Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Offer They Can’t Refuse

George Cross, former President of the University of Oklahoma, famously said in support of his request for more state funding for his institution, “I would like to build a University of which the football team could be proud.”

I’m sure University of Minnesota administrators would love to add that to their justifications for their biannual request for ever more millions.  Unfortunately that appeal requires a football team that has earned the right to be proud over something, a prerequisite the Golden Gophers have lacked for about two generations.  So they’re stuck with begging for more money for neuromodulation and water quality.  Good luck with that, Poindexters!

The spirit of George Cross does exist in Minnesota however, if not at the U, then at the State Capitol.   The other day Governor Mark Dayton expressed his wish that he’d like to build a citizenry of which the Legislature could be proud. Or, as stated in his own inimitable style:

This legislature I believe is terribly underpaid.  And I think Minnesotans, you know, are getting a better legislature than they deserve.  

He actually said that.  If you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s the video:

This is the kind of gaffe that would have resulted in breaking news updates on local TV and special editions of the Star Tribune, had a Tom Emmer or Michele Bachmann said it.  But I’m not aware of anyone covering it other that WCCO, in this brief snippet.   The AP report, on which most news outlets rely, used the less inflammatory front half of his quote and grafted on a noncontiguous ending:

"The Legislature, I believe, is terribly underpaid," Dayton said, calling for an even bigger legislator raise. "A part-time Legislature is a long ago myth."

Getting beyond this white wash and back to reality, the kicker in Dayton’s comment is:

I think Minnesotans, you know, are getting a better legislature than they deserve.  

Makes you wonder, in Mark Dayton’s mind, what kind of godawful, crappy legislature do we deserve to have?   Not that we risk having, but we DESERVE to have.

The current overqualified, underpaid bunch brought us such classics as relying on electronic pulltabs for picking up the $350 million public subsidy of the Vikings stadium, and only falling 95% short of its revenue goal.  My god, what if we had the legislature we deserve to have? It could have fallen …. 96% to 99% short!  Or maybe they would have stumbled into a way to warp the laws of mathematics and fall more than 100% short.  That’s what we deserve.

Of course, there is no objective standard for what our legislators “should” be paid.  According to Dayton, we’re getting high quality people despite the fact they haven’t gotten a raise in 15 years.  That tells me these politicians are motivated to seek these jobs for reasons other than money.  If that is the case (and it is), we’d be fools to pay any more than we do now.

The dismal science of economics also helps explain why legislators are getting paid less than what they think their qualifications and long hours entitle them to.  From the Wikipedia discussion on the subjective theory of value:

… a buyer in a free market who offers to pay a price lower than that which is commensurate with the amount of labor used to produce the good merely communicates information to the seller about the value the good might create for the buyer. (The price offered is not a measure of subjective value; it is just a means of communication between the buyer and the seller.) The offer is in one sense an expression of the buyer's opinion, which the seller is free to reject.

That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

Something tells me the same political class we have now will be once again begging for their jobs next election cycle, no matter what price we offer to pay.