What should we do for Steve St. Bernard?

He saved a child’s life. He’s a public employee. So let’s break his union and lay him off.

As Keith points out below, a bus driver named Steve St. Bernard saved the life of a falling child. Since Mr. St. Bernard is a public employee, I suggest that we (1) break his union (2) lay him off and offer him his job back at half his current wage and (3) welsch on the pension he has earned. The only alternative would be to raise taxes on the very rich almost back to their Reagan-Administration levels, and that would be socialism.

As to catching the next falling child, I’m sure we could find a private equity operator to do it, or at least to contract out the job to Burmese workers willing to do it cheaper.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

16 thoughts on “What should we do for Steve St. Bernard?”

  1. Alternatively, we could set the income tax rate at the level of the Eisenhower administration, the last truly conservative Republican president.

      1. Ever notice how we were a third world economy under Ike? Or how weak the middle class was? (snark)

        1. Be careful. You are forgetting that a big reason for the booming economy in the U.S. (and Canada and Australia) during the 50’s was that those were the only First World economies that were not totally devastated by WWII. Exports were huge because there was, literally, no competition. Things are not the same now.

          1. Even with competition, there’s still plenty of money, it’s just that the ultra-rich are hogging all of it. Which they wouldn’t be able to do under the old tax rates.

            Look at this chart and try to imagine what things would be like if the red line wasn’t so far above the others. There would have probably been enough money left over so that girl’s family would have received the services and supports they need and she’d never have gone out the window.


      2. I’m sorry. I forgot to include a preface: “Caution–sarcasm follows”

        The point, of course, is not that we need a 90% top bracket. Rather, the point is that all the b.s. about “high taxes rates” like 39% being a killer of business, incentives, and innocent babies, is just b.s. Back when I was growing up, rich folks still tried their darndest to get richer, even though they were sending most of their marginal increases to Uncle Sam. The modern meme of “high taxes reduce incentive” is not only self-serving propaganda, it’s mind-bogglingly stupid.

        1. I was with you. Seeing as how inequality is often justified as a proper incentive arrangement for the “job creators”, you would think such marginal rates would have had the elites of the day too depressed to get out of bed. Of course, they would have to have suffered with merely been rich, not stinking rich.

  2. I think we should suspend him for unauthorized contact with a potential customer. When taking a potentially liability-generating action such as catching a falling child, line personnel should always consult in writing with their supervisors.

    Oh, wait, it’s the dynamic, nonbureaucratic, results-oriented private sector that keeps doing that.

  3. The monks on the St.Bernard pass decided to shut the rescue dog service about eight years ago. After an outcry, an independent foundation took over the kennel in 2005. So even iconic Swiss dogs get privatised.

    The French police employ 645 working dogs, mainly for drug- and explosive-sniffing and avalanche rescue. They even still have a few bloodhounds.

  4. The word is “welsh”, and many consider it a slur on the Welsh people. Most don’t care, but that could be because they never heard of the Welsh people.

    1. In Yiddish, it’s “welsch.” And it’s no more an ethnic slur than “niggardly.” Its origin is apparently the defalcation of an English bookie named Bob Welsh.

      1. Your suggested derivation finds no support in the OED, which gives the etymology thus:

        “Origin uncertain; perhaps < Welsh adj., on account of alleged dishonesty of Welsh people (see note). Earlier currency is probably implied by welsher n.1, welshing n., and welshing adj."

        Your analogy with "niggardly" is almost perfectly inapt. Although the origin of that word is uncertain, we know with some certainty that it is unrelated to the forbidden N-word. And while negative stereotypes of Welshmen commonly involve dishonest dealing, as in the famous "Taffy" rhyme, negative stereotypes of black people often involve profligacy and never, in my observation, parsimony.

  5. When Steve St. Bernard performed this act, he was acting as a private, concerned citizen and not as a bus driver. His pay and benefits for driving a bus should be based on the amount at which the number of people willing and able to drive a bus equals the number of bus drivers required. I don’t disagree with your political conclusions, but they don’t follow from the facts.

    1. Andrew — You are absolutely correct. However, I think you need to turn up the gain on your irony detector.

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