The Package and the Lesson
By: Barry Belmont

For those of you attending the University of Nevada, Reno.

If you haven’t already heard, the president of the ASUN,* Eli Reilly, has proposed a “stimulus package” for UNR. The idea is for $200,000 to be spent over two years that “will create 50 new student jobs on campus.” If this isn’t the definition of blindingly moronic, then I don’t know what is.

In fact, if this is considered a “good idea” or is actually thought, by anybody, at any time, for any reason to be an effective way to “stimulate” UNR in a positive way, then I am afraid that everything I’ve ever known, loved, or cared for in humanity is circling the drain.

In the face of “budget cuts” and a “recession” someone’s fearless leader (not mine), Eli Reilly, has seen fit to inflate the budget 10% what it was last year. When START said that cutting the budget of certain programs was going to be necessary and that if elected they would be scrupulous about it, they were screamed out of whatever room they were in. Laughed at, picked on, and called ridiculous, for proposing such a ridiculous idea. And yet with Reilly’s cuts of $12,500 from Flipside, $3,000 from homecoming, $4,000 from Insight, and $50,000 from club support, this course of action is applauded and indeed deemed responsible.

Wait, what? you might ask. Didn’t I just say the budget is 10% greater, and yet there are all these cuts? What’s up? Well you’ll be glad to know that among the increases were: senate wages (go figure…), executive wages (go figure…), professional salaries (seeing a trend?), professional and classified salaries (seriously?), ASUN advertising, Campus Escort, the Leadership Program, and Diversity inititives.

That’s right. Stuff that doesn’t actually help the majority of students in any conceivable way. No money for tutoring, no help centers, no counseling, nothing.

Complaints of slash and burn cutting (with a heavy dose of favoritism) aside, what about this “stimulus package.” Well, 50 lucky students are going to get jobs working for the ASUN or some other department on campus. Fifty make work jobs paid for by people with actual jobs, actually working their way through college. These jobs that Reilly hopes to create don’t exist now because it doesn’t pay for them to exist now. Put another way, the reason there aren’t the 50 jobs he hopes to create out of thin air already existing now is because it is not worth it by the people who would employ them to allow them to work for them. As an example, say there are 20 of you working at the Panda Express (mmm…) on campus. Why aren’t there 25? Because the people paying you will lose money.

The solution, at least in the eyes of someone’s economically ignorant leader? Have student fees pay for those 5 extra workers! According to the “package” the department will only pay for 25% of the student’s salary while the University picks up the 75% slack. Now, Panda Express only needs to value those 5 new employees at 1/4 of what they value their other employees. But, the 1/4 valuable workers will still be paid the same amount! (or close to it) Who exactly is this fair to?

Not the workers who get paid what they’re effectively worth (and not 4 times as much).
Not the majority of students whom this money is being taken away from (~$16.50 per person).
Not the people excluded from the jobs (since there is no way to effectively measure marginal costs for employment in this case).
Not even to the students who get these jobs! Preferential treatment is still unfair even if we like it.

Why do it then? Why not just give every student $16.50 in Advantage Cash or only for the Bookstore and stimulate the University that way? Who gets the jobs? Which jobs are they? Why those jobs? Why not other jobs? Why? Why?

Why?

Because we have a student government. Like all governments it does not, cannot, know the best way to achieve ends. The person in charge* ($8,800) is a History major, the speaker of the Senate ($7,000) is an “International Affairs” major, and of the two newly elected College of Business senators ($870 each) only one is an actual Economics major, though (so far as I know), he had nothing to do with the budget or this “package”: these people do not know what they are doing with money. Even if they were all Ecomonics geniuses, they still wouldn’t know how to properly spend other people’s money better than they do. You can’t know how to do that. And this is one of the major failings of government (next to it being illegitimate and ever-more-tyrannical).

So give it back. Give us back our money. It’s not yours and it’s not yours to give to 50 other people in some misguided attempt to “stimulate” the University. Isn’t it enough that the four people mentioned above have already taken $17,540 from us by themselves? Must they take even more in the name of others? There is nothing worse than a benevolent thief, he knows of no crime greater than that of honest ownership.

And let us, as a final note, never forget that lesson near and dear to us all:

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

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8 Comments Posted in Libertarianism, Local/Nevada, Money
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  • Alyssa

    About time! *grumble grumble*

  • Alyssa

    I’ll work on this one. :D

  • Alyssa

    Okay I made a better one! myspace.com/unrlibertarians. Yeah!

  • Alyssa
  • http://vislupiestgrex.blogspot.com Lupus

    I agree that this program is a bad idea. We are starting a series over at our blog that explores the budget proposal in greater detail. For all the crap we gave the START candidates during the election, we seem to be fairly well aligned on the budget.

    http://vislupiestgrex.blogspot.com/2009/04/this…

  • Mary Hunton

    Ah, ASUN, how you never fail to disappoint!

  • http://vislupiestgrex.blogspot.com Lupus

    I agree that this program is a bad idea. We are starting a series over at our blog that explores the budget proposal in greater detail. For all the crap we gave the START candidates during the election, we seem to be fairly well aligned on the budget.

    http://vislupiestgrex.blogspot.com/2009/04/this…

  • Mary Hunton

    Ah, ASUN, how you never fail to disappoint!