With some foolish comments, Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick of Johnson County sounds like someone who has little idea how the economy works or what government employees actually do.
Speaking to the Wichita Eagle, the Stilwell Republican recently defended Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts by saying the state needed to keep pursuing the path of frugality — which has created a potential $1 billion revenue shortfall and not produced nearly the number of jobs Brownback and his allies had promised.
Once he got revved up, here’s what Merrick said:
“Government employees produce nothing. They’re a net consumer. And you got that cost forever and ever and ever because they’re on the KPERS (pension) plan, they’re on all the government insurance and everything.”
News flash for Ray Merrick:
Those employees doing “nothing” are the schoolteachers, firefighters and police officers employed by governments across the state. These are the hardworking employees who make it possible to educate Kansas children and protect Kansas families.
That Kansas Public Employees Retirement System you are sneering at? It’s something that government employees contribute money to, so they can have a halfway decent retirement. Meanwhile, state leaders like yourself have not adequately funded it for years.
Oh, and those employees doing “nothing” also are paying taxes, buying homes, going to the furniture store, eating out and basically spending money to keep the Kansas economy going, day and night.
UPDATED: On Tuesday, after getting properly criticized on social media by government employees, Merrick issued a statement that said state workers play a “vital role” in the Kansas economy. “That was the intended meaning of my poorly phrased and poorly contextualized remarks,” Merrick said. Don’t give Merrick too much of a break, though. His remarks were recorded, he was talking to a reporter, and he’s a veteran legislator. So I’m of the opinion his original comments were truer to his real feelings than his get-off-my-back statement of Tuesday.
In the original interview with the Eagle, Merrick also spewed some other mindless comments on state spending.
“All areas of government spending will be under scrutiny. Tightening the belt is never easy, but it’s extremely important to the future well-being and prosperity of our state that we allow taxpayers’ own money to remain with them as much as possible.”
First, here’s an idea: Put spending by Merrick and his House cronies “under scrutiny.” Let’s slash the number of House members in half, down to a more financially manageable level of 60 or so. That will save money, and expose Kansans to far fewer foolish legislative proposals every year.
Second, the drivel about letting people keep their “own money” means next to nothing. Ordinary people can’t go out and provide their own police protection, fight fires, pick up trash, pave roads and do the many, many other things that government employees do.
It takes money to run first-class institutions and to provide good public services.
Tax money, that is, something Ray Merrick at least has a passing knowledge of. That’s because he’s a government employee, getting paid with public dollars.
If Ray Merrick wants to see a government employee who produces nothing, he should look in the mirror.