An Outrageous Fortune

My mom sent me an email with a link to Transparent Nevada, which is a website that is tracking the salaries of public employees in the state of Nevada. As far as I can tell the salaries of METRO (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department) employees are not included in their analysis, but I can tell you that most of those salaries are not outrageous at all. Click on the image to the left to see a list of the top 25 earners in the state. The two yellow triangles next to two names indicate that the amounts shown include termination settlements.

I worked for METRO for six years and I definitely wasn’t making the kind of money even fifty pages into their report. Heck, I wasn’t even making the average they show for Clark County on their site. Granted, I worked there 15-20 years ago, but even adjusting for that, it wasn’t pretty.

How does anyone justify paying a fire battalion chief $643,511.82 in salary, longevity pay, vehicle allowance, clothing allowance, boot allowance, tool allowance, incentive pay, sellbacks, standby and final separation pay? That chief makes more money than 14 “average cost” employees. If you drill down on the fire battalion chief position, you will see that no chief made less than $237,000 in 2008.

Does this even make sense?

Firefighters put their lives in danger every day, or at least the risk is there depending on the type of emergency, but when was the last time any of those fire battalian chiefs carried a hose or entered a burning building?

If this isn’t one of the most outrageous examples of wasted taxpayer (on the state level) dollars, I have no idea what is. Battalion chiefs make a minimum of $237,000, fire captains make a minimum of $167,000, and you have go 45 pages into a 157 page result to find a salary under $100,000.

Are their numbers wrong? Am I missing something? Maybe I moved away from Las Vegas at the wrong time.

Our lives are defined by opportunities. Even the ones we miss.
Anonymous

Send A Message, Let Your Voice Be Heard

I’ve created a new category for the HR3962 review posts, which should make it easier for people looking for information contained in the bill.

This evening I am sitting back, relaxing, catching up on some television shows and watching election results from across the country. It looks like a message is being sent to Barack Obama this evening.

Here are some thoughts to get you through until tomorrow.

Thought #1

Each year we, as taxpayers, lose $60 billion due to Medicare fraud, and the top 10 insurance companies make just $8 billion in profit. Exactly how is government run health care going to save money?

So, the next time someone alleges that government-run health care is cheaper because of “lower administrative costs” — a truly preposterous claim on its surface — these numbers would be good ones to have at the ready: $60 billion in annual Medicare fraud, $8 billion in combined annual profits for America’s ten largest insurance companies.

Thought #2

When Barack Obama was elected, he promised there would be transparency from his administration. He finally got around to making the White House visitor log, which is public information by law, accessible to the public. Wow. It only took nine months to open the logs. What took so long? Were they waiting for them to dry after scrubbing them?

I’m amazed at the number of high powered lobbyist types which appear on the list. Didn’t Obama make some sort of promise about lobbyists too?

Thought #3

This is the 111th Congress of the United States of America. Isn’t it ironic that House Resolution 3962 will create 111 new federal bureaucracies?

1. Retiree Reserve Trust Fund (Section 111(d), p. 61)

2. Grant program for wellness programs to small employers (Section 112, p. 62)

3. Grant program for State health access programs (Section 114, p. 72)

4. Program of administrative simplification (Section 115, p. 76)

5. Health Benefits Advisory Committee (Section 223, p. 111)

6. Health Choices Administration (Section 241, p. 131)

7. Qualified Health Benefits Plan Ombudsman (Section 244, p. 138)

8. Health Insurance Exchange (Section 201, p. 155)

9. Program for technical assistance to employees of small businesses buying Exchange coverage (Section 305(h), p. 191)

10. Mechanism for insurance risk pooling to be established by Health Choices Commissioner (Section 306(b), p. 194)

Make sure you click the link above to read about the remaining 101 entries on that list.

Thought #4

Check out the video of the day from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN).

 

Tomorrow is a new day, but tonight, I sleep.

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.
Mark Twain

Clarifications, More Smoke, And Hypocrisy

My thoughts were all over the place last night, weren’t they? Truth be told, that was just the tip of the iceberg. There has been so much going on in the news lately that my head spins until the early morning hours. Most days anyway. I might start doing more random thought posts in the future, just so I get more out of my head before I try to sleep at night.

Even though each of my thoughts last night were short and sweet, I apparently got someone’s attention. I received an email this morning from Mike Kruger, the Online Outreach Specialist for the House Committee on Education and Labor.

If you followed the link I provided last night, you will know that Mike Kruger is the person who wrote the post on the committee website that I quoted in “Thought 1” last night.

In keeping with my own tradition as well as site policy, and in the interest of transparency (something which seems to be have been lost with the current administration), I am going to post the entire email I received from Mr. Kruger.

Please take a moment to read his email, and then I will add my comments afterward.

Mr. Barrett,

I saw your blog post this morning and I wanted to clarify a few things about your thought #1.

