Tag Archives: United State

In which I express mock surprise at how well it pays to work for the President of the United States

Evidently, these salary increases are not connected to performance.

Gawker tells the story:

The White House says that many of those positions are considered nonpolitical jobs that come with their own pay schedules, and that what matters is that the total budget and average salary are decreasing slightly. But that doesn’t change the fact that White House staffers who stick it out are being rewarded, on average, for their continued service at a rate that far outstrips how the average white-collar worker is doing. The rhetoric behind the White House salary freeze was about making sure that the people engaged in leading the nation out of its economic mess share a sense of what American workers are experiencing. Unless roughly half of American workers saw their paychecks go up by an average of 8% last year (hint—they didn’t), that’s not the case.


Government revenues are down, but employee salaries are up. Well, not every employee’s salary–just those who work in the President’s staff. If this were a business (which it is not, and no, I’m not saying government should be run like a business), this would be the equivalent of the CEO giving his executives big raises while company revenues are falling.

In other words:

Lest you think that’s a partisan sentiment:


I’d love to hear what those highly paid special and deputy assistants advise on that one.

PS: I’m not opposed to government workers receiving compensation commensurate with their qualifications, job description, and market demand. However, I do oppose policies that have done little but strap us with greater spending liabilities with little to no effect on our revenues.

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Utah Legislature Watch: “Lawyers should be good lobbyists…”

“..but really, they’re pretty lousy.”

Ironic, I know. But that’s the word from Doug Foxley.

Last week I attended a Utah Bar CLE entitled “Utah State Bar Day at the Legislature.” Except, we really didn’t get over to the legislature itself. We sat in an auditorium over in the Capitol Office Building, and the closest we got to a legislator was several lobbyists and the Lieutenant Governor, Greg Bell, who is a former legislator.

So, not quite at the legislature. More near the legislature.

Details aside, however, they morning CLE was geared towards how to better influence and affect Utah’s legislators when we actually got over to see them. (Presumably, this is a “do it yourself” project, or a “do it on behalf of your client” project, perhaps.) But if we do get over there, don’t tell them you’re a lawyer. Or at least, don’t introduce yourself as a lawyer.

Yep. That’s what Doug Foxley said.

But, wait, you say, doesn’t that establish credibility? Not exactly.

You see, chances are, the legislator does not have as much education as you, the lawyer-lobbyist, has obtained. In fact, a recent study bears this out. Adam Brown found that of the 99 legislatures in America, the Utah House ranks #90 in education after high school with only 32% carrying an MA, 4% a JD, and 7% a doctoral degree of some sort.

With that in mind, remember that when you tell the legislator you’ve got some feedback on his legislation “because I’m a lawyer,” he’s not likely to take it so well. After all, who likes to be told what to do by someone who thinks they are smarter than you?

How do you get around this problem? Inadvertent or not, lawyers, intending to establish their credibility by stating their credentials, are actually hurting their efforts. Chris Kyler, who shared the stage with Foxley and Pignanelli, had some common sense advice:

At some point, it is important to let them know you’re a lawyer. Just not right off the bat when you shake their hand.

That said, here are a few other tips for communicating your message to legislators:

  • Remember that the legislature can be an emotional place. Frank Pignanelli called it an “emotional body.” Further, he said, “[l]ogic and reason have no place in the legislature.” Act accordingly.
  • There are hundreds of bills in the legislature, and it’s a really fast session–just six weeks! Legislators have a short attention span; get your presentation down to a two-minute elevator speech.
  • Don’t categorize legislators. Remember that politics makes strange bedfellows. Don’t get sidetracked by a legislator’s apparent ideology.
  • Last: make time to talk to the legislators. If email is your only way to contact them, likely you’re just educating a 20-year old intern, not the legislator.

Utah Legislature Watch: Debate over ‘Democracy’ or ‘Republic?’

Worth it or not, it’s an interesting discussion…for political scientists.

Just kidding. But really: I do think it is an interesting discussion, and I do think it ought to be taught right in our schools. But should Utah legislators be getting their panties in a bunch over it? I’m dubious. They aren’t the most educated gaggle of geese out there honking in the wind; dictating every bit of what ought to be in the public education curriculum might be a bridge too far for me to concede is worth their time.

But back to the point: democracy or republic? One of my favorite blogs to follow–Utah Data Points–has done a little research into the use of ‘republic’ versus ‘democracy’ over the last couple centuries. Adam Brown (who writes the blog) makes two observations I find both interesting and relevant:

  1. Republic‘ and ‘democracy’ have fluxed and flipped over our history; and
  2. Each word’s popularity correlates to references to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, respectively, over the same time period.

Have a look at the first graph from Utah Data Points, showing which word was more popular:

As Brown explains

It turns out that the word “republic” was far more common than “democracy” up until around 1900 in American English. There was a rapid shift between about 1900 and 1920 as “democracy” came into vogue, displacing “republic.” This shift peaked around 1940.

Now, here’s the graph showing references to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson over the same time:

Interesting, eh? Brown speculates that the reason for the shift was the increase in democratic type initiatives around the turn of the last century.

Initiatives, recalls, and referendums are collectively known as “direct democracy.” Just about every state that adopted some form of direct democracy did so between 1898 and 1918. In fact, Utah was among the first to adopt direct democracy institutions. We have both an initiative (e.g. failed ethics reform initiative) and a referendum process (e.g. vouchers overturned) here but no recall.

And the correlation between the two graphs? Perhaps no link… or perhaps there is. Jefferson did tend to talk and write more about the right of individuals and democratic rule, while Adams tends to be seen as fearing “the mob” that was the masses, preferring rule by the more educated elites.

In other words, Jefferson was a populist associated with direct democracy while Adams was an elitist associated with governance by the elected representatives of the people.

And there’s an irony for you: Jefferson is the man who conservatives and the Tea Party seem to quote most often, even while crying “foul!” at the appellation of the label “democracy” on the type of government we have.

John Adams was opposed to promotion of officer...

John Adams, late in life. Image via Wikipedia