Commentary Magazine


A Lesson in Thrift

In yesterday’s Best of the Web Today the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto highlighted an amusing (and somewhat disturbing) example of liberals’ inability to recognize thrift as a virtue.

A nice example of subtle media bias is a headline that appears over an Associated Press story at the Seattle Times website (we think the headline is the Times’s): “Education Spending: Idaho Worst; Washington Below Average.” Here’s what the story says:

“A report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Idaho remains at the bottom of public education spending.

The [Spokane, Wash.] Spokesman-Review reports that Idaho spent about $6,800 per student for the 2010-2011 school year. Only Utah spent less, at roughly $6,200 per student.”

The headline writer was wrong to use the superlative without preceding it by “Second” or “Next to.” But more important, he used the wrong adjective. Idaho’s spending was the second-lowest, which would make it the second-best from the standpoint of the taxpayer.

But, you may ask, what about the children? Unlike recipients of cash or cash-equivalent benefits like Social Security or food stamps, you can’t measure the benefit of schools in terms of dollars. And this study makes no effort to gauge the quality of education. It could be that Idaho’s school system gives taxpayers an unusually good value for the money.

Today Los Angeles’s CBS affiliate reported on just how irresponsible its mayor had been not with the city’s purse strings (which he has been) but also with his own personal finances:

With just over a month left in his second and final term, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will leave office in June reportedly without a place to live or a car of his own to drive, according to a report published Thursday.

Outside of a rental property in Moreno Valley which brings in about $600 a month, Stewart said that Villarigosa has no major assets despite having been paid over $1.6 million during his time as mayor. Public pension information for Villaraigosa was not available, L.A. Weekly reported.

It seems some liberals are just as irresponsible with their own money as they are with taxpayers’. While that’s of little comfort to residents of Villaraigosa’s city (and state, which is facing severe financial straits of its own), it’s at least good to know that he’ll be spending some of his time upon leaving office reflecting on the importance of thrift, perhaps not so much as a politician as an average citizen.

It’s rumored that Villaraigosa is eyeing Governor Jerry Brown’s seat in 2018. If he is, residents of California must be hoping that he will have taken this lesson of the consequences of out-of-control spending to heart.