Letters to the Editor, Week 8

PUD bill no phantom load

To Okanogan county PUDcommissioners and Administrators:

We just returned from Matt Classicin Tacoma. What a display of athletes and coaches from Okanogan County.You had a State Champion and many that placed very high, all very wellrepresented. Thank you for another wonderful time. 

Picked up my mail on Sundayafternoon, here was my PUD bill, been wanting to expound on that subject forsometime, so here goes. Seems as though you are into us saving money bybilling every month? How will this happen? Since you will be sending outtwice the billing, twice the postage, twice the paper, twicethe time etc. Another is the message about the phantom loads where you canunplug electronics, chargers and appliances, Oh now we are interested inlowering home energy consumption?

I dropped down to detail ofcharges, basic $20, maintained energy charge $30, in my opinion there are yourphantom loads that were voted on by commissions and applied by your manager.You people are only kidding yourselves, but it is working. Just wanted you toknow many of us have lived here longer and know that running a business likethat will not work. So I think you will probably not save on postage and giveit to the AMI system.

We really need this cheery news youhave for us because after all you need to pay for the new building that wecould have done without!

Also I see questions/monthlybilling should be directed to your district office. Again it is at leastanother stamp every month, more pay out for thecustomer, I am giving all of what I have to say to the commissioners and theempire builders, you people should be ashamed. I don’t think you have any moreprinciples than a pig has for Sunday school. Keep on backing up for yourpaychecks and benefits and billing us.

Sincerely,

Gerald Green

(The Phantom)

Tonasket

Worthless Pay Levels Comparison

A while back Mr. Forhan wrote apiece stating state employees were “overpaid.” My usual response to statementslike that is: show me the data. After a few weeks or months, we were given anInternet link (Feb. 17 edition). Sure enough, the data compiled by theEvergreen Freedom Foundation (his link) were nearly meaningless. (Actually, theEFF site does not provide the base data from which they prepared their summarytable of private versus public sector wages. So I still have not seen the realdata on wages.)

Why was I deeply suspicious of Mr. Forhan’s originalclaims? Because I have worked in both sectors, with over 30 in state service,and roughly a decade in private, including a stint with a high end consultingfirm (Parametrix, Inc.). When I left state service in 1999 to work forParametrix, naturally compensation was discussed. I was shown data to allay myconcerns that my compensation at Parametrix as a senior fisheries scientist wasin fact on par with what individuals in that professional role were being paidin similar firms in the Pacific Northwest. I asked about this since my pay wasso dramatically higher than what I was earning with the state I wanted my guiltfeelings assuaged!

At an earlier stage of my careerwith the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, I participated in jobclassification definitions for fishery biologists, working closely with theDepartment of Personnel. Again, salaries for the state employees were based inlarge part on comprehensive surveys of similar positions in other states, aswell as in the private sector in Washington. The Washington public sectorsalary levels were never higher than similar positions locally or in the PNW,but were higher than some similar positions in some states in the Deep South ifmemory serves. (The American Fisheries Society periodically publishes a similarnational review.)

Now the salient point. As usual,the old bromide is true…you can foist any lie using statistics (improperly).The table of salary data provided by the EFF would be laughed out of anyserious statistics class. But to their credit, the EFF actually admits theirfatal error in the fine print: “The information is meant to give an indicationof the disparity between the two sectors, not provide a comprehensivecomparison of wage rates of specific positions between the sectors.” Well, thelatter is precisely what is required for anyone to make the claim that “stateemployees are overpaid.”

Pooling some arbitrary sub-set ofsalaries from each group and calculating means (averages) is utterlymisleading, unless the author is honest and qualifies the informationappropriately. But even that would be very difficult to do. What would one say?Based on the EFF table, I might speculate something like “In Island Countythere is a preponderance of professional-level employees in the public sector,so their mean salary is higher than the predominantly service-level workers inthe county who make much less.” That is the type of sloppy “analysis” the EFFtable represents. Here’s an analogy: note the retail price of 125 differentitems selected at random from 25 stores in Okanogan County, and gather data inexactly the same way in King County. Note: the items chosen in one county arealmost certainly not the same ones selected in the other county. Calculatemeans. Would it be correct to state that the cost of “merchandise” in KingCounty is higher than “merchandise” in Okanogan County, therefore retailers inKing County need an angry mob of irate voters to demand that they cut pricessince the gougers in King County are way out of line? 

