R-J columnist reveals just who he is looking out for, and it’s not his readers

When one columnist lights into another for slighting some group, it can reveal just where that columnist’s fealty lies.

Take Steve Sebelius’ Friday column in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on one of its few remaining op-ed pages. He employs the column to unleash a full fusillade against Nevada Policy Research Institute in general and its president, Andy Matthews, in particular.

Sebelius — under the headline “Distortions, insults don’t solve problems” — claims “the erstwhile folks at NPRI have stretched the truth like saltwater taffy to create tasty-but-misleading info-chews, full of empty calories for the body politic. If truth is the first casualty of war, intellectual honesty buys it second. And this op-ed shatters any pretense of intellectual honesty by hurling numbers and invective at cops in the hopes of killing a proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase now pending in the Nevada Legislature.”

Within a couple of paragraphs the columnist reveals symptoms of the Stockholm Syndrome, showing more sympathy for his news sources than the subscribers of the paper who should expect their dollars to buy honest reportage with their interests in mind. He brags of his acquaintance with an assistant sheriff, Ray Flynn, who he met while he was a cops reporter for the Las Vegas Sun. “I covered more than one SWAT event alongside Flynn back in the day, and I can testify he worked for his money.”

Most people work for their money. The question in this contretemps is whether the boss — the taxpayers — is getting a good value for that money.

Sebelius takes umbrage with the fact NPRI pointed out in a commentary accompanying the release of 2012 Metro police salaries on its website Transparent Nevada how many Metro staffers were paid “total compensation” north of $200,000, the amount that comes out of taxpayers’ pockets. He seems to think it is unfair to include the police department’s ample benefits and cashing out unused sick leave at retirement.

Matthews reported that more than 149 Las Vegas police employees made at least $200,000 in “total compensation” in 2012. But Sebelius huffed that R-J cop reporter “got the real answer: Just 17 employees made more than $200,000 in salary alone in 2012.”

I suspect he’d also blanch at the figures I came up with: “When you tally the total for each officer, you find 3,307 fetched more than $100,000 in tax dollars in 2012. That is 58 percent of all the salaries listed, which includes several hundred school guards drawing pay more in the range of less than $1,000 a year.”

The R-J news story went to the trouble to back out some of the compensation, though it is not clear just what, so it could report a smaller number: “1,134 employees of the agency’s 5,684 full-time and part-time employees received more than $100,000 in pay alone.”

Neither did Sebelius much care for Matthews comparing Metro’s dire warnings about “dangerous consequences,” unless the sales tax is raised to cover the cost of princely-paid cops, to the mob’s protection racket.

“Now, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is telling the public the same thing — pay up or face ‘dangerous consequences.'” Matthews writes. “Department bureaucrats want the Legislature to authorize a quarter-cent sales tax increase and give the department ‘flexibility’ in using the money. Originally in 2004, tax increase proponents had pledged that the ‘more cops tax’ money would be used to hire new officers.” (A version also appeared in the R-J.)

The R-J columnist also found it ironic NPRI fails to reveal its salaries and donations, while not bothering to publish his own.

Finally, Sebelius asks this series of questions: “Does the system need reform? Is the base pay for officers right (it starts at $45,500 per year)? Should officers who aren’t suffering a medical disability have to wait until age 62 to receive their taxpayer pensions? Should they contribute more to their retirement? Should the pension system be replaced with a 401(k)-style retirement plan for future retirees? Should we switch to a use-it-or-lose-it vacation/sick day policy in local government? And should we eliminate binding arbitration and make elected officials finally and fully accountable for approving each contract? These are all perfectly legitimate questions.”

Of course, not wanting to step on any toes, he doesn’t even attempt to answer any of them.

He concludes with this cliché about cops: “It’s a thankless enough job as it is.”

No, ample pay and substantial retirement benefits and early retirement are the taxpayers’ way of saying thanks. The question is: Are they being too generous for what they get in return.

In 2004, Metro salaries were ranked ninth highest in the nation — behind North Las Vegas, Henderson and Reno and a couple of others. And those are just salaries.

12 comments on “R-J columnist reveals just who he is looking out for, and it’s not his readers

  1. Steve says:

    Andy Matthews was clear, “total compensation” is not “total pay”. Steve Sebelius try’s to muddle the issue by spinning the meaning of “total compensation” into “total pay”.

    Benefits count, always do the math and see if the salary offer remains an increase once you deduct the cost of replacing the loss in benefits.

  2. Thomas Mitchell says:

    I accidentally deleted this post. I reposted from an email, so it may be slightly different from the original.

  3. John L. Smith says:

    What a daffy thought, a newspaper that stands up for readers and little guys.

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. Like I said, it’s the Stockholm Syndrome.

  5. Steve says:

    Is their any other employer who pays its employees to work for a union bargaining against the employer?

  6. Rincon says:

    So we wail about those assigned with enforcing our laws making $200,000 or so, but when those that run hospitals or banks make millions, we applaud. Why? The answer is a childlike faith in the invisible hand, which brought Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Vanderbilt – at the expense of workers paid 30 cents a day. Same as today, only now, workers are paid $8.15/hour. It would have been less, but the nasty government set a legal minimum. If we leave Gates, Buffet, and the Walton family alone, we should leave these cops alone as well.

  7. Steve says:

    “These Cops” are showing us exactly what kind of world you want us to have Rincon. One where the bosses are controlled and ordered around by the workers. I believe that has been tried and failed.

  8. Rincon says:

    So did having the bosses control the workers and order them around. That’s why unions were formed. The voters will soon be deciding whether they like the increasing income disparity in this country. I suspect they will express their displeasure in due course. Prepare for more liberalism in the future. The unfortunate thing is that it will slop over into other arenas like political correctness, etc.

  9. Steve says:

    too late and you will just love it when the “middle class” consists only of public employees under union contracts. That is where your comment takes us.

  10. Rincon says:

    I don’t love it, but I understand that the pendulum swings both ways. There’s no way the voters will fail to react to the rich getting richer for 30 years. It has already happened in California. Rebounding from a 40 billion dollar deficit in 2009, the country’s second worst state budget is predicted by its Legislative Analyst’s Office to be “roughly in balance” in 2013. Guess how they did it.

    The voters passed two propositions that soaked the rich. According to the Economist of 1/19/13, p. 29, “Proposition 30…raised income tax rates on the wealthy and nudged sales tax upwards…Proposition 39…closed a corporate tax loophole.” As goes California, so goes the nation.

  11. Steve says:

    It IS worth noting the first income tax was on the very top of the very top rich people this nation had. You want a real middle class? Get rid of income taxes on all but the top .5% and tax imports like crazy.

  12. Rincon says:

    Overcorrection would be just as bad as the original problem. Some correction is worthwhile though. Otherwise, where would it stop? Would we finally act when the rich have 90% of the country’s wealth? 99%? I merely assert that a backlash from the middle class is likely and perhaps inevitable. It would have been better to have maintained stability in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s