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Roger’s Rules

Where your money goes

March 11th, 2013 - 7:56 am

It’s that time of year again.  Like millions of Americans — some 50 percent of tax filers, in fact — I am spending many hours assembling various forms and bits of paper that I will turn over to my accountant, who will then go away to add, subtract, depreciate, amortize, deduct, allow, and expense, presenting us in the end with a long and (to me) unintelligible document, a hefty bill for his services, and pulse-rattling totals to be sent to the U.S. Treasury and the treasuries of various states.

Here’s a question.  What do you suppose those governmental agencies do with all that dough?  Aircraft carriers, I know, are expensive, and I don’t begrudge the federal government a dime for that sort of expense.  And the president, I know, must have his vacations.  The Daily Caller reported that taxpayers spent $1.4 billion on Obama and his family last year.  I can’t say I am thrilled by that, but when you have a federal budget (not, of course, that we have actually had a budget under Obama) of nearly $4 trillion, $1.4 billion might seem almost reasonable.  Almost. (OK, it really doesn’t.)

But what about the rest of the dough? Put the federal spedning to one side for a moment. What about the trillions upon trillions that the state and local governments spend?  Where’s that go?  One of the most irritating aspects of the carnival of fiscal irresponsibility we’ve been subjected to in recent decades is the fact that no matter how much money we send to our masters in Washington and in our state capitals and local bursaries, they always spend more, a lot more, than they get. The $16-point-whatever trillion federal debt gets loads of attention, but what about the billions upon billions in debt that various states have racked up?  California is essentially bankrupt, ditto Illinois, New York, and many other states.  My own state of Connecticut is in a bad way, but why? The population of the state has been stable these past few decades, yet expenditures, and debt, have skyrocketed. Why’s that?

It’s been tricky to answer such questions.  Until now.  A public-spirited chap called Adam Andrzejewski got fed up with the lack of governmental transparency and decided to do something about it.  Hence his invaluable website Open the Books, a project of For the Good of Illinois, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization founded by Mr. Andrzejewski in 2007. The goal of Open the Books is something that the Obama administration came to office promising but never delivered: transparency.  Hence its motto: “Every dime. Online.”

They haven’t quite got there yet, but their database is a formidable thing, and if I were a government or state or municipal employee (or former employee) I would blush to browse through the records it has assembled.  Take a look. While you’re waiting to find out how much more money you will have to send to the bureaucrats who live so well off your hard work, contemplate what the “public servants” in your neck of the woods pull down in salaries or pensions. Here are a few screen shots:

First, I asked for recent Connecticut state and local salaries.

Mr. Calhoun was a successful college athletic coach.  I wonder if the taxpayers are happy about those many millions?  Or how about the millions to various unnamed teachers in Avon, Canterbury, and elsewhere?

Then I thought I’d look at Illinois salaries.  It’s good to be a dean in Illinois:

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All Comments   (21)
All Comments   (21)
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Jim Calhoun was a successful college basketball coach. No doubt his winning teams generated vast amounts of revenue that more than compensated "UConn" for his lavish salary. Some of the other top university salaries would be justified by the recipients' prowess in bringing in grants and gifts.
Universities want the public to think that they are above participation in the grubby details of the marketplace, but nothing could be further from the truth. Some of these salaries, at least, make sense when one understands the economic conditions under which institutions of higher learning operate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The idea that any state or federal servant could retire on a taxpayer funded (and presumably indexed) pension of $402,000 p.a. is grotesque. It bespeaks a kind of administrative rottenness that is disturbingly un-american. That impression is reinforced by the apparent inertia of the american people. The structure is set in cement, and that's the way it is. Americans, with their traditional drive, can-do attitude, thrift and commonsense, seem unable or unwilling to do anything about it.
But - I take great comfort in the fact that Americans can be relied on never to stop fighting. There's still hope.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The universities are not providing a cost-effective education. They're indoctrination factories that provide cushy jobs for regime apparatchiki. Stop going, stop sending your kids there, and don't donate to your alma mater until there has been a HUGE housecleaning.

Some of them need to go bankrupt, and that includes many of the public ones.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Occupy government! They are the 1%!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Don't worry, it's only money. They can always print more.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ridiculously high salaries constitute only one side of the looting of the public treasury. Remember Parkinson's Law? "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Most of these overpaid jerks don't do any productive work.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
University salaries at all levels and in all areas of the Country have become obscene and they whipsaw off each other to make it more obscene every time a job has to be filled. It should be remembered, though, that Republicans control 30 of the 50 states and the state universities have to get their money from the state legislature (mostly). A dean or a chancellor is really just another bureaucrat and just like any other department head in a government; when you have him by his budget, his heart and mind will follow, albeit with a good bit of wailing and knashing of teeth.

