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Illegitimate: Trump’s Election and Failed Presidency

My book now available!

Illegitimate: Trump’s Election and Failed Presidency explores and analyzes the phenomena that resulted in an unlikely candidate, Donald J. Trump, becoming the forty-fifth president of the United States.

Thoroughly researched, this book provides a needed history of what was known about Trump’s negatives before the 2016 election, and how—despite these negatives—Trump’s assumption of the presidency occurred through the anachronistic Electoral College and three whammies: the Comey Letter, voter suppression, and fake news/Russian meddling.

This book is a must-read for anyone contemplating the consequences of a second term Trump presidency.

Comments on “A Review of My Book “Illegitimate: Trump’s Election and Failed Presidency”. by Harold J. Breaux

[This post also contains the Actual Review]

The On Line Book Club has published a review of my book. The  review is attached to this Post. The review is very favorable with the following exception. The reviewer dropped the review rating from 4 stars to three stars based on the   observation that the conclusion “Republicans allied with the Russian government to spread fake news  on social media platforms was “subjective..” I demur on this observation as described here. Hereafter the topic Fake News and Russian Meddling will be referred to as “FNRM”. What follows is a description of how I treated FNRM in my book. First I begin with Webster’s definition of “subjective”- in this context as follows: ‘”existing only in the experiencer’s mind and incapable of external verification”.

MY Description of the treatment of FNRM
Current Background
This week on January 6, 2021 the U. S. experienced a drama associated with the Georgia Senatorial Election and its aftermath of Trump supporters trashing the U.S. Capitol resulting from President Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election and his exhorting his followers to the actions thereafter at the Capitol Building. The details (defined by Trump and his lawyers) of the alleged voting irregularities in several battleground states that led to Biden winning both the popular vote and the electoral college has been adjudicated in over 50 individual law suits in Federal and State Courts plus one decision by the Supreme Court that the suit had no merit.

Irony of the Trump claims of 2020 election fraud contrasted with the
2016 Presidential Election Results

The “irony” of this protracted national nightmare is that Trump’s ascendency as President in 2016 was itself the result of factors that tilted the electoral college through very narrow margins (in Michigan, Wisconsin in Pennsylvania (hereafter referred to as MWP) that were nefarious (in Trump’s favor) -the details of which have been detailed in depth in my October, 2020 book titled: “Illegitimate: Trump’s Election and Failed Presidency”. Contrary to Trump’s repeated claims of fraud and vote “rigging” leading to his 2020 election loss, my book proves that the opposite is true, namely that his 2016 election win was fraudulent and rigged. The vote rigging in 2016 was carried out by Kris Kobach’s led Crosscheck Project (the second whammy) –details which I cover in Chapter 3 of my book.
Summary of My Book’s Treatment of FNRM (the third whammy-Chapter 4))
Apendix II of the book titled “Extracts from the US Intelligence Assessments of Russian Involvement in Recent US Elections” dated January 6, 2017, published shortly after the 2016 Trump election, lists extensive intelligence findings on the depth and breadth of how the Russians used fake news, disinformation to hurt Clinton and help Trump during the election. Additionally, my book described and references extensive findings from two extensive studies dome for the US. Senate, “The Oxford University CPRP Study” Reference 84 and “The New Knowledge Study”, Reference 85. These two studies provide extensive data and analysis of the Russian involvement to aid Trump and hurt Clinton at the ballot box in the 2016 election.
The mathematics I used to quantify the effect of FNRM (Appendix I) borrowed from published work by two University Professors, Allcott and Gentzkow, References 91, 92 and 93, The essence of the end result formulas ( to quantify the vote effects of (the so called third whammy, FNRM) was dependent on two key parameters 1.) Exposure Rate and 2.) Persuasion Rate . I explained in detail the variability and impreciseness of these two parameters and accordingly devised a parametric study to quantify the range in the number of votes in the three MWP Battleground states changed by FNRM for a wide variation of these two parameters- a range of variation within reasonable expectations. As I stated in the book, this was only the third whammy tilting the election. If one doubted that this third whammy was sufficient to tilt the election as a single whammy, then there can be little doubt that it was a sizable contributor to Trump’s MWP margins in the 2016 election as a whole due to all three whammies analyzed.
As to additional evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with the Russians, one major piece of evidence is that Paul Manafort agreed to become Trump’s campaign director without pay. He was joined by two of his long- time cohorts, Carter Page and Rick Gates, who like Manafort, had long time experience and business dealings with and in Ukraine and Russia. On page 90 and 91, I reference the Mueller report, Reference 106, which described how Rick Gates testified that Manafort passed on to a Russian agent named Konstantin Kilimnik, polling data and 2016 campaign strategy including data on the key MWP battleground states. My book lists evidence that the MRP states were targeted thereafter (thus increasing the FNRM exposure rate ) as a result of the Russians gaining knowledge of these poll results (and election strategy) as provided by Manafort to Kilimnik. And then of course there was the famous meeting between Donald Trump Junior (and other campaign advisors) with several Russian Operatives who professed having dirt on Clinton that they wished to pass on to the Trump campaign. My book also reviews (on page 71-73) three scholarly books on the Russian involvement. Malcolm Nance, a renowned Intelligence Expert, Reference 5, commented “The hackers selected damaging excerpts from the cache of stolen data and then leaked them at pivotal moments in the presidential election” Clint Watts , a former FBI Special Agent, Reference 90, observed ‘Without the Russian effort I believe Trump would not have been within striking distance of Clinton on Election Day.” University Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson in her book, Reference 7, addressing the question of how pivotal was Russian involvement stated “The verdict is likely to be rendered not with certainty but with a preponderance of evidence.” In a later interview, after publishing her book. she was more definitive and when asked (Reference 8, page 9 of my book) ”if she thought that Trump would be president without the aid of the Russians” she didn’t equivocate “No” she said smiling.
This, I submit indicates that my treatment of FNRM in my book was not merely “subjective” but with the same level of extensive research and analysis as used in the book as a whole.
Harold J. Breaux
January 9, 2021

