Sunday, January 03, 2016

"Cut And Spend"

Republican tongues let slip "tax and spend" the way normal people say 'um.'   I'd like to point out an alternative view of government - "cut and spend."  As when the cuts you make cost you more than what you save.  This catalyst for this discussion came from this Tweet I saw:

Click to enlarge and focus

For those approaching elder status, it says,
"Cost of Chicago police brutality settlements in 2013: $84.6 million  Savings from closing half the city's mental health clinics: $1.7 million"
The savings in the police department in training, inadequate supervision and accountability systems, from hiring officers with poor education,  poor empathy, and poor ethics, lead to high lawsuit costs that then cause some to justify closing mental health clinics that will lead to more conflicts between the mentally ill and the police.

But before writing this post I had to check on the numbers.  They fit what my personal models of the world would predict, which is all the more reason to double check them rather than assume they are accurate.

I found the police costs in this SunTimes article.
"Brutality-related lawsuits have cost Chicago taxpayers $521 million over the last decade — that’s more than half a billion dollars. . .
In 2013 alone, the city paid out $84.6 million in settlements, judgments, legal fees and other expenses, more than triple the budgeted amount.
That’s a huge expenditure for a city with billions of dollars in unfunded pension obligations, and a budget crisis severe enough to force mental health clinic shutdowns, reduced library hours and higher fees for water, parking and other services.
We’re not suggesting victims of police brutality don’t deserve to be compensated — in some cases no amount of money can make up for ruined lives and lost loved ones — but at a time when Mayor Rahm Emanuel is contemplating painful tax and fee increases to deal with the pension crisis, the budget impact of police misconduct is huge.
The half-billion spent on these cases could have built five state-of-the-art high schools and more than 30 libraries, repaved 500 miles of arterial streets, or paid off a big chunk of the pension bill."  (emphasis added)
And I found the mental health numbers (for 2013, the same year as the police lawsuits) at Chicago Reader:
"The mayor says he saved an estimated $2.2 million with the closings. But as the activists point out, he doled out $500,000 to private mental health providers to help pick up the slack. So he really only saved $1.7 million—in a budget of more than $6 billion—while firing 33 employees. They were among 125 medical employees, most of them black or Hispanic, who got the ax in Mayor Emanuel's first budget."
(I would note, for the record, that the mayor in question here is a Democrat and was Obama's chief of staff when he first became president.  A smart guy, but the danger for smart folks is that they think they understand everything.  And Emanuel clearly doesn't.  Or, these issues aren't his key agenda and he thinks he can let them slide while he pursues whatever he's trying to get out of being mayor.)

The cost of municipal payouts is often hard to figure out.  The Municipality of Anchorage, at least in the past, used to require a non-disclosure clause in their settlements, so the person who wins the lawsuits cannot tell people how much they got paid.  The Municipality spokespeople would then say, "I'm sorry, for privacy reasons, we cannot disclose the amount of the settlement."  They'd make it sound like the privacy of the employee or the citizen was being protected, when in fact it was to avoid embarrassing the the Municipality the way Sean's tweet does.

Cutting doesn't just lead, in many cases, to higher costs for the city.  It can also lead to higher costs for citizens.  Cuts in police may lead to more crime and more vehicle crashes, both of which also lead to higher insurance costs.  Cuts in teachers may lead parents to hire private tutors for their kids.

The spinoff costs are harder to track down and people who only think one-step-at-a-time, have trouble seeing these impacts. And the spatial equivalent to one-step-at-a time is seeing each detail separately, in isolation, and not seeing all the details linked together in the big picture.  Or, in this case, not seeing how the mental health cuts were tiny compared to the cost of the police brutality settlements.   Another reason that everyone should be required to play chess.  OK, I hope I've made my point.  Rambling on surely won't make it any better.

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