Alaska has roughly comparable median income to CT and I'm used to working with pretty high public employee salaries, but we ain't got nothing like these salaries! Some of the university ones may be athletic directors and coaches, we know one is a coach, and they bring in a LOT of money so their may be some excuse for high wages for the athletic staff. Deans, chancellors, and college president types around the Country are just cutting an ever fatter hog and the rest of the administrators and tenured professors just coattail them while most of the actual instruction is done by adjuncts and TAs at very low wages. Post-secondary education really is a communist kleptocracy.

Several of the high dollar retirees are hospital employees. Retirement pay at about two-thirds of the average of the high-three years is pretty common in defined benefit public employee retirement plans, and a doctor or medical department head at around $500K/yr. would have a retirement in the $20K/mth. range. That's a lot of money but not really out of line for doctors in high wage/high cost areas. I know we had some state employed doctors in the $300K range last time I looked and that was some years ago. The real problem is that these defined benefit plans are NEVER adequately funded, and we came to the conclusion that even a very rich state with lots of reserves couldn't keep up with US inflation over the life expectancy of an employee who could in police and fire retire at age 38, in teaching at mid-40s, and regular employees at 48 on 30 yrs. service or 55 on age. The legacy system is Constitutionally protected for those who vested in it so we recognized that going to defined contribution would actually aggravate the underfunding because no more contributions would be made to the legacy system, so legacy retirement pay would have to be supplemented with contributions to the legacy funds from current revenue at some time in the future.

Those teacher salaries are inexplicable in any sane world unless they are some sort of settlement. it isn't an uncommon practice, though it is a very bad one, to have settlements, severance payoffs, or just "go away" payoffs paid as wages so that the employee's high three gets jacked way up, which puts a huge load on usually already underfunded retirement plans. We found lots of this in our polisubs when we started looking at reforming our legacy defined benefit system. We ultimately concluded we couldn't manage it because we didn't have the political capital to rein in the polisubs, so we abandoned it altogether for all new employees since 2006.

And finally, I suspect some of this is just payoffs and good old-fashioned graft and corruption.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Art, I often learn as much from your comments as I do from the excellent article. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences and insights with us. Nickel
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you for the kind words!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This, like other indicators, shows the whole thing for what it is. It's not a government by the people, for the people and of the people, but a massive kleptocracy where the connected, the elites, the vile and corrupt plunder the wealth of the nation and try to hand everyone else the bill.
This won't end well, either in economic ruin or lamp posts and rope.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Parroting the party line is worth hundreds of thousands,observe how their choir is never off key!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The US today reminds me more and more about the USSR in 1970s and 1980s with all its bureaucracy and irresponsibility.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Current government pension plans are often little short of scandalous. So, here are two suggested reforms, which should apply to all future government retirees. (By “government retirees” I mean all those on the public payroll at the local, state, or Federal level, including military personnel.) First, let’s make pensions pensions again, which is to say, you collect on your pension when you’re 62 or older but not before, thereby bringing benefit eligibility into line with current U.S. Social Security rules. The current corrupt practice of lavishing generous “pensions” for life on 40 and 50-year olds is ruinous, and the payments can hardly be considered retirement pensions, whatever else they may be. Second, insure that all retirement plans for public employees be defined contribution plans, and not defined benefit plans, thus putting a greater responsibility on the individual retiree for his future financial security—and less on the hapless taxpayer. The Federal government, incidentally, has had such a plan in place for about 30 years, and governments at the state and local level should be doing the same. Both reforms would do a great deal to help the country balance its books and would bring a certain decorum, to say nothing of a bit more justice, to public pension arrangements.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And, as to your latter point, it might cause the beneficiary to understand that his welfare is more closely tied to the health of the economy and the financial markets than he might have supposed if on a defined benefit stipend from a governmental entity. He would be far less likely to support nonsense like the ethanol mandate or the cap and trade scheme, as well as dozens of other leftist fantasies for hobbling business and thereby damaging the economy and the financial markets.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
They are actually working on using 401K-type plans for new military personnel.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In this economy,a cap should be placed of 30k for new employees.Hell we could farm most of it out to illegal aliens for much less.Give them a taste of OPEN BOARDERS! Hell,we could coax the federal unions into a government shut down,and save ever more!
{i don't want um,you can have um,they're to fat for me}
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry, in much of the Country, $15/hr. ($30K/yr.) isn't really worth getting out of bed for if you're the kind of person who is willing to glom on to the welfare and other benefits. If you're in the unionized states and you're getting up and going to work for $15/hr., you're probably native born and white and you're doing it out of pride, and the 47% thank you for your contribution - yeah right!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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