The On Line Book Review is found at the following URL
Official Review: Illegitimate: Trump’s Election and…
• Report
Post by Eutoc » 19 Dec 2020, 10:59
[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Illegitimate: Trump’s Election and Failed Presidency” by Harold J. Breaux.]

3 out of 4 stars

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The 2016 US presidential election came with a lot of unfathomable events. Harold J. Breaux considers the triumph of Donald Trump as one of the most recent historical anomalies to be witnessed. In his book Illegitimate: Trump’s Election and Failed Presidency, Harold analyses how some series of events before the 2016 election shifted the voters’ decisions in favor of Donald Trump and also the consequences that the US has faced during his presidency.

The Comey letter, Republican-driven voter suppression and fake news were the prevalent events a few months before the 2016 election. These events are what the author refers to as the “triple whammies” – which he believes provided the vote swings from Clinton to Trump. A mathematical model was developed for each of these three whammies to determine the degree of swing caused by them. Maximum Whammy Effect Ratio (MWER) was used as a metric to calculate the extent of the vote swings. The MWER determined how much the three whammies jointly led the Electoral College to hand Trump the presidentship. The second half of the book focuses on the actions, inactions and the poor decision-making of the president’s administration. The final chapter discussed how the outbreak of the current pandemic in the US made Trump’s failures obtrusive.

I found this book to be hilarious, especially when Trump’s lies were recounted. Harold pointed out that Trump had lied about tariff payments at least 108 times in 2019. Another study referenced in the book indicated that Donald Trump has made over 18,000 false claims from the day he assumed office till date. These numbers are staggering. For someone who blindly followed Trump, I find this book to be very informative and well-researched. I learnt things that I previously didn’t know about Trump; I got to know that his proclaimed self-made success in business isn’t so true. I highly appreciate the author’s shrewdness in applying mathematical modelling in studying the dealings of the 2016 election. The models seemed plausible, thereby making his presumptions about the election results more convincing. A reader needn’t have a strong mathematical background to understand these models.

While most of the claims made here are true, I wasn’t comfortable that conclusions were drawn from speculative events. One of the conclusions drawn was that the Republicans allied with the Russian government to spread fake news, on social media platforms, as a means to bias voters’ decisions. Because the conclusion on this issue is subjective, I feel it could be misleading to naive readers. Because of this, I would deduct a star and rate Illegitimate: Trump’s Election and Failed Presidency 3 out of 4 stars.

Illegitimate: Trump’s Election and Failed Presidency is best suited to readers with an interest in politics. The book is professionally edited; I found only two errors while reading through the narrative. The errors were a missing word and a missing full stop. I bet another round of proofreading would clear the errors.

