Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Daylin Leach Reponds

Sen. Daylin Leach responds to my Sunday print column. And I respond to his response.
Mr. Spencer

I read your column (pasted below) in the March 6th Delco Times. It was truly bizarre and surreal. I'm not sure what I am in most in awe of. Your environmental indifference was stunning. Your assertion that "trash is not pollution" was ground-breaking in a way that even James Inhoffe would admire. And your theories about the "well known" benefits of building a single landfill to hold all of America's trash for the next 1,000 years...well all I can say is that you should be grateful that your editor is not an obsessive fact-checker.

But I put all of that aside. You clearly have your view, and I can't imagine that any silly factual argument I would make can change it. I also leave for another day any comment on your head-spinning juxtaposition between the pollution of petroleum products in the Pacific and the Pennsylvania legislative pay-raise. As I follow your argument, since we get paid something, we have no moral right to vote on anything. Fair enough.

I write only to point out that we do not in fact receive pay and benefits that add up to "$120,000 to 150,000 per year". Just a gap that big in your guestimate of a salary which is public knowledge suggests a certain lack of obsession with accuracy. Tricky for someone in the news business, but then again I guess we can all agree we aren't living in the age of Edward R. Morrow anymore.

To the extent the truth matters (I know, naive again) our salary is a little more than $79,000 per year. We also receive health care and a contribution towards are pension. The Pension contribution varies depending on your plan, but is in any event under $10,000 per year. Health care coverage is a little more difficult to quantify, and we do contribute towards it. But I agree it was fair to attribute another $10,000 to it. So as you can see, we make less than $100,000 per year. Just to give you some perspective, a 24 year old first-year associate at a Center-City Philadelphia law firm makes about $140,000 per year the first year, and much more after that.

So you were 20-50% off. Well done! That said I'm sure your underlying point, that we should be fine with dumping tons of ever-lasting garbage into our forests and oceans instead of using simple bio-degradable plastic, is still valid. I mean, I'm sure you wouldn't say anything that wasn't true.

Yours in service,


Well, hello my new friend. Let's not bother with the formality of Mister. Please, call me Gil. But I must say that I am amazed that a sitting state senator of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not know the difference between "trash" and "pollution."

One, is "the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms." (That's pollution, by the way.) The other is commonly defined as "worthless or discarded material or objects; refuse or rubbish."

You seem to be under the misapprehension that the two are synonymous. Either that, or you are intentionally blurring the distinction between the two in order to advance an increasingly unpopular political agenda of higher taxes and more government regulation.

But do you really think it is accurate or fair to attribute to me the opinion that it is "fine" to dump "tons of ever-lasting garbage into our forests and oceans instead of using simple bio-degradable plastic"?

I mean, that might work in a campaign ad against a political adversary, but it's actually sort of stupid to do in an e-mail to a newspaper columnist.

You actually read the words I wrote, right? About "properly" disposing of plastic bags and putting them into landfills where they do the neither the world nor people any harm. I wrote nothing that remotely promoted the idea of dumping garbage into "our forests and oceans."

Also, excuse me for mentioning the work of Clark Wiseman of the Gonzaga University who came up with the calculation of a 44 mile-square, 120-feet deep landfill that would be able to hold all of America's garbage for the next 1,000 years. Of course, he didn't do this to suggest the "benefits" of actually building such a facility. It wouldn't be practical, as I clearly stated in my column. The idea was to point out that America doesn't lack space in which to dispose of our garbage.

I have not seen the accuracy of Prof. Wiseman's 20-year-old calculation challenged anywhere. Just because you personally are not familiar with it, why insult my editor?

As for your pay and benefits as a state legislator, you claim they only add up to $100,000 and that I am off in my calculations by 20 to 50 percent. But come on now, Daylin, what did you forget? What did you leave out? You know! That famous $163 a day per diem you guys voted yourselves.

Democracy Rising points out that from 2008 to 2009, 41 state senators took some $775,000 in per diems. That averages out to $18,902 a senator. Throw in your $7,800 car allowance/benefit and that takes you over the $120,000 mark. (Of course the four legislative "leaders" are paid much more than that.)

You are smart to avoid the subject that Pennsylvania has the most expensive state legislature in the country, not to mention one of the most corrupt. And thanks for the perspective about what a private-sector lawyer makes, but it doesn't pass the laugh test.

A more reasonable comparison would be to compare your salaries and benefits to people who do THE SAME JOB in other states. For instance, Texas pays it's legislators $7,200 a year, plus a per diem when in session. Sounds fair to me, especially for what was supposed to be a part-time job.

What do you say we put it on a referendum and let THE PEOPLE vote on it? Schedule it for 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I'm willing to bet we would see the greatest voter turn-out in Pennsylvania history.

Yours in being serviced,


Blogger jake said...

Really enjoy you taking the Senator to the woodshed. What a pompous ass.

Can't help but note the irony of a Main Line Democrat named "leach" whining about how underpaid he is and proposing yet another tax on his long-suffering constituents.

March 8, 2011 at 10:35 AM 

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