Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cutting University Spending, Capping Malpractice Awards

And other News From Knoxville

The Dismal Political Economist is in Knoxville, Tennessee for various business reasons and took time out to examine a few local issues.

The State of Tennessee has cut over $60 million in funding for the flagship university of the State, the University of Tennessee.  As a result there have been sharp tuition and fee increases every year, and the University wants a 12% increase this year.  Two things occur to us.

  1. Cutting government spending does not always mean cutting government spending.  In this case it just results from a shift from one group of taxpayers to another.
    2.  How exactly does cutting $60 million from university funding boost the economic prospects of a    state, region or nation?

Tennessee is enacting a law that limits damages in lawsuits.  As The Dismal Political Economist has already discussed, malpractice awards have been shown to have very little impact on the rise of health care costs.  Capping them does appeal to the instinct of politicians needing to show that they are doing something about a problem without actually doing something about a problem.  The Dismal Political Economist wonders what they will think of next to do after they learn that lawyers, lawsuits and malpractice awards are not causing health care costs to increase.

The State of Tennessee wants to oust some local Utility District Commissioners for malfeasance.  Nothing new here.  This is a story that is becoming all too typical in the U. S. these days, government officials using their position to finance unneeded trips, pay expenses for high cost social functions, and in this case punishing whistle blowers.  Nothing unusual at all in this story, except for the problem that nothing in the story is unusual, it’s very common.

The Dismal Political Economist knows that flat out theft of public money has always been present.  He wonders though when the change was made that said it was ok for government officials particularly at the local level to start using their positions to enrich their lifestyle.  He is old enough to remember when individuals serving on public boards meant serving the public, not the individuals themselves.

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