3 out of 4 stars

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Triple Whammy Tilted Electoral College to Trump

The publication of the book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff heightened the national angst over the first year of the presidency of Donald Trump. This associated fury includes the natural question of “how did this Presidency occur?” Independent of this recent focus the die was already cast for historians and political scientists to be addressing the question. This post and its associated white paper address and answer the question. In short, the answer lies through a quirk provided by a Triple Whammy:

  1. The FBI James Comey Letter to Congress, dated October 28, 2016;
  2. Republican driven voter suppression; and
  3. Russian-driven fake news.

Donald Trump became president despite losing the national popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.9 million votes. The three swing states of  Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania (hereafter referred to as MWP) provided the winning margin in the anachronistic Electoral College. Numerous articles appear in the press describing
specific, single, or individual components of the triple whammy and the likely effect on Trump’s margin in MWP and how these three states may have tilted the Electoral College. In an article in Vox titled “How to Hijack an Election”, William deBuys addresses all three factors in a generalized description but his lack of any numerical accounting allows the issue to fester without any definitive conclusion (aggravated by Trump’s tweets about the brilliance of his victory).

My white paper goes beyond deBuy’s analysis by examining, gleaning, and coalescing actual facts and data from various research studies on each of the three components and then showing, with detailed mathematical accounting, how the aggregate vote impact of the three, individually and collectively, in each MWP state, more than exceeded Trump’s MWP margins- and thus led to his gaining the Presidency.

Read the entire white paper: Triple Whammy Paper.pdf

Trump: The Muslim Ban and the Lessons of History

The presidential directive under Donald Trump, generally referred to as extreme vetting and/or the Muslim Ban, is examined in the context of its rationale being that of security. Its opponents suggest it was poorly planned and executed and in its implementation has the likelihood of major human rights violations and being unconstitutional.

This post and its associated white paper suggest that the lessons of history were ignored and how those lessons might have provided caution and guidance if the president was an avid student of history. Four examples of how concerns for security in the U.S. and North America led to extreme measures which in the historical aftermath were universally decried by historians and citizenry in general because of their catastrophic impact on human rights.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

George Santayana

Our new President has been quoted as receiving much of his information from television. The consensus understanding is that, unlike many of his predecessors in the Presidency, he is poorly read on history. A famous quote from the philosopher George Santayana is: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This admonition could well apply to our new president as the U.S. faces protests internally and all over the World regarding what is interpreted as a ban on Muslims entering the U. S. While the president disagrees that his recent executive order is a Muslim Ban, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is quoted as saying that Trump tasked him to charter a commission to determine how a Muslim ban could be legally implemented. This has been widely viewed as putting a sheen of acceptance on a policy that otherwise has been interpreted, both in the U.S. and overseas, as a Muslim ban. The President’s executive order is designed as a security measure, the opposition cites it as being unconstitutional and in essence a violation of human rights.

Similar actions in our history provide the history lessons that our President might have been influenced by were he an avid reader. The current day Americans decry the roundup of the ethnic Japanese and their forced internment in WWII. They also decry the turn away of the shipload of 900 European Jews in 1939, which led to the eventual death of 264 of those turned away in the Holocaust. One should also mention the plight of the Native Americans in the Trail of Tears as 20,000 were illegally marched westward at gunpoint from their ancestral homes in Georgia, with one fourth dying in the journey and countless others dying later from the upheaval. Like the current one, this historical event was an example of a clash between presidential action and the courts.

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Misleading Polls on Public’s View of Obamacare

Authors note: This is post was from an article I submitted to the Wall Street Journal as a proposed OP-ED in October 2013. The article was not accepted as it didn’t meet their needs.

When I was eighteen years old, my mother died at the age of forty-eight of congestive heart failure. When I was twenty-two, my father died at the age of fifty-three from a heart attack. What we had in common was poverty, lack of a family doctor, no preventative health care or health insurance nor the means to pay for any major medical emergency. Admittedly, few people had insurance in those days, circa 1958-1962.  In later years, as I went through four major illnesses and three major surgeries, my family and I were fortunate to have both great health insurance and Medicare, great doctors, and the benefit of the great strides in medical science.    

This lifetime perspective, contrasting my parents’ early death, with my own extended longevity, influences my thinking,  as I,  like most Americans, watch the national debate on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, and the defunding of government, as a means to repeal the ACA.  The debate grapples with the reality that today, like my parents then, we find tens of millions of Americans without health insurance nor the means to avail themselves of life-saving medical care and technology.

