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  1. I really like your thoughts. I’d like to see that if you run for office that you can only take money from your constituents with a nominal amount. No more money pouring in from the outside. If you are really good at what you do then your constituents will help elect you with their money. If not, bring on the next guy.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Amen, MSM. Does anyone even listen to or watch campaign advertisements anymore? With a YouTube channel and a website, it costs virtually nothing to get your message or beliefs out. Yet every election cycle, hundreds of millions are spent on campaigns. Pathetic.

  2. I’m so behind in reading this, but your posts are always so fascinating. I think about this often – how there are some professions that seem to breed sloth or the stereotype of it. Honestly, I know that there are lazy teachers who work the system. But at least in my current building, the vast majority of people go so far beyond their regular responsibilities. But you’re right that these problems are an affront to taxpayers! Still, I could probably write a book about how performance-based pay just won’t cut it in all government sectors. It might be one thing when your variable is a pot hole, but when the variable is a living, breathing human whose beloved hamster died the morning of high-stakes testing (and they brought said hamster to school in a shoe box to show everyone)…it gets more complicated than that 😉

    • Mr. Groovy

      Completely agree, Penny. There’s a colossal difference between filling a pothole and helping a human being master some knowledge. The only way performance based pay could possibly work in education is if we make student IQ part of the calculus. For instance, if only 50% of the students have a high enough IQ to understand trigonometry, and only 50% of the students pass the state trigonometry test, then the school is hardly at fault. If on the other hand, only 25% of the students pass the state trigonometry exam, then the school has some explaining to do.

  3. Wow,that was intense! In a good way. And it had a Blazing Saddles clip!

    I haven’t worked for government, but the picture you have painted is clear, and shocking. I’d be willing to support the vote-for-pay scenario outlined here because I see a similar approach being taken in my industry.

    I work at a large non-profit health care system and we (the organization) are subject to payments under a system called HCAHPS, which is a standardized patient survey of hospital inpatients. If patients consistently rank my hospital low in areas such as physician communication, hospital environment, cleanliness, responsiveness and other categories, a not-insignificant portion of the reimbursement or payment is directly forfeited.

    The interesting, if not surprising thing is that, while the HCHAPS has been around since about 2002, results were tied to payment in 2012. So guess what happened starting in 2012? Every hospital in the country suddenly became interested in improving their HCAHPS results. The hospitals that are going to survive are implementing processes designed to improve safety, outcomes and patient experience.
    So this lengthy response indicates to me that your idea could very well work. It’s the Hawthorne Principle in action.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love it, Mr. G. With the proper incentives in place, we could get a lot more out of our bureaucrats than we do now. New York City discovered this in the mid-90s with crime. By doing two simple things, holding precinct commanders responsible for spikes in crime and going after petty crimes (turnstile jumping, public urination, graffiti, etc.), New York City’s crime rate dropped dramatically. Yes, the Hawthorne Principle lives. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  4. I’m a libertarian and honestly the daily schedule you shared doesn’t surprise me one bit! But I’ve become more and more cynical. One thing I have seen work out well is awarding government contracts to private companies. It at least creates some competition and if you layer in performance/incentive metrics it prevents slacking off. But that’s easier said than done and not practical (or desirable) for all government functions.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed, DC. Very tough problem. In general, contracting out government functions to private firms does improve productivity. The private contractors I supervised during my inspector days worked much harder than we did. Also, when the economy suffers a downturn, government can reduce expenses without laying off bureaucrats. For instance, the $1 million usually spent on the asphalt contract annually could be dropped to $500K.

  5. Very interesting. Thanks for the expose. I knew the road crew weren’t working that hard. Why does it take forever to fill a pot hole?
    Voting for pay would be great! Is that realistic? Corruption is a fact of life everywhere. Probably a lot worse in other countries… This is pretty mild.

    • Mr. Groovy

      So true, Joe. I think the only thing that saves us is that most of the world is even more corrupt than us. Check out this YouTube clip I recently discovered about Dubai.

