blank.gif (51 bytes) Privatization Will Result
From Government Bloat

by Dan Steninger

alph Heller's December Nevada journal article on the number of legislators drawn from the ranks of government itself sent me on an editorial rampage about the dangers of putting government employees in charge of the legislature. Heller explained that a full 19 of the 63 solons now pontificating the best way to divvy up the loot flowing out of our pockets and into Carson City draw their off-session salaries from the Carson City end of that pipeline. Scary.

I railed against the fact that these legislator/bureaucrats already--even before the session had started-- have shown us a glimpse of the future: The government-employed head of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, working with the government-employed Assembly majority leader, had bucked tradition and blocked a particular Republican from serving on that committee.

They said the Republican "lacked courtesy and decorum" during the 1997 session. She, Kathy Van Tobel, said the blacklisting was a result of her raising questions over a fishy "merit"pay system designed to enrich some university officials. Both sides probably are telling the truth: She may well have been given the boot for following the smell of that scheme by the legislator/bureaucrats to funnel money to their colleagues; as the legislator/bureaucrats may well have considered doing so discourteous and indecorous.

But after that diatribe, I set about looking for the silver lining in all of this and I think there may be one: Perhaps giving the government class control of the legislature will be akin to giving it the rope with which it will hang itself.

Here's how it might work out to our advantage: By 2005, we figure, those collecting paychecks from taxpayers will constitute a majority of the legislature. The current wage gap that provides government employees with higher compensation than private employees will widen into a wage chasm.

Envy of the teachers' short work year will prompt the other public-sector unions to demand 180-day work years for their members.

Legislators will adopt an "early buyout" program, as pioneered by the Elko County School District, in which legislators will explain--while failing, on occasion, to keep straight faces--how it's to the taxpayers' advantage to encourage all the existing state employees to go on retirement so new ones can be hired "at lower wages." It will be so advantageous for taxpayers to pay for two state employees--one collecting a retirement check, the other a paycheck--rather than just one, legislators will explain, that taxpayers henceforth will be required to pony up additional money to be used as a bonus to encourage existing government employees to retire.

Eventually, the cost of having a government employee do anything--especially when they are all on "summer break" and we'll have to pay double time to get one to report to the job--will rise beyond the legislators' ability to squeeze money out of the taxpayers.

When we hit that point, there will be little option for legislators but to start farming out work to private contractors. Tax-paying constituents are going to be demanding that their streets get fixed and there are enough prisons to lock up the criminals. Legislators will have a tough time rebuffing those constituents by pointing out all the tax collections have been earmarked for government salaries; and the money for that new prison and that batch of asphalt that were promised had to be used instead for early retirement bonuses and an "unforeseen" jump in retirement checks.

At that point we can look forward to private road building, privately owned prisons and even the replacement of public police officers with private security guards. When constituents tire of waiting year after year for the government courts to dispose of their cases, the option of privately operated courts will be their choice.

All of these things already are in operation in other places; and the dominance of the legislature by public employees will force them into existence here. Sure, we'll still be taxed to support all those retired government employees, but they'll die off eventually. The tricky part will be preventing elected officials from replacing them after they die. newspaper. NJ

Dan Steninger is the editorial page editor of the Elko Daily Free Press.


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