans for nearly 100 years by claiming that the feds should butt out of their affairs. Fortunately liberals risked life and limb to get that situation changed. A national military, linked federal highway system, linked electrical grid, and many other critical bits of our infrastructure have to be managed at scales much larger than any local community.

      Sometimes the larger public interest has to intervene and override the more narrow, local interest.

      • Steve Buckstein

        Dean,

        I agree with you that a public employee did a great job and saved lives yesterday by investigating the landslide hazard. I’m not one who disparages public employees per se. Many are hardworking, diligent people. I just believe that, in general, they work in agencies mired in way too much red tape and politics, and I don’t think that trying to run such agencies “like a business” will help much. I look for ways to provide such services outside of government. I don’t see that as an idealistic approach, but a realistic one.

        Of course we live in larger communities than just our local neighborhoods or towns, but many of the functions done by larger layers of government can and should, in my opinion, be performed outside of government. As mentioned in my post here last night, big national retailers foresaw and responded to the storms days before they hit. Stories abound about how such retailers did a better job helping Katrina victims than did FEMA. My point is that just because we live in complex, big communities doesn’t mean government is, or should be, the only institution that can address those community’s problems.

        • dean

          Steve, with due respect, I think there are deeper issues. From your previous posts it seems that you want to limit government’s role to the very basics, like police, fire and property protection. That does not imply privatizing public service delivery, it implies eliminating public services altogether. You also seem to assume that limiting taxation is the be all and end all in public policy.

          I agree most public agencies can’t be run on the same model as private business, for many reasons. But they can be run much better than they usually are. Al Gore’s ‘reinventing government” changes helped a lot when I worked for the feds, and definitely increased productivity. Much more can be done to stretch, if not eliminate red tape.

          I have no argument at all with “privatizing” public service delivery whenever and wherever that makes either qualitative or quantitative sense. Government alreadly does a lot of that, and probably could and should do more. Much of my own consulting work is with government agencies, so I am an example (good or bad) of government contracting out work.

          Yes, WallMart was Johnny-on-the-spot with fresh water and other materials when FEMA was still looking for its butt during Katrina. But when Clinton ran FEMA we did not have that problem after the Florida hurricanes because he put professionals in charge of the agency, not political hacks. And once the inital help was given, where was WallMart? Back to business as usual, paying its employees barely above minimum wage, fighting off unionization, importing cheap crap from China, that put formerly well paid American workers on the street, and enriching its shareholders.

          Meanwhile who rebuilt the levees? Who got the pumps back in operation? Who is repairing the highway infrastructure? A combination of public employees and private contractors, not WallMart. (And some of the contractors have been busted for ripping us off by the way, so oversight is crucial when contracting out.)

          But overall yes, combinations of public and private initiatives and work are what is required to sustain a complex, interdependent, environmentally healthy, advanced post-industrial economy and democratic society. That is my theme song. I’m still searching for a catchy melody by the way.

          Back to your original post, you said you were “representing the taxpayers” on the task force. I’m a taxpayer Steve. Were you representing my interests?

          I’ll give you the last word as long as you don’t call me names.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean,

            Again, we will agree to disagree on many points, but I appreciate the thoughtful discussion. Rather than respond to all your last points here, I assume we’ll have other opportunities to delve into them in the future. I’ll just answer your last question.

            There are two slots on the 30-member revenue restructuring task force reserved for representatives of “taxpayer associations.” I assume the legislative intent was that at least two of the 30 members should represent those who generally want less government, lower taxes, etc. The second “taxpayer association” slot, however, is filled by someone who certainly represents your views more than mine, and there are a number of other members who want more government, more taxes, etc. so I think you’re well represented without my vote (and I’m a non-voting member to boot).

            And, I try hard not to call people names, so rest easy.

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