      Slaves of Dubai

  6. This is so amazing to read because I’m surrounded by techs, nurses, and docs who work their butts off all day every day and come in early and stay late to do it. Plus, in Phoenix, our construction crews get stuff done quickly and (seemingly) well. I’m very grateful that projects here are completed in months while they seem to take decades in Houston and in Kansas.

    Your stories read like fiction, though sadly I know they’re true. Your system seems like a good solution, but how is the voting public to know that it isn’t being served well so it can vote accurately?

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Julie. You ask a very important question. It’s very hard for the voting public to know how well they’re being served by the government. These obstacles are somewhat lower at the local level, but are still difficult to surmount. Initially, taxpayers would have to go by anecdotal evidence and limited personal experience. Are the common areas being maintained? Are potholes being repaired in a timely fashion? Are public servants courteous and responsive? Hopefully, in the long run, citizen-journalists would start popping up to blog about the state of local government. They could get into such minutiae as debt, pensions, contracts, and honest graft. They could also start posting video clips of government employees goofing off or being rude. So, yes, getting informed about local government in order to cast an informed vote would be hard. But not nearly as hard as it would have been a generation ago (thank you internet, WordPress, and smartphones).

  7. I agree with what seems to be the majority of comments so far that the linking of pay and benefits between management and workers is a good idea. But the voting would be problematic not so much because of the system (assuming a vote-from-your-home-computer or phone could be implemented) but because in my opinion, a large segment of the population doesn’t know what their local government is doing and doesn’t bother to vote. In fact I didn’t *really* know what my local government was doing until I retired and began watching the town meetings on cable. And what I’ve learned is that my town is probably not so different from yours.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Absolutely, Gary. I couldn’t agree with you more. Voter/taxpayer ignorance is the best protection our politicians have. And that ignorance is very difficult to overcome. But every once in a while I have a compelling need to tilt at windmills. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Always like hearing your lucid and well-reasoned thoughts.

  8. Phew, that was a lot to digest!

    It’s so unfortunate, but I think there will always be sloth and phony baloney. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve the system where we can. Proposals like yours are good starting points. I think government workers should be held accountable, with compensation being tied in part to performance. I also agree with term limits.

    Incredible what really goes on behind the scenes. Thanks for sharing Mr. G!

    • Mr. Groovy

      It is scary what goes on behind the scenes. I’ve always said that it wasn’t the illegal stuff that screwed the taxpayers, it was the legal stuff. It wasn’t against the law to work 2 or 3 hours a day, but that degree of sloth cost way more than whatever money the politicians stole. Thanks for stopping by, Amy. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.

  9. Agh, this is a toughie. It’s hard to overhaul voting systems when politicians are in charge of passing items that would remove their job security. 😉 As it is now, the best way to see significant change in your world is to participate on the local government level–and that includes overhauling it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed, Mrs. PP. It’s so frustrating. Reforms are just about impossible to enact, and even if they are, our slippery politicians have proved to be very adept at finding a way around them. Sigh. There are really only two feasible defenses against honest graft. One, as you pointed out, is to get deeply involved in government at the local level. The second is to limit the amount of money the government at all levels can legally confiscate from the citizenry. My belief is that this limit should be 15%. If the politicians in Washington and all the state capitals can’t solve all our problems with that level of taxation, our problems don’t get solved. Too bad. Thanks for stopping by, Mrs. PP. You always have something thoughtful to share.

  10. Fabulous insight. Thanks for a look behind the scenes! I can’t remember what podcast it was (maybe a Tim Ferris one?) but I remember them talking about the foundation of the working class and how things went from paying for the project to paying for the time it takes to do the project. “I’ll pay you by the hour” makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE when it comes to physical work. The job will take as long as you want it to take…apparently in the case of your crew that meant 8 hours give or take the gathering of tools, driving to and from the site, and a few meal breaks. 😉

    • Mr. Groovy

      Here’s one for you Miss M. A contractor who won our concrete contract in the early 90s bid $1 a linear foot for curbing and $16 a square foot for sidewalk. Those are crazy bid prices. Curbing cost a lot more than $1/lf and sidewalk cost a lot less than $16/sf. So in a world were management cared about the taxpayers, management would load up the contractor with a lot of curbing work orders. It would be a great deal for the taxpayers. Fat chance. Management instead loaded up on the sidewalk work orders. The contractor made a killing. I guess he bought a lot of tickets to Republican Party fundraisers during that contract.

