Saturday, October 27, 2007

No Thank You

This editorial (sent as a letter to the editor of Samoa News) is in response to a letter to the Samoa News Editor by Kali Morrigan. He proposes that the ASG hire me as an Economic Consultant/Czar. This is kind of eerie as this is similar to one of the most exciting scenes in Atlas Shrugged.

There would be no use in being an Economic Consultant/Czar if we believe that the government is the answer to everything.

How could we reduce personnel costs if we believe that it’s the government’s role to be an employment agency? Or that it’s o.k. to hold onto a job that doesn’t add any value to the economy?

How could we reduce taxes if our professional politicians believe they have a higher right to what you earn than you do? How could we reduce spending if we believe we deserve to receive something for nothing?

How could we encourage ourselves to get a better job and better pay through education and by obtaining different skills when we believe it’s the government’s role to raise wages by force?

How could more of us start our own businesses when it’s o.k. for the government to compete against us using our own tax dollars?

Why should we pull in together to help those truly in need when we believe it’s the government’s role to take care of everybody and everything?

Why should we prioritize or even budget our money when we believe the government can order prices down on a whim?

Power is not wisdom; it is intellectual laziness. If you don’t like smoking on buses, for example, you can either 1) call the Governor on his weekly radio program or 2) organize a boycott, lead a protest or have the courage to ask either the bus driver/owner or the smoker to put out the cigarette. One option requires using muscle; the other requires that you use your head.

We all have to reexamine our fundamental beliefs about how freedom works, and this is the only manner I wish to consult. I sincerely thank Samoa News for providing me the space.

Thank you Kali Morrigan for your honest assessment of things.

Friday, October 26, 2007

John Lennon's Dream Come True

If the sort of society that John Lennon sung about in "Imagine" came into existence, what would it be like in practice?

This video, created by "rebekahj," answers that question.

Sometimes, when I hear this song, I wonder if Lennon's first name was actually Vladimir.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Finding the Money

Senator Lolo Moliga asked for suggestions as to how to deal with the “problem” concerning teachers’ raises. I’m glad that he asked.

1) Allow departments to rollover money they save in one fiscal year to use in the next. This budgetary device will give departments an incentive to cut waste and invest money to their most valued uses, whether that is merit-pay for teachers, books, supplies, equipment, etc.

- Prohibit non-emergency reprogramming of department monies.

2) Give schools more autonomy over their budgets. There are different ways to reward teachers for good performance (meaning student performance). One school may offer bonuses while another may have a promotional system based on results. Let them experiment instead of having a one-size-fits-all approach.

- What may work in one school may not necessarily work in the next, or one school may come up a unique idea that the others may not. A decentralized approach with more minds involved is better than a centralized approach with a single mind set running things. Eventually, best practices will proliferate across the school system.

3) Make school budgets for personnel pay dependent on the number of students being educated. Meaning that a school with 20 students should have a larger budget for pay than a school with 10 students. Therefore, there should be a method of indexing the budget to the number of students in the classroom in a way that every child carries a certain amount of dollars with him or her. Moreover, every child should have the freedom to go whichever school his or her parents choose.

- This will empower students and parents as schools will then have to compete for them as customers instead of just consumers of a public good. This will truly put our children as the priority of our educational system.

- By putting responsibility for pay in the hands of students/parents, administrators and teachers, there would be no reason to protest the Fono for pay raises.

4) Privatize public utilities like ASTCA, the Port Administration and KVZK-TV. Sell them off to the highest bidder and use the proceeds to help with the up-front costs of any salary increase proposal. Put what’s left over in an investment account that can assist with payments later on.

- With Blue Sky and Toa Com in the market, the social-economic mission of ASTCA makes no sense. There is no “heart and soul of the government” telephone company in the mainland. It makes no sense to have one in American Samoa .

5) Sell the Sega’ula and other ASG assets.

- Last we heard, we still don’t know what the Governor’s limousine with wings is costing us taxpayers. It would be easier to observe the costs for emergency transport for residents in Manu’a if the ASG had instead bid out a contract to private airlines. The contract can stipulate that for a certain price, an airline would be obligated to make emergency flights at any time of the day; not that our local airlines haven’t been doing a good job of that already.

-Set up a fund to pay for these emergency flights, make contributions to it tax deductible and publicly thank contributors for donating to a good cause. It will serve a mutual benefit in that it will help with advertising for businesses and bring the community together to help our brothers and sisters in Manu’a.

6) Reduce Fono and other governmental leaders’ salaries and allowances and personnel costs. Senator Moliga advised ASPA to do just as much in an effort to lower electricity rates. It would be highly hypocritical for the Fono to not follow its own advice.

The money is there if our leaders choose to look for it. Or they can continue to look the other way.