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LETTER: “Right-sizing” report is challenged

To The Editor:

The amusing front-page article on “right-sizing” Maine’s government workforce commits a fundamental error of statistical analysis (“Rigth-Sizing” Maine’s government workforce could save $185M,” TCT, March 3, 2011).

Considering the source—the Maine Heritage Policy Center, otherwise known as “The Ministry of Truth”—one doubts that theirs was an innocent mistake.

MHPC’s “chief economist,” Scott Moody—yes, that Scott Moody—has gone and made up an official-sounding statistic: the “state employment ratio.” Fatally, it compares invalid terms.

For the purposes of his argument, Moody has rather whimsically decided that he should compare the number of public sector employees (including, for no good reason, college workers) per 100 people employed in the state’s private sector (sic).

The “(sic)” is there because that’s what Maine’s private sector is. Comparing the number of Elks Clubs per 100 people employed in our private sector would make it appear that elk outnumber moose in Maine. Those 5.51 public employees per 100 McDonald’s and Walmart minimum-wagers (or whoever constitutes Maine’s cohort of “private employees” now) only partly serve our workforce.

Much of the typical state worker’s emphasis must be on those who are out of work; sadly, this is a large number. More significant, statistically, most state workers are there to process Maine’s elderly and disabled—and that’s a ratio that puts Maine at a competitive disadvantage, no matter how you do the math. We have one of the highest percentages of residents over 65 in America.

Given normal efficiency, we would need a larger-than-normal number of state employees to service them. Therefore, even if our workforce was actually the leanest and most efficient in the nation, it likely would come out rated somewhere near the middle, given the built-in biases of the MHPC’s phony statistic.

And, since the article confidently places Maine 21st in its own biased “employee ratio,” my guess is that, somewhat against all odds, Maine actually does have one of the most efficient state workforces in America!

You will never learn this from the MHPC, whose primary goal appears to be the elimination of the last vestiges of democratic (small “d”) government in Maine, despite the fact that so many of its minions seem to be working for the state these days.

Finally, by my own statistical analysis, at least as valid as anything a trickle-downer can come up with: since MHPC’s regular poison pen pieces seem to be a staple of your front page, I have decided that Twin City TIMES rates first in—wait for it!—the Maine Media Undependability Ratio. Congratulations!

My statistical assessment is at least as valid as anything the MHPC has come up with lately, though I won’t look for it on Page One.

Michael T. Corrigan

Lewiston

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