  11. “Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat deprived of on-the-clock leisure.” This gave me some serious giggles – thank you. 🙂 . Last weekend when the fam and I were inhaling old episodes of Early Edition on the Decades binge weekend, we watched an episode where the main character, Gary, took a job as a city council member in order to do right by local citizens. It wasn’t long before he fell head first into the trap of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” roadblocks that were preventing him from doing right by the people. Being it’s a TV series, good ol’ Gary found a way to get what his citizens needed (a stoplight at a dangerous corner)and get the hell out of there by the end of the episode, but in real life it’s not nearly that easy.

    Years ago the local politicians asked me to run for state rep. After much prayer, I decided that there was no way I was going into that game. Yuck. I don’t regret my decision one bit.

    On another note, when I show this to Rick he’ll be thrilled to know he’s right about the work ethics of at least one city crew. 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Laurie. I’m so glad you didn’t run for state rep. You’re much too honorable for politics. Yeah, things were pretty pathetic in my little corner of government. And they were really pathetic when I first started in 1986. In those days, there was no random drug or alcohol testing, and every day the road crews would begin their days by heading to 7-11 for a six pack!

    • We know friends that are elected into our local commissions, it basically is just high school drama & cliques for adults.

      Most have good intentions of doing positive changes, but, you soon get labeled into one camp or another depending on who your friends are outside of the meetings & (to an extent) your profession.

      We had a family friend run for state rep too a few years back & the campaign wasn’t pretty. It was a big decision they prayed about too. Looking back, I’m pretty sure he’s glad he didn’t get elected.

      • Mr. Groovy

        Hey, Josh. I hear ya. I love politics, but I couldn’t stand being a politician. I just hate lying to people. And if I became a politician, I would have to get very comfortable with lying. “No, Mrs. Delusional Parent. Your Johnny is doing poor in school because the schools suck. It’s not because Johnny is a dolt.” If we had term limits, I would encourage more people to give politics a shot. But under our current system, I can’t. It forces good people to sell their souls. Sigh.

  12. I like the premise. I think connecting compensation to results incentivizes working to achieve better results. I would apply that same logic to the public and private sectors.

    Your first paragraph is definitely true of both the public and the private sector. There’s no reason to think that any given individual will treat the taxpayer’s money, the company’s money, or the client’s money as their own. In my experience, most people traveling on the company or client’s dime will spend more on flights and hotels than they would have on their own. (That said, I haven’t experienced anything – public or private – on the level of your story of employee sloth.)

    I like linking benefits between upper level and lower level workers. I like having the highest and lowest salaries linked, too. (Again, this could work well in the private sector, too, where c-suite pay has skyrocketed while worker pay has been stagnant for decades.) I like the concept of linking pay to results, but I am hesitant to sign on to voting as the mechanism for that.

    I think voting tends to reward the appearance of results rather than actual results. It would result in campaigning to show off what you’ve done and it would incentivize short-term cosmetic fixes rather than longer-term deep fixes to problems. Plus, it incentivizes sabotage for any employees that may hate their boss. If you know that your boss’s pay depends entirely on how you do your job, that introduces a whole new set of incentives and I don’t really know where that would ultimately go.

