The Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus wrote a line for one of his plays “You must spend money to make money.” Plautus meant the line as a joke(1) yet 1900 years later people still quote it as if it is an economic law. Take for example, Governor Bobby Jindal’s effort to hire a consulting firm to find ways to save state government money. Jindal’s administration has paid Alvarez and Marsal $4.2 million toward this effort. When asked to justify this expense, Chief Information Officer, Ruth Johnson(2), said “Sometimes you do have to spend money to save money. This contract will more than pay for itself.”(3) Call me cynical but that line’s almost as funny as Duck Dynasty’s Uncle Sy calling his nephew “Pearl Jam”.
Johnson claims the consultants can save The Duck Dynasty State $500 million to $1 billion per year which begs the question: are the people running this enterprise that incompetent? The state’s last budget proposed to spend $14.2 Billion. If we perform a few calculations this means the state is squandering between 6 and 13% of every dollar it spends and that doesn’t even include the $18.5 billion deficit we are running in unfunded promises to future retirees. Jindal boasts that the total “head count” of state employees has decreased from 100,000 to 88,000 meaning 3% of the18-65 population works for the state(4) that equals a government cost of about $4,900 each. That’s 20% of the avg, per capita income in this state and a number 10 times that which cause Bostonians to dump tea into their harbor in 1773.
We don’t need consultants to tell the legislature that it doesn’t need about half of the government it currently employs. If Plautus were alive and writing plays about Louisiana’s
government he might write “You have to blow money to make money…disappear.”
1. See Fragmentary remains of Plautus plays with satrical & comedic titles e.g. “The Lazy Parasite” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/