Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Charlie Likes Lubar's Idea; Right Start, Wrong End

Charlie likes Shel Lubar's thoughts on 'the problem with Milwaukee.' (Note the endorsement of a sister-concept discussed here on Jay's blog, which should be a warning...)

After Lubar makes the obvious point--that education is important and that it ain't happening here--he goes on to ask for another layer of bureaucracy:

"...Something that I do believe is a solution, and I'm bringing this out for the first time . . . a Milwaukee metropolitan fiscal control board. A board that would have as its purpose the final approval of annual budgets of these entities: No. 1, the Milwaukee Public Schools. No. 2, MATC, or if this board didn't govern it, you could at least delegate it to the board of regents. They already make 30% or 35% more than the people at the University of Wisconsin who do have higher degrees.

The Milwaukee sewerage commission. The Wisconsin Center. The Miller Park stadium authority. . . . We've got to revise this whole governance system, and I don't think you'll find an elected person that will disagree."

Shel Lubar's been around for a long time, and is a Democrat Party regular, having been part of the Kennedy/Johnson Administration at FHA. He's a very smart guy (I met him once in the late 1960's/early 1970's and he's smart enough to have stayed away from me ever since...)

But that doesn't make him right on this suggestion.

Lubar begins with the premise that there's a lot of fiscal stupidity being practiced out there by various Gummints in the metro area. Who could disagree?

However, what Lubar SEEMS to be proposing is an un-elected Board which will (effectively) have the power to tax, or at least to control spending. The Board, as he described it, will have authority over multi-municipality and multi-county fiscal issues.

While I am certain that the idea is well-intentioned, it is, nonetheless, a shocking rejection of the principle of subsidiarity which was enshrined in the 9th/10th Amendments to the Constitution.

In brief, the principle states that 'problems should be resolved at the lowest possible level of governance.' In theory and application, 'governance' is not even required--neighbors should resolve barking-dog and lot-line disputes between themselves, if at all possible, and only after that has failed should the dispute be escalated--but then only to the next-highest level, which might be either the local cops or alderman.

You get the idea.

Lubar's 'corporate' background and methods shows here. In many (not all) successful corporate enterprises, there are lots of subsidiary businesses, but all of them get their major spending requests approved by the Big Guy CFO over at HQ. It's a model which works because the Corporate biggies are then all on the same page regarding revenue/spending/ROI, etc.

The problem is that Gummints are not 'corporate entities.' Gummints should be efficient at what they do, similar to corporations--but that's a matter of the honor and integrity of elected officials. Many Gummint operations are simply not "ROI"-measured in the strict sense.

(There's plenty of room for argument and for more precise definitions of the terms but this is a blog, not a dissertation...........)

Lubar proposes to place a group of un-elected people as more-or-less 'watchdogs' over elected people, which is precisely the BEST way to encourage more irresponsibility from the elected officials. ("It's not our call/fault/problem: it's the Board's!!") The State of Wisconsin's Legislature has a penchant for mucking around in local issues (see, e.g., the whole labrynth of "aid to schools" for an example) and has thus fostered the growth and sophistication of the "pass-the-buck" memo to unimagined heights.

Shel and Charlie want MORE of this?

Sorry, Charlie--I can't buy it, despite the goodwill and the temptation to choke the living s&^% out of those elected bozos.....

Eggster agrees, so it's unanimous.

1 comment:

Reaganite said...

Dad, as you know, I did not differ much with you on my post concerning the same subject.

We need, however, to have a discourse (probably in separate posts) about:

1. The meaning of the 9th and 10th Amendments. I do not differ with what you want to achieve; rather, I just disagree that those amendments mandate that result or that they even anticipated anything beyond limiting the federal government.

2. The similarities and differences between government and the private sector. Maybe ROI does not apply (without a broad definition), but for example economies of scale can apply or not apply to basically the same degree as in the private sector (that is, sometimes bigger can be more eefficient, and sometimes it is more wasteful), and so can the benefits of competition (e.g., school choice).