As an interested observer of a variety of fact and opinion on matters of national and international import, in print, broadcast media, and the internet, I have been struck with the need to express an opinion on the national debate on the ACA and the Republican effort to delay or defund the ACA as a condition for continuing government operations. I interpret a major part of the conservative argument against the ACA to be that the public is against the health initiative and the press headlines support this contention.   I see it differently as I process the vast collection of information and opinion on the ACA.

Counter to these headlines, I base my view largely on the results of two major, frequently cited polls, that ask a cross-section of Americans, Republicans, Democrats, and  Independents, whether they support or oppose various aspects of Health Care Policy that are components of the ACA. Rather than focus on the single question of being for or against the ACA, for reasons I will describe, I view the aggregate of responses to the component questions as being far more meaningful than the response to the single question of being for or against the ACA as a whole.  Examination of the polling results in the Table below one finds very strong support for 12 of the 13 components of the ACA, the only component not gaining favor is the so-called Individual Mandate, that all citizens obtain Health Care. I also note in the Table the overall result against the ACA legislation as a whole- the typical result that generally makes the Headlines.

Polling Results on the Key Features of ACA  Amongst Democrats, Republicans and Independents

 Reuters/Ipsos Poll June , 2012Kaiser Health Tracking Poll March 2013
Dependents Coverage to Age 2663% For76% For
Ban on Denying Coverage for Pre-existing Conditions82% ForNot Asked
Disallow Policy Cancellation After Sickness/Guaranteed Issue86% For66% For
Creation of Health Insurance Exchanges80% For89% For
Ban on Lifetime Caps80% ForNot Asked
Regulations to Insure Comparable Coverage68% ForNot Asked
Mandating Companies with 50 or more employees to provide coverage73% For57% For
Subsidies to Help the Poor75% For76% For
Expanding Medicaid for Family Incomes Under $35,00064% For71% For
Tax Credits For Small Businesses Providing Insurance CoverageNot Asked88% For
Closing Medicare Donut HoleNot Asked81% For
Increase Medicare Payroll Tax for Upper Incomes60% ForNot Asked
Mandate All Citizens Obtain Health Coverage*59% Against60% Against
Support for the Overall Legislation*55 % Against, 45% For40% Against, 37% For, No opinion 23%
*A May 27, 2013, CNN/ORC poll found 54% opposed to Obamacare and 43% in support. However, of those opposed, 16% said they opposed the law because it wasn’t liberal enough.

As I write this, I have the added benefit of a recent  article  from the New York Times  of Oct. 5, 2013, titled, “A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning.” The article describes how a coalition of  Conservative activists met shortly after President Obama’s second inauguration and laid out a grand strategy to repeal  Mr. Obama’s Health care law.   The Times listed various groups in the coalition that arose from this meeting [hereafter referred to as the Kill Obamacare Coalition (KOC)] to include the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth, Freedom Works, Tea Party Patriots, and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce link to the Koch Brothers, Charles and David.

In recent days, we have seen how the KOC grand strategy has led to the government shutdown in an attempt to defund and/or delay or repeal the ACA.  The Times article states ”With polls showing Americans deeply divided over the law, conservatives believe that the public is behind them.”  The Times article goes on to quote Michelle Bachman, a congresswoman from Minnesota, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, on the eve of the government shutdown, “This is exactly what the public wants.”

With the  Individual Mandate being the only ACA component disfavored by the public it is revealing to analyze the juxtaposition of the Heritage Foundation, a key member of KOC,  being the original dominant proponent of the Individual Mandate, with its current role leading the crusade against the  ACA, with a special focus opposing the  Individual Mandate.

KOC is prominently represented in the coalition by the group called Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation headed by Michael Needham. Needham’s role in KOC was extensively chronicled in the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 12 in an article by Stephen Moore of the WSJ staff. The Heritage Foundation itself is now headed by former Republican U.S. Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina who has turned the Foundation into one of the most active opponents of Obamacare.

For perspective  on this turnaround, we turn to the Heritage Foundation Paper titled,  Lecture #218, October 1, 1989, titled “Assuring Affordable Care for All Americans.” The author of the paper is Stuart M. Butler then Director of Domestic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation. In the paper, Butler states:  “As many as 37 million Americans lack adequate Insurance against health care cost, and many others who have insurance still dread the financial impact of a serious disease.”  Toward a plan to overcome this national problem Butler proposed two key concepts:

  1. Direct and Indirect government assistance should be concentrated on those who need it most. Help should be provided to those who cannot afford protection.
  2. Mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance.

