O’Guvnah Needs a Brain Check
This has been a banner week of failure for O’Guvnah’s message operation out of the State House. His plans for state worker furloughs and land preservation show a surprising failure of leadership in Soddom on the Severn– more than I had anticipated when he was elected to office. But even more worrisome, he has shown a fundamental lack of understanding of how his own branch of government actually works, and how many of his employees are actually paid.
First, let’s look at the really bad message operation. On the same day he announces state furloughs for a number of workers (I will get back to that later) that will “save” an estimated (and paltry) $34 million dollars (I will get back to that later, too), O’Guvnah then makes the dumbest mistake of his political career by announcing that he will spend $70 million (or 2x the amount of savings) in order to preserve certain tracks of land across the state.
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Message to state workers: You are so damn dumb, that I value land more than I value you and your hard work.
That is a great leadership move there, O’Guvnah. You know why the Irish had a potato famine? Because of this guys ancestors. That’s right. There was some Irish politician back in the 1840s that couldn’t recognize the fact that Ireland was surrounded by the sea and therefore could fish, just like this Irish politician can’t see the sheer vacuous stupidity in spending $70 million while trying to save $34 million.
But it gets worse. You know why? Because O’Guvnah and his minions of stupidity in Soddom on the Severn or Soddom on St. Paul Street don’t know how state payroll works. Oh sure, they have broken down those sectors of employees all nice into little groups from “who we’ll piss of the least” up to “who we can piss off the most”.
But here is your problem: once you get into the upper sectors, a lot of those employees you HAVE TO PAY. Why? Because a fair number of them — especially University System of Maryland Employees — are not paid by tax dollars or fees or tuition. They — like me — are paid through grant dollars from foundations and the federal government, and you cannot change the terms of those grants. Those dollars are not YOURS to determine how they will get paid.
Oh sure, you can make the janitorial staff take a day or two off. But tht is small potatoes in savings. The category of “who we can piss off the most” — professors, researches, research assistants, doctors, computer programmers, etc. — is filled to the brim with grant-funded employees.
So that means fewer furlough days, less furlough money saved per day, and more union employees forced to bear the brunt of your stupid move.
But, let’s also look at this economically: the last thing you want to do RIGHT NOW is contract people’s wages. Oh sure, O’Guvnah loves to rail against Republicans about the decline of middle class purchasing power over the last eight years. Want to know what really kills purchasing power? Smaller paychecks. And smaller paychecks means fewer taxes collected — income taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, and so on. It means the small businesses that surround state offices — restaurants, hot dog carts, convenience stores, and so on — that form the backbone of business in this state will sell less, collect less revenue, and pay fewer taxes. They may even need to layoff people.
It’s called “trickle up” economics you milquetoast liberal. How can you possibly have been in office this long and not understand this?
Let’s go even a step further in terms of the people that work for you. You won’t let employees facing furlough use PTO to offset the loss of pay. Why? PTO is a liability on the state’s books. The only way that the state doesn’t pay out PTO is when you fire an employee FOR CAUSE and you are willing to fight over that. You should WANT employees to use PTO, because you can frame it as “state employees giving back to a state that has given them so much”.
Instead, you say to state employees “Fuck you. I like open space better.”
Which brings me to my final point on your vision and leadership. The day may in fact come when you need initiate furloughs. I don’t dispute that. But why in the hell are you firing that gun NOW at the beginning of a crisis, and not when it gets worse? This paltry amount of money (which is nowhere near $34 million, by the way) won’t help you balance the budget demonstrably in January. I could outline 50 items alone I have seen at University of Maryland, Baltimore that you could aggressively go after — items that you could duplicate at other campuses and offices — to bring their operating costs down. You should wait to piss off your employees until you absolutely have to.
And when you do it, you need to pull Man Perm Miller and Anheuser Busch into the room, and make sure the legislative branch takes their lumps too. Like Legislators forgoing or “deferring” part of their salary. Or cutting back on staffers. If the legislature — just once, for one year — would actually come up with fewer dumb ideas, you would need less staffers to make the dumb ideas sound like good ones in legislation.
Here’s the deal, O’Guvnah: I worked 600 hours for the state in October and November, for which I was paid for 320. I have no problem working hard. In fact, I like to. I am a card carrying member of Workaholics Anonymous. And your furloughs won’t touch me because my job is 100% paid for — including my office space, my computer, and my tools — through grants. But I will be less likely to be willing to work anything resembling overtime in 2009 if I see this is how you treat other employees.
You should keep that in mind. Because your problem right now is a leadership problem. And it far outstrips the budget problem you are trying to solve. So get your brain checked, because someone took it out, and you are missing it right now.
Crossposted at GunpowderChronicle