Have you heard the phrase”comparing apples with oranges?” Let’s compare apples to apples, like positionto like position in each sector, and prepare a table of those data. (e.g.,compare entry-level civil engineers in both sectors, first-year residentphysicians in both sectors, janitorial staff in both sectors – you get theidea.) If comparisons of 20 or 30 similar job classes show that civil servantsare paid more, then I will be convinced. I am not yet, since all of myexperience has shown that civil servants are not paid higher than theircounterparts.

By the way, the EFF “data” arealready four years old, so more recent pay freezes, cancelled cost of livingincreases, furloughs, etc. are not included in their analysis, fatally flawedas it is.

Bob Pfeifer

Fisheries Scientist (Ret.)

Aeneas Valley, Tonasket

 

Publisher’s response: Bob, it’s often been said that figuresdon’t lie but liars figure. I am not suggesting that you are a liar. What I amsuggesting is that government bureaucrats often twist this data to supporttheir position. I am not opposed to the type of deep analysis you suggest, butwhy doesn’t the state agency responsible for this type of work conduct it? Andwhy don’t they provide it to the Legislature and Governor before those electedrepresentatives sit down to negotiate? Could it be because their own salariesand benefits depend on presenting only data that support their position of weneed to increase wages? Mine is not the only voice suggesting that the pendulumhas swung too far to the benefit of public sector employees at the expense oftaxpayers who can no longer keep up. You’re right that the data is four yearsold. It comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since most private sector employeesdo not have the benefit of “cost of living increases” I doubt that anoccasional freeze has leveled the playing field. I have no doubt that there arespecific jobs where the private sector pays more, but actual data from theBureau of Labor Statistics and Washington’s own Department of Labor indicatethat public sector pay and benefits are generally higher. Want to dig throughthe data? Here’s the link to the information www.bls.gov/bls/blswage

Health care control and monopoly

Memo to Greg James, re Feb. 17th flamer screed:

Americans seem to believe we need an improved healthcare system that will treat indigent US citizens more cheaply and effectivelywith preventive care rather than with the current emergency room care. Theyalso seem to feel the system should be improved to incentivize all those whocan pay to get medically insured.

But dang, Greg, instead we seem to have acquired a newPatient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act that most polled citizensdoubt (with increasing cause) will protect patients or beaffordable. Moreover, it is a:
- government legislated,self-described universal health care bill,
- which was micro-marginallytrick-passed through by a dying, Democrat dominated, government congress(If it was a such a great idea, why not pass it legitimately through thenormal, congressional process?),
- to be administered by the government
- through the establishment ofscores of new government bureaucracies like the Independent PaymentAdvisory Panel empowered to decide if your Medicare case is “cost effective”(not a “death panel,” I’m sure),
- with government dictatedpractice protocols for health care providers under threat of governmentfines and/or revocation of their government issued licenses,
- with government definition ofbenefits and limitations,
- with a government mandateto buy insurance,
- and it’s all to be enforced by avastly expanded, friendly, neighborhood, government Internal RevenueService.

Now, help me out here, how is again that this issomehow not a “government controlled monopoly?” Oh, and howis it that it “has no government universal component?”
William Slusher
Okanogan

Crashing

President Obama isproposing a budget of $3.7 trillion. He includes only tiny cuts in spending -using ‘the scalpel,’ as he puts it. While there are many ways that this dollaramount can be broken down, let’s consider the most basic of $12,000 per man,woman and child for our national population of 310 million.

With the president’s proposed budget, my family ofthree would need to contribute $36,000 as our fair share of the federal budget.Washington State’s spending for the next three years is proposed as $70.9billion for our population of 6.7 million, so our family’s share of this wouldbe another $10,500 per year. Thus the federal and state tax support alone wouldcost our family $46,500 if applied on a per head basis, not to mention thecounty and school district costs. 

These budgets mustaggressively be cut, as these levels of spending are unsustainable. I suspectthat perhaps only 5 percent of families in the Methow are paying sufficienttaxes to meet these per capita costs. Budgets must bear some relationship to the costs average people canafford to pay. To exacerbate the problem, over 1/3 of the cost of the federalbudget is being paid with debt. That too is obviously absurd. We needcourageous leaders who are prepared to correct these problems before a crash.

