Thursday, May 03, 2007

Slowing the wheels of government

I know the wheels of government move very slowly. In Milwaukee, the wheels of government may slow even more.

From MJS-

Four years after Milwaukee restricted its clothing purchases to companies with "clean" records, some want to extend the wage and working condition requirements to bidders on dozens of other city contracts.

I appreciate the comment made by the MJS. They captured the essence of the debate perfectly-

The debate, playing out before a Common Council committee, pits the goal of promoting "ethical purchasing" against the practical concerns of monitoring compliance and holding costs down for city taxpayers.

Basically what the Common Council in Milwaukee is attempting to do is restrict all the purchases made for government to a select few companies that can prove that the items they are selling come from companies that pay more than poverty level wages.

In theory, this sounds great, right?

To call this a logistical nightmare would be putting it lightly.

One Milwaukee alderman explains-

"In principle, I think this is good," said Ald. Jim Witkowiak. "Logistically, I think it's a nightmare."

He noted that a company that hopes to sell the city, say, a firetruck, might have to chase down "not hundreds, but thousands (of affidavits) for every switch, hose, belt."

To say that this will be very costly to is a mild statement. Taxpayers will be paying for all of the extra cost involved.

Since I do this for a living, it is very easy to see what a mess this will become for the buyers attempting to purchase items for city employees.

Think about this for a moment. Take something as simple as buying paper. It is easy to assume that purchasing paper for all of the offices throughout the city would cost at least $30,000.

Every buyer would have to ensure that they are purchasing the item thru a distributor that can verify they are paying above poverty level wages. Then they would then have to ensure that the original manufacturer of the paper is paying above poverty level wages.

Then the buyer would have to ensure that the company that shipped the item to their warehouses is also paying above poverty level wages. They may actually have to do this twice. Once for the shipping bringing it in from overseas and once for the trucking company bringing the paper across the US.

As you can imagine, it will take a large amount of time and labor (money) involved to fill this order for something as simple single item as paper.

Now imagine purchasing a fire truck will tens of thousands of different parts from different manufacturers. Each manufacturer of each item would have to ensure that all employees are paid above poverty level wages.

The cost to taxpayers would be astronomical in labor alone. This would also eliminate a ton of competitive bids. Only the very large suppliers would be able to meet the demands of government. This would force any of the medium size companies out of the bidding. They would not have the manpower necessary to verify all of the new paperwork requirements.

Once these large companies had control of the new government process, they can charge whatever they would like to charge and the taxpayers would have to pay the bill.

Buyers for local government would lose their negotiating power.

This idea is bad on so many levels. Even the Milwaukee government that is debating this subject is well aware of the cost increases-

"I think anyone who votes for this understands it is not a cost-savings measure," said Ald. Mike D'Amato, a committee member. "What I would like to know before I vote on it is the true cost."

My company would not dream of restricting our purchasing power for this. Regular businesses would go under if they attempted to do something like this.

Of course, government likes to do this kind of stuff all the time. Government holds a checkbook full of taxpayers dollars. They do not have to worry about going out of business- they just charge the taxpayer more and more and more.

I cannot believe that the Milwaukee government is even thinking about doing this. Do they even care that the taxpayers are overtaxed as it is?

Until we start holding our government responsible for these types of decisions, the government will never stop increasing our taxes.

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