27 February 2009

False Dilemma, True Options

So the headline stated that 40,000 government jobs had to be eliminated or the sales tax raised to 25% (up from 7%).

That's known as the "false dichotomy" or "false dilemma" error in logic. What the headline implies is that "For Puerto Rico to survive, 40,000 parasites must be dumped or We get slammed with a 25% sales tax." That is a false "black or white" framing of the situation. 

Let Me give you statehooders an example: "For Puerto Rico to survive, Luis "The Larva" Fortuño must resign or be abducted by space aliens." 

Okay, wait a minute, that doesn't prove My point.

This one does: "For Puerto Rico to survive, 400,000 people must leave the Island or We declare bankruptcy." What the false dilemma does is frame a larger debate into a convenient window, an either-or limitation meant to prove an often indefensible point.

Note that the false dilemma occurs even if one of the options is actually true. In the headline's case, at least 40,000 government workers need to be fired. There's no rational argument against this, for not only does Our (non)government employ far too many people, Our economic morass simply cannot continue to feed that many blood-sucking mouths.

"But, Jenius," you say, "What will those 40,000 workers do? Most of them support families. Think about the children!" Economic corrections never satisfy everyone. And the longer they are delayed, the larger the impact of the correction.

What could have been easy in the 1970s, after (pseudo)governor Luis "Hire 'Em Sideways" Ferré packed the government with walking vegetables (his percentage increase in government workers over 4 years is exceeded only by the increase seen in 1952-1956, the first four years of Our stupid commonwealth "experiment" in colonialism), and may have been difficult-but-manageable in the 1980s, became a Godzilla in the 1990s and a catastrophe under Sila "Quitter" Calderón and Aníbal "Jellyfish" Acevedo. At this point, We have four decades of political cronyism, corruption, outright theft and rampant cowardice to overcome.

And it demands a correction We can no longer delay.

Raising the sales tax to 25% is not an option. To state that is to blather and babble like an acephalic cretin (a synonym for "politician" or "journalist" in Puerto Rico.) Firing 40,000 workers is just one possible option, but it is virtually a requirement now. Here are others along those lines:

A) Close or consolidate government agencies: Why do We have a Public Buildings Authority, when practically every agency owns, manages or supervises its own buildings? Why do We have separate agencies for Planning and Permits for each of residential, commercial and industrial needs, not to mention environmental issues? Why do We have agencies in Ports and Agriculture that do nothing but mirror Federal government personnel who are the only ones who can carry out the legal functions? 

B) Privatize: It's a dirty word to unions--who should be banned from government--and it's a dirty word when the government keeps its grubby tentacles in the pie. I've said it before and it bears repeating: Privatization of government functions (such as utilities) works well when the government leaves operations entirely in private hands and retains the consumer protection oversight function. There may be problems (cable TV, anyone?), but part of the oversight is to seek out competitive options to improve overall service.

C) Fire sub-contractors: From consultants to advisors to supervisors, Our government hands out sub-contract work like the money to pay them isn't theirs. Here's the golden standard: Unless they're building something, no sub-contractors allowed. 

D) Fix the government's budget to GDP: The fallacy We have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt is that government-based jobs help an economy grow. They don't, because for every dollar in "consumerism" supposedly created by a parasite, two or three times that is lost in wasted time and money. (Bureaucratic deadbeats, anyone?) However, if the government wants to grow its budget and (gasp!) actually help the economy, increasing the Gross Domestic Product--the value of what We produce--is a great way to go about it. A rising tide lifts all boats, but the ebbing tide We have now is creating a "too few lifeboats on the Titanic" feeling.

E) Cut taxes and drastically reduce government spending to energize the economy: Yes, that means government shrinks all over. If it worked for The Great Depression--and it did--then it will work for Us. Especially since We get a $5 billion+ free ride on Uncle Sam(e Old Same Old)'s musty wallet.

That We lack credible leadership is a given. That We have for decades is beyond question. That We can continue with such, with airheads and numbskulls playing the "either-or" game to suit themselves, is not an option. Either We step up and make positive things happen, or We watch what's left of Our future spiral down a gutless drain.

False dilemma? I wish...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

2 comments:

The Insider said...

Hey - if it results in cutting away some low efficiency government payroll, then a "dramatic" statement like 25% tax might just be enough to get the support of the average Medalla drinker... as long as they are not among the 40k.

I can live with that little white lie. Maybe it will be like when a domestic animal gets it first taste of blood, and re-discovers its origins. Maybe more "feeding" will follow.

In fact, let's not fire 40,000 at all. Let's (instead) send 120,000 home with full pay for 16 months and close down or lease out the office space they occupy now, cut air conditioning bills, slash equipment, services, and all operational expenses.

Provide all 120 with an electronic downloadable ebook (slash publication expense) series on entrepreneurship. Create a 20 million dollar forgivable small venture capital fund, and hire Grupo Guyacan to administer training. The fund will be dispersed to those who show viable business plans for "making government operations more streamlined and cost effective, with maximum use of ROI delivering technology".

Then let's find a state that has an outstanding online infrastructure and "lease it" from them plug and play style. Broadcast a user manual to the 120,000 home lurkers and tell them how vital it will be. In fact, tell them that we'll administer a series of tests on it in 12 months. The top 10,000 only will be re-hired as experts in the system and will return to government payroll long term.

As a part of the eligibility to write the test they must have successfully assisted 20 of their friends/family/associates in using the system to complete a transaction. If 20k of the 120k participate and do so, that's 400,000 citizens introduced to online services advantages. We'll borrow from social networks and send out emails saying: "I just renewed my boat license on servicio.pr.gov" ;) For those who can't do it themselves, I can assure their Emo/Rocker teen can figure it out. They can even have a Medalla while sitting in front of the Emo geek paying their parking ticket online, while they think about the line up they're not standing in.

Hire Tony Robbins to speak monthly at the Coliseo for the 120k. ;)

Etc... this was supposed to be a brief comment, until it became fun. ;)

Gil C. Schmidt said...

It was fun for Me, too! I like your idea, for though it may have been meant as tongue-in-cheek, it has elements of usefulness in it that We should take into account. Well, you and I will, but not the people who make decisions on this...