Notes From The Ropes

Just over a week ago, I posted an entry on pointing out the deceptions penned by a professor of Higher Taxation up in Reno and published in the Las Vegas Sun. I rewrote the gist of my web post for a newspaper format and submitted it to the Las Vegas Review Journal about the middle of last week, and was pleasantly surprised to find it in the Sunday Opinion section. The reaction has been quite fascinating.

It’s not just the reaction in the comments appended to the RJ article, where government union folk explain that they’ve had to get smaller raises in order to fund expansions of the defined benefit plan (ah, smaller raises that have resulted in one of the highest government paychecks in America, don’t ya know!)  or the university professor who notes that the 10% of his paycheck (matched by 10% more from taxpayers) goes into a defined contribution plan instead of a defined benefit plan, therefore not all government employees are in a defined benefit plan (university professors are the acknowledged exception to the rule, and the only group most of whom gets a double COLA for more than the past ten years).

Casey Gillham, who graduated from UNR in 2004 or so, worked through a brief succession of three government jobs in Northern Nevada before enrolling at Oregon’s taxpayer-funded law school, emailed me that “Your defeat was a glorious day for the citizens of Nevada.  You are a case study on why being an asshole never pays!”

I’d like to see the syllabus for his school’s class on Logical Argument. Of course, it’s pretty tough to logically argue that Nevada’s government employee structure (very low number of them per thousand citizens, along with very high average pay, along with their constant refrain that they need more co-workers) is logical. Or that taxpayers are actually saving money by incurring triple the retirement costs that most private employers invest.

But that’s just exactly what Review Journal correspondent Irwin Kaufman did in his letter to the editor, published today.

LETTERS: Beers’ arguments still watered down

To the editor:

It’s obvious that former state Sen. Bob Beers has a lot of time on his hands. What else could account for his rambling Sunday commentary attacking the well-reasoned post of University of Nevada, Reno professor Elliot Parker? [A]

Mr. Beers, a Republican who lost his re-election bid last month, grudgingly admits Mr. Parker is correct when he states that “only 5.5 percent of Nevadans work for the state or local or governments, the lowest share in the 50 states by far.” This fact was the major premise of the professor’s argument that we need more government employees. [B]

Mr. Beers, however, has another agenda. The professor’s position gave him another opportunity to repeat attacks on the benefits of Nevada’s government employees.

For example, Mr. Beers mentions that Social Security taxes are paid by non-government workers but not by government and school employees. He omits the obvious reason for this disparity: Nevada governments opted out of Social Security, thus saving the state millions of dollars in matching contributions. [C]

Mr. Beers continues with his familiar argument that government employee unions have too much power, without any elucidation. [D]

Finally, he uses the per-pupil costs of Faith Lutheran Jr./Sr. High School to illustrate that education can be provided privately at competitive costs. Because Faith Lutheran is a religious school with a selective admissions policy, this comparison is meaningless. [E}

Mr. Beers could spend his sabbatical auditing classes in economics and education so he can better understand the topics he opines upon.

Irwin Kaufman

Googling Mr. Kaufman reveals an interesting portrait – a profile on soliciting government contracts (education management) but sadly not having a single reciprocal contact. Here are a few thoughts on Mr. Kaufman’s points…

[A] One wonders if Mr. Kaufman actually ready Professor Parker’s article?

[B] One wonders if Mr. Kaufman actually read my article as well. Professor Parker’s argument seems to be that we have a low number of government employees per thousand citizens, therefore we Nevadans are chintzy in funding government, therefore we need more government funding. I pointed out that the Professor is being deceptive by only including his source’s statistic of a low number of employees per thousand citizens, and not telling readers that his source also says Nevada pays near the top of the scale for government workers. My implication is that if we paid government wages closer to national averages, we would have funding available to hire more public servants.

[C] Mr. Kaufman is embarrassingly mistaken. Yes, Nevada taxpayers, in opting out of social security, avoid a social security contribution of 6.2% of wages. In doing so, taxpayers incur a PERS contribution cost of 10% of wages (for state, university, and rural county local government employees) or 20% of wages (for most other government employees) or 30% of wages (for Clark and Washoe County police and fire employees). Mr. Kaufman states that this practice results in taxpayers paying less money to fund benefits. Let’s see… 6% is larger than 10%, 20% and 30%… Mr. Kaufman isn’t making sense.

[D] More proof that Mr. Kaufman has not actually read my article. The entire thing lays the case out pretty clearly.

[E] Huh? Mr. Kaufman appears to be stating that because the private schools do not have to admit disruptive students, you can’t compare per-pupil funding between any private and public school – yet that’s exactly what Professor Parker does in his essay. Mr. Kaufman’s objection would seem to render Professor Parker’s comparison invalid on its face, where I merely showed that his comparison is factually wrong.

A simple equalization measure would be to axe the mandate that government schools force young adults who insist on not learning (and disrupting others) to disrupt the learning of those who are interested.

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