Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Democrat gets for 46.5 cents what a Republican spends $24.23 on

One of the most frequent claims made by the GOP is that they are better 'stewards' of taxpayer money. In other words, they have made the case that they are penurious and refuse to spend a dime that doesn't have to be spent, and make sure that if it is spent it goes the farthest.

Clearly, nobody wants to see their tax dollars wasted. That is true of Democrats as well as Republicans (and keep in mind that all those Democratic elected officials they claim are not keeping as close an eye on your money, are taxpayers too. It's also their money.) But let's take a closer look at a specific comparison, now that Maricopa county Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R) is planning to move into his new headquarters, which costs $92.5 million.

The building is 128,000 square feet in area. For those of you keeping track at home, that works out to $722 per square foot. Keep in mind that this is for an administration building, NOT a jail. Apparently among other things, the Sheriff is having bomb proof blast doors installed on the way leading to his office. Yeah, I know. After years of making inmates eat green lunch meat and sending his deputies on junkets to Hawaii to investigate the President's birth certificate* Arpaio claims he has a lot of 'enemies.' Never mind that there has never been a single actual attempt on his life. To hear Arpaio tell it, he is at the top of everyone's target list from Mexican cartels and al-Qaeda to federal agents who want to rub him out for being such a 'threat' to the President. Please! This guy makes Donald Trump look rational. To be sure, all sheriffs and law enforcement officers do make enemies (that comes with the job of enforcing the law against bad guys) but the rest of them all manage to do it without getting a martyr complex. Frankly if he's so paranoid about getting 'whacked' then maybe he should retire at the age of 80 instead of forcing the taxpayers to pay for bomb-proof blast doors on his office.

Now let's look at a contrast. Here in Navajo County, in 2009 the Sheriff's office needed another building for administration. Always keeping an eye on the taxpayers money, newly elected Democrat K.C. Clark bought the abandoned former Heilig-Meyers furniture store (about 8,000 square feet) for $50,000. He made the necessary renovations using prisoners on supervised work release from the county jail and moved in. The new building cost taxpayers here $6.25 per square foot, or less than 1% the rate that Arpaio's gilded new digs is costing in Maricopa county.

But wait a second. Isn't Maricopa County a much larger county? Of course it is. And of course the Sheriff needs a larger building to handle a larger staff. And he is getting one. So shouldn't this explain why it is so many times more expensive? Yes, and we just compared the cost per square foot, $722 per square foot for Sheriff Arpaio vs. $6.25 per square foot for Sheriff Clark. So per square foot, Sheriff Arpaio is spending 115 times as much (vs. 1,850 times as much if you just go with up front cost for the building.)

So what about per taxpayer? According to 2010 census data, the population of Navajo County was 107,449. The population of Maricopa County was 3,817,117. So dividing each of those numbers into the cost of the new Sheriff's headquarters, that works out to $24.23 per taxpayer for Sheriff Arpaio, and 46.5 cents per taxpayer for Sheriff Clark. That's about 52 times as much per taxpayer for Arpaio's building. And then you have to consider that a larger county means more staff, but not necessarily proportionately more because there will be at some level an economy of scale (for example, a sheriff in a small county may not need as many staff, but if the county is 35 times as large you still won't need three dozen times as many secretaries.) But this is the best case scenario for Arpaio, cost per taxpayer and he still can't get his use of taxpayer money on his new building to even be one fiftieth as efficient as Sheriff Clark's.

So next time someone tells you that, "Republican" is the same as "careful with taxpayer money," think again. They can say it, but that doesn't make it so.

* here's a thought on another topic-- every bit of evidence in Honolulu has long since been picked over, but birthers like Joe Arpaio's deputies still flock there. If the President had been born in North Dakota, do you think they'd be flocking to Bismarck year around in their intrepid pursuit of finding something that no other birther before has found yet? In fact, if the birthers are right, and the President was really born in Mombasa, Kenya wouldn't the real evidence be there? How come birthers like Sheriff Arpaio's deputies never go to a slum-ridden African city like Mombasa to look? You think that maybe it's because the surfing isn't as good?