Monday, January 16, 2006

Who knew? Sick leave = societal meltdown

The discredited "study" released last week by the red-faced Madison Chamber of Commerce continues to draw comment, mostly from people who can't believe that anything so far wrong could be distributed as a credible report, even at the Avenue Bar.

The Chamber quickly removed the offending document from its website, but you can access a copy here, courtesy of the Dane101 blog.

Susan Lampert Smith, in her Wisconsin State Journal column:

While the report's authors have 'fessed up to bad math that exaggerates the city property tax costs of the ordinance by a factor of 10, the report's apologists, including conservative radio host Vicki McKenna, defend the underlying concept. They say the proposed ordinance will drive businesses from Madison like rats from a sinking ship.

But they don't stop there. If you read the "externalities" list on Page 7, you'll see that our entire quality of life will be destroyed by giving sick workers ... a few days off.

The study is based on the debatable idea that 37 to 185 businesses will leave Madison. After that, it warns, civilization will unravel.

It predicts workers at runaway businesses will start neglecting the kids (substituting commuting time for family time), smashing up their cars (insurance costs will rise to cover the greater incidence of traffic-related injuries and property damage) and speeding (vehicle speeds may also increase as commuters try to minimize their sick time taken for personal or dependent care, raising safety concerns for other motorists).

It won't be safe to go outside anymore.

What makes this even more amusing is that it is followed by a section in which the authors blast "mandatory sick leave rhetoric" which holds that "in Madison, 46,000 workers (and their families) are a sneeze away from homelessness."

I guess it takes rhetoric to know rhetoric.

What's sad is that this report is a lost opportunity for a fair look at the pros and cons of the proposed ordinance. Like a lot of people, I've been on the fence, waiting for some concrete facts before making up my mind...

Once they recover, I hope they'll write a real report, with actual facts, good math and less hysteria.

For guidance, I'd point them to the last page of their own report: "Public policy initiatives based on careful analysis rather than heated rhetoric is the best approach to take."

If I were grading the report's authors, I'd give them an A for that idea, a D for sentence structure, and an F for their ability to follow their own advice.
Another nagging question: If this is at all representative of the work done by NorthStar Economics, does it give you any pause about the content of some of these earlier reports and economic impact studies?


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