The Cockroach Theory Applied to Governance

A long time ago, one of my friends explained to me the Cockroach Theory:  If you see one cockroach, there are one hundred cockroaches behind the wall.

Recently I came across three examples of the Cockroach Theory as it applies to local, state, and federal issues.

The April 19, 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association conducted a study of workplace wellness and concluded,

Findings:  In this cluster randomized trial involving 32,974 employees at a large US warehouse retail company, worksites with the wellness program had an 8.3-percentage point higher rate of employees who reported engaging in regular exercise and a 13.6-percentage point higher rate of employees who reported actively managing their weight, but there were no significant differences in other self-reported health and behaviors; clinical markers of health; health care spending or utilization; or absenteeism, tenure, or job performance after 18 months.”

What does this mean to us as taxpayers?  How many local taxing bodies (school districts, etc.) are wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on wellness programs that do not reduce health care spending or absenteeism?  How much does Cook County spend on their “My Health Connections” program”?  How much does the State of Illinois spend on their “Get HIP” program”?  Add all of these “hundreds of thousands” and you quickly get to millions of dollars on a statewide basis.

Moving to the state level, the Illinois General Assembly is contemplating HB2691, The Retention of Illinois Students and Equity Act.  Quoting directly from the synopsis:

”Creates the Retention of Illinois Students and Equity Act.  Provides for legislative findings and a definition. Provides that, notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a student attending an institution of higher learning in this State who is deemed an Illinois resident for tuition purposes and is not otherwise eligible to receive federal financial aid shall be eligible to apply or receive consideration for State financial aid, including any student aid or benefit funded or administered by the State, a State agency, or any public institution of higher learning, including, but not limited to, scholarships, grants, awards, stipends, free room and board, tuition waivers, or other financial or in-kind assistance.” 

Reading through the fiscal notes, they state that this program will apply to 3,500 individuals at a cost of $9 million/year.  There is no supporting information regarding how the number 3,500 was arrived at, which leads one to wonder whether the actual number will be closer to 10,500 or 12,500 individuals (for example, to save Southern Illinois University, enrollment in 1990 24,089; enrollment 2017, 14,554) that cash-strapped Illinois taxpayers will be providing financial assistance -- individuals who are not eligible for federal financial aid.  To qualify for such aid, one must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen (have a green card), be registered for the Selective Service if you are a male, and have a valid Social Security number.  Knowing that Illinois is financially distressed, why is the Illinois General Assembly contemplating allocating resources to create this program?

How about the sponsors behind the Fair tax, such as Think Big Illinois and One Illinois voluntarily using their resources to offer scholarships for those who cannot produce a green card, won’t/can’t register for the Selective Service and don’t have a Social Security number instead of giving the bill to overtaxed Illinois taxpayers?

Regarding taxpayers, on April 16, State Senator Laura Fine and representatives Robyn Gabel and Jennifer Gong Gershowitz sponsored a presentation by Ralph Martire from the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability to discuss Governor Pritzker’s Fair tax.  Ralph Martire made a number of assertions.  Among them was that Illinois does not have a spending problem -- Illinois has a revenue problem.  Based on the cockroaches, I see, Illinois has a spending problem.

The above two are examples (cockroaches) of government misallocating millions of scarce taxpayer dollars that do not benefit the residents of Illinois. What are the other hundred behind the wall?  If we killed the cockroaches, could we go a long way towards not needing yet another tax increase?

Finally, on a federal level, the National Center for Bio Technology Information released a study of hip fracture treatment in extremely old patients on July 19, 2014. One chart (table 2 if you look it up online) that is particularly noteworthy is the fact that out of 57 patients who were treated either by a femoral nail or partial hip replacement, eight had Alzheimer’s.  There are other conditions listed such as malignancy, cerebrovascular disease, Parkinson’s, etc.  It is a fair question to ask why Medicare (us) should pay for surgical hip procedures for individuals who have Alzheimer’s.  Why would we perform this procedure on cognitively impaired individuals or individuals who have a short horizon to live?  What about pacemakers?  Who benefits by performing this procedure?   Again, the Cockroach Theory is raised -- if Medicare is paying for such procedures, what other procedures are being performed on incapacitated individuals who have no hope of recovery? 

Remember the Cockroach Theory:  If you see one, there are one hundred behind the wall.  Apply it to how finite taxpayer dollars are allocated on a local, state and federal level.

Kudo’s to Oscar for introducing me to the Cockroach Theory.