No one has ever accused Ron Knecht of being shy, retiring or reticent to speak his mind — even if you have to sometimes wade through a ream of rhetoric and hyperbole to get to what’s on his mind. He gets to the point eventually, I think.
Regent Ron Knecht
Earlier this month Knecht, one of our Nevada System of Higher Education regents, sent a letter to university Chancellor Dan Klaich taking umbrage, disagreement, offense and a bit of high dudgeon over the chancellor’s advertising for a person to be the university’s lobbyist — official title: executive director of government relations.
With all the needs and financial shortcomings of the university system in these troubled times, should it really be spending precious resources on someone whose job it would be to cajole other branches of government?
Now, I’ve always considered the practice of having one branch of elected government spend money to sway another branch of elected government to be akin to self-bribery. Both represent the same constituency and having tax-funded agencies compete for more tax money seems inefficient and just feather-bedding the public payroll.
Here is how Regent Knecht puts it in his own inimitable style in his 1,800-word letter:
“In a 40-year working career, half in public service and half in entrepreneurial small business, I have observed in government the continuing proliferation of such non-essential positions and of administrators in general, relative to the number of people who actually do the primary work of their agencies. These folks spend a lot of time talking to each other and crafting regulations, hoops and make-work that burden the folks doing the real work and especially burden taxpayers, our society and economy.
“Particularly at the margin, given the long-term accretion of such governmental affairs and administrative folks, their costs to society are high and the social benefits from their work are low and, in some cases, even negative. The main function of many of them is to get paid by taxpayer dollars to schmooze and devise new ways to raise taxes, spending and regulation and to increase their own numbers. This despite the fact that their numbers have increased relative to the numbers of worker bees and taxpayers, and their economic take has risen relative to the overall economy. That is, they consume an ever larger share of the pie, as well as causing, via taxes, an ever-increasing dead-weight loss on society — major reasons that economic growth in U.S. and Nevada is slowing and thus that human well-being is lower than it would be if this social cancer were arrested. That’s why this proposal would be a bad idea any time.”
He calls on Klaich to immediately suspend the search process.
Knecht noted that with a starting salary of $165,000 a year, as advertised, plus perks, travel and support — got to have a secretary — the job could easily cost $300,000 a year. Our tax and tuition hikes in action — you rub my back with tax money, and I’ll rub yours with tax money. Rather incestuous.
Here’s what the ad says the job entails:
“The Executive Director of Government Relations will serve as the chief advisor to the Chancellor and Board of Regents on governmental affairs, policies, and strategies and will oversee both state and federal relations for NSHE. The Executive Director of Government Relations will monitor and report on legislation and public policy issues and advise the Chancellor and other NSHE and institutional administrators of potential opportunities to make use of federal or state funds and policies to support NSHE activities. The Executive Director of Government Relations will mediate and/or advocate for NSHE interests and build relations with elected officials and government administrators for the benefit of NSHE interests. This position will coordinate and direct institutional activities related to government relations during state legislative sessions. The Executive Director will also provide oversight and supervision of NSHE public relations and community outreach efforts.”
Chancellor Dan Klaich
The ad also states:
“Preference may be given to candidates who have had success in working with the Nevada legislature or local governments in Nevada on public policy and budgetary issues.”
Wait a gosh-darned minute there, Ron. I applied for that job! It was in the Sunday newspaper a couple of weeks ago. What are you trying to do? Shut off an unemployed former editor’s shot at a place to slop at the public trough?
My “letter of interest” attached to the application read in part:
“As editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal … I have discussed with elected and appointed officials most of the major issues facing our community.
“This would allow me to act as liaison with these various government entities and advise the university system executives and regents accordingly.”
What I did not say was that in all that time I’d royally pissed off two-thirds of those government entities — including sitting regents, legislators, members of Congress, county commissioners, city council members and school board trustees. Not exactly a resume builder that, but SOP for the job.
Hey, Ron, can you put in a good word for me with the chancellor? I’m sure he liked my column on letting the free market fix higher education, instead of central planners. And who could not have loved my blog on students rallying to demand more tax money to pay for their educations. Of course, the university regents and higher ups appreciated the blog in which I pointed out the number of college graduates who are working in jobs that require nothing more than a high school education or less has tripled since 1992.
I can use the work — and the salary and the benefits and the pleasant chats with ol’ friends over past contretemps in the form of columns and editorials chastising them for being spendthrifts and lousy custodians of the public fisc. I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about it.