First, the revised drug coverage for Medicare comes from negotiations between the White House and the pharmaceutical industry. This article does a good job of explaining the concessions by both sides – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/20/deal-reached-on-cutting-p_n_218431.html – I believe this would be a good link to include in your post to give context to your readers.

Second, while I didn’t encourage people specifically to read the HR 3200, I did link to the clearinghouse page, which includes the bill text, three separate times in the blog post.

We appreciate you engaging in this discussion with a civil tone and inquiring mind. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Cheers,

Mike Kruger
Online Outreach Specialist
Committee on Education and Labor
http://edlabor.house.gov
http://www.twitter.com/edlabordems
http://www.facebook.com/EdLaborCommittee
Click here to sign up for the “EdLabor Insider” e-newsletter

I am going to address his second clarification first, so I can devote the remainder of this post to his first clarification.

I summarized the end of “Thought 1” with the following,

Why don’t they encourage Americans to read the bill itself? Why not encourage people to read the bill so they can learn all the facts about the health care bill at the same time? Those are rhetorical questions people. We all know they won’t encourage anyone to read the bill, why would they? They haven’t read the bill themselves and they know if you read it, you won’t like what you read.

That was the purpose of “Thought 1”. Every time someone mentions HR 3200, they reference news articles, op-eds, blogs, or some other source to find out the facts about the bill. Why not direct them to the bill itself? It drives me crazy.

Why should people focus on what the New York Times, the Huffington Post, CNN, or even Fox News has to say about the bill? Why take their word for it? Shouldn’t we, as citizens, be concerned with the actual text included in the legislation that could change our lives forever?

To be fair, Mr. Kruger did link to the clearinghouse page which includes the text of the bill three times in his post. Again I ask, why not encourage readers to take a look at the bill for themselves by providing a direct link to the bill? If you’re going to report on a source document such as HR 3200, I think it’s imperative that you link to the text of the source document you are writing about to give readers insight on the topic you are reporting about.

Instead of linking to the clearinghouse page three times, why not link to it once or twice and then add a link to the text of the bill directly from your post to save readers the trouble of finding the text for themselves. Remember, the only people who would have seen a link to the text of the bill would have been those who followed the link from the post in the first place.

People are interested in what happens with this piece of legislation, there is no doubt about that, so why not make it easier for them to be engaged in the conversation rather than running an end game around them by leaving them in the dark?

That’s all I was trying to point out last night. Mike’s “clarification” doesn’t really clarify the point I was trying to make but I commend him for linking to the clearinghouse page three times and providing more information to those who are looking for it.

Now, back to the first clarification.

While I was slightly off target by focusing solely on HR 3200 rather than the “negotiations between the White House and the pharmaceutical industry”, Mr. Kruger felt that including another link to yet another article about those negotiations would give better context to you, my readers.

I appreciate the thought Mike, I really do, but I have to say, you gave me far more than you thought you did. Let’s look at that article.

The pharmaceutical industry agreed Saturday to spend $80 billion over the next decade improving drug benefits for seniors on Medicare and defraying the cost of President Barack Obama’s health care legislation, capping secretive negotiations involving key lawmakers and the White House.

Before I type another word, let me make it clear that I have NO issue with Mike Kruger, in fact I greatly appreciate the fact that he took the time to send me that email this morning. Seriously. It’s not often that the people involved in the stories and articles that I write about take the time to contact me. Thank you again Mike, and please keep in mind the remainder of this post is not directed at you personally.

The issues I have are with our Congressional leaders and President Obama.

It’s a known fact that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid conspired to ram this bill through Congress with very little time for disclosure or transparency. Before the August recess most legislators had no idea what was included in the bill but were actually defending a bill they themselves had not read. I bet many of those same politicians will return to Washington, D.C. next week still without having read the bill in its entirety.

President Obama promised to bring change to way things were done in Washington, D.C.. He made it clear that he wanted a transparent and open government.

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

The key word here is transparency. In the eight months he has been President of the United States, his administration has been about as transparent as a smoke screen.

The only reason the White House would hold “secret” negotiations with key lawmakers and pharmaceutical companies is if they wanted to keep something secret from everyone else. Because the health care bill will affect every single American, that “everyone else” is quite literally, everyone else.

For the better part of the past eight years Congressional leaders and pundits were squawking about secret meetings between Vice President Cheney and oil company executives. Now those same leaders have no issue meeting in secret with drug company executives.

If there is one thing transparent about the Obama administration, it’s hypocrisy. I’ve never seen such hypocrisy in my life.

Make sure you take some time today to keep yourself informed about what your government is doing. You can read the entire text of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 by clicking the link in the sidebar here on my site, or visiting the link to the clearinghouse page mentioned above.

Again, I want to thank Mike Kruger for taking the time to respond to my post.