Little box cutters gavethe 9/11 terrorists the power to destroy people, planes and buildings. Will thescalpel of tiny budget cuts crash our entire country?

Sincerely,

Derek Hartzell

Twisp

P.S. Bill

In further response toBill Forhan’s statement “Democrats long ago abandoned any allegiance to theConstitution” I call his attention to this week’s attempt by Republicans in theHouse of Representatives to extend the so-called Patriot Act. The AssociatedPress article says “… Democrats got only one chance to change the bill: anamendment stating that investigations must comply with the Constitution (myitalics.) … It was defeated on a party-line vote.”

Why are Republicans againstcomplying with the Constitution, Bill Forhan? Are you too a fan of the neo-NaziPatriot Act?

John F. Connot

Everett

Party of no was Right Wing all along

Interesting op-ed pieceto which I have taken the liberty and changed the title to be more accurate! Idon’t want to disappoint you but Obamacare is alive and well, pardon the pun.While I was hoping for a single payer system, Obamacare will serve as anacceptable interim measure. As I am sure you are aware the very expensivelitigation that is being pursued, strictly on partisan lines, will be, in theend, unsuccessful other than burning up millions of tax dollars, that ourConservative brothers and sisters vowed to curtail.

Insofar as your statement that “Democrats long agoabandoned any allegiance to the Constitution, the rule of law or the will ofthe American people,” might be viewed as accusing the Democrats of Treason!However, since I know you I will consider it just a bit of enthusiastichyperbole. Actually, the only Presidents who have met the criteria you outlinedwere Nixon – Watergate, Reagan – Iran-Contra, and Bush – Iraq. But I am nothere to bury Caesar, so to speak. I wanted to expand a bit on your op-ed pieceand suggest that two basic principles were not addressed and are integral tothe discussion. Those principles are: As a citizen of this Nation, Healthcareis a Right not a Privilege. The second principle is: The reason we have medicalmalpractice claims and litigation is that we have medical malpractice. Youassert that the one of the reasons for raging healthcare costs are frivolouslawsuits. There is not a sliver of evidence that frivolous lawsuits impactsignificantly legal costs of defense much less an impact on the indemnityreserves of insurance carriers. The frivolous lawsuit allegation was aneffective tool used by insurance carriers for a short while but eventuallytossed on the pile of Red Herrings. The most recent studies of closed claimsput the number of truly frivolous claims and litigation at approximately 1percent. Medical malpractice claims are very expensive to investigate,difficult to analyze, difficult to prosecute and the outcome at trial is"iffy" at best. Only approximately 5 percent of all of the claims andlitigation filed end up in trial, and insurance carriers win 80 percent ofthose cases.

The reason healthcarecosts are “raging” is that our delivery system is severely flawed. Ourmedical technology is exceptional. We can do a heart transplant, double lungtransplant, kidney and liver transplant, and possibly a brain transplant, butcan’t deliver pre-natal care to our citizenry. Infant mortality in the U.S. ishigher than in Poland! U.S. life expectancy ranks at the lowest of otherdeveloped countries. When the World Health Organization rated the nationalhealth care systems of 191 countries in terms of “fairness’ the United Statesranked 54th. That put us slightly ahead of Chad and Rwanda. (The Healing ofAmerican, T.R. Reed 2009) There is a myth that the U.S. has the “best”healthcare system in the world, and the U.S. has the highest quality ofhealthcare in the world. That is a verifiable myth. What is not a myth is thatour “ROI,” our return on investment of our healthcare dollars is pathetic. Isit unreasonable that citizens of a Nation who fulfill the obligations ofcitizenship not expect that the Nation provide access to affordable and qualityhealthcare for all of its citizens? I think not.

Dwight Burke

LakeWenatchee

Greedy Insurance companies

It’s just amazing that Mr. Forhanneglects to mention the obscene insurance company profits and executive bonuseswhen he lists “some” of the causes for the rising costs of health care. Thismakes me suspect he has an agenda that isn’t about providing the best healthcare at the lowest cost to the American people.

Or maybe simply that he’s anotherof those who just can’t stand the thought of a black man in the White House?

Richard Doggett

Seattle

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