    I think if the target is to link pay to results, we would need to find a more direct way to do that. It gets a lot more into the weeds and would require a different set of standards for each position (or maybe an independent panel of pay judges or something?) but I think it would be worth taking that extra step rather than going with a broad voting scheme.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! I love the way your mind works, Matt. I’ve been thinking about c-suite pay as well. And I would love to give board members and shareholders this option. They could choose a 35% corporate tax or a 0% corporate tax. If they choose the 0% corporate tax, they wouldn’t be able to compensate the CEO more than 30 times the compensation of the lowest paid full-time corporate employee. So if the lowest paid corporate employee received a total compensation package of $40K (salary + benefits), the CEO’s total compensation couldn’t exceed $1.2 million. Also, if the board decided to go with the 0% corporate tax, it would be required to pay out at least a 5% dividend to the shareholders. My guess is that a lot of shareholders and boards would prefer 0% corporate taxes and 5% dividends to 35% corporate taxes and CEO pay that is 300 times more than the average worker’s pay. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. I always appreciate your thoughts. Cheers.

  13. Some of the best, hardest working people I personally know and am friends with are employed by our government. The opposite is also true. The laziest people I personally know also hold government positions.

    That’s said, I like your proposal. Pay for performance worked for Henry Ford, it works in the private sector, and it could work for government as well.

    Personally I’d not take a job where 50% of my pay was in the hands of the masses. I like the idea, but the % seems a bit high. Another thought came to mind; couldn’t the fat cats increase their own max salary simply by raising the salary of the bottom rung? Five times $40,000 > 5 x $30k.

    Good, thoughtful post Mr. G! I too get fed up with the US Government at times but there still isn’t another place I’d rather live (and I’m one that has actually lived outside of North America for several years already).

    Looking forward to reading the comment section on this one. 😁

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Ty. So true about government fielding some of the best workers and some of the laziest workers. I’ll never forget this one equipment operator that worked for my municipality–Rich was his name. Every piece of equipment he touched, whether it was a backhoe or a dump truck, was like an extension of his body. The man was an artist. I only got the chance to work with him one time during a snow storm. One of my operators was out sick so Rich was assigned to my crew. Our streets were never plowed so well. But sadly, Rich was the exception. For every Rich, there were 10 or more guys who could sit in a truck all day reading a hunting magazine and slurping coffee. Meh.

  14. I like the idea that the politicians have to have the same supplemental benefits as workers, and that their max pay is tied to the worker schedule, and that we’re capping their numbers based on the size of the workforce (though that could actually inflate their numbers.)

    But I think your voting scheme is unwieldy at best (we’re controlling the salary of the policy makers, but not the supervisors who have more control over day to day ops.)

    I still think term limits is probably one of the best ways to address the issue.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Unwieldy, yes. I thought his entire post was unwieldy!
      (He lies like a rug about me not reading it. I spent an hour and a half with him this morning pulling teeth on edits, so a normal person like me could follow along.)

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Emily. The supervisors or commissioners who ran my municipality were appointed by the politicians. And believe me, they were every bit as political as the politicians who appointed them. In fact, every commissioner was either the head of a local Republican Party club or very influential in a local Republican Party club. Attacking the pay of politicians and commissioners is the only way to get a handle on the culture of sloth and culture of tribute. But I do agree with you on your unwieldy point. Giving the taxpayers the power to withhold pay from management may not be feasible.

  15. First off, I love Blazing Saddles 🙂

    Second, your proposal is similar to how a lot of companies do it with bonuses. If I don’t perform well, I don’t get a bonus. I agree with you it should be similar for some in politics.

    One thing that would be tough to do is have a vote from the people to determine the bonus. In an ideal world, it would be good, practically speaking, it might be tough.

    Once the government catches up with technology, hopefully we will start seeing better things… who knows though.

    Thanks for sharing – Erik

    • Mr. Groovy

      “He rode a blazing saddle, he wore a shining star.”

      Agreed, Erik. Having the taxpayers vote on bonus money would be tough. But this is mainly because of the voting logistics. Having regular voting for this idea with polls and ballots would be costly and time consuming. But if we can come up with an effective voting app, I think my idea could work. And I say this because of all the levels of government, taxpayers know their local government best. For example, I don’t know what the heck is going on in my neighborhood public schools. Nor do I know what is going on in Raleigh, our state capital. But I do know the condition of our local roads and parks. And I do know if my garbage is picked up every Thursday. In other words, it’s easier for me to gauge the quality of my local government than any other government my taxes support.