In rationalizing the proposed mandate Butler stated: “Thus we find many individuals and families, particularly among the young,  who decide to use their income for other objectives than health care insurance, even though they have the means to obtain insurance without cutting back on other necessities, … They are playing Russian roulette with their continued good health. The household mandate assumes that it is the family that carries the first responsibility. …there is an implicit contract between households and society, based on the notion that health insurance is not like other forms of insurance. If a young man wrecks his Porche and has not had the foresight to obtain insurance we may commiserate but society feels no obligation to repair his car. But health care is different. If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street, Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance. If we find that he has spent his money on other things rather than insurance , we may be angry, but we will not deny him services-even if it means  more prudent citizens end up paying the tab.”

One must note that this latter concept  (of not denying medical service in emergencies) was ingrained in 1986 legislation, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) and was co-sponsored by Republican Senator Robert Dole and Democratic Congressman Pete Stark, passed by a Democratic House and Republican Senate, and signed by President Ronald Reagan. The Act mandates that any hospital participating in Medicare  (or receiving funds from the Department of Health and Human Services) must provide emergency services to anyone, including illegal immigrants, whether they can pay or not.  Accordingly, very few hospitals are exempt from this EMTALA requirement.

There is considerable evidence that EMTALA (due to so-called free riders) has led to cost-shifting (or hidden tax) primarily through higher rates for insured individuals with hospitalization insurance. Harbage and Nichols (2006), of the New America Foundation, in a paper titled, “The Hidden Costs All Californians Pay in Our Fragmented Health Care System” estimate that this cost-shifting  due to free riders “amounted to $455 per individual or $1,186 per family in California each year.” Professor Matt Harman, in a WEB article titled “EMTALA and the Costs of Providing Health Care to the Uninsured” citing data from the American Medical Association on unpaid care, estimates a 13% added cost to insurance premiums in Texas versus a national average of 8%. The hidden tax posed by EMTALA could thus be viewed as the basis for Butler’s ringing endorsement of the Individual Mandate.  Governor Romney incorporated the Individual Mandate in Massachusetts Romneycare to overcome the costs of  EMTALA and attributed the idea to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who in turn got the idea from Butler and the Heritage Foundation.

In following the KOC campaign  against Obamacare by the coalition described by the NY Times, it is a fact that one of the features of the ACA most railed against is the Individual Mandate-most ironically the feature given legs by the Heritage Foundation as described above.  In contrast to the concepts of young free riders being a financial drag on Emergency rooms, described so graphically by Butler in the Heritage paper,  KOC through Freedom Works and Jim Demint’s National Town Halls,  have introduced the concept that  young healthy workers will unjustly be forced to subsidize their sicker elders, thus treating young people unfairly.  Butler, who remains at Heritage as the current Director for Policy Innovation,  states his  reversal and now opposition to the Individual Mandate as arising from the following: a) It is unconstitutional b) It forces people to buy expensive comprehensive coverage rather than catastrophic coverage c) It forces individuals to buy insurance without a requirement. Of course the Supreme Court has since ruled the ACA is constitutional.

One of the most extensive analyses of the Individual Mandate is a paper by Eibner and Price of the Rand Corporation titled “The Effect of the Affordable Care Act on Enrollment and Premiums, with and Without the Individual Mandate.”  They address the notion of unjust treatment of young healthy workers by observing that “because younger individuals are more likely to be low-income, the ACA subsidy schedule is disproportionately generous to younger, lower-cost people”.  The provision that individuals under age 26 can remain on their parent’s insurance further mitigates any perceived unfairness. The ACA’s provisions for levels of insurance labeled bronze, silver, gold, and platinum with the bronze plan being limited coverage, along with the subsidies and insurance on parent’s plan through age twenty-six, largely mitigates any concern for expensive comprehensive coverage cited by Butler as a basis for his reversal of opinion on the Individual Mandate. Matt Miller, in the Washington Post, August 21, 2013, in an article titled “The GOP’s Obamacare Youth Hoax” observes that 20 million youth between the ages of 19 and 34 get health insurance through their employer and effectively pay the same rate as their elders for the same insurance and have done so for decades without a peep from anyone about this socialistic unfairness.  Butler’s original anecdote, quoted above about the Porche owners wreck versus the man struck down on the street by a heart attack, remains a solid argument why mandated insurance should be a requirement. Others have opposed the Mandate because it is socialistic.  Yes, it is,  but so is the Mandate imposed by EMTALA.

With respect to costs under the ACA Exchange  Policies, one of the key findings of the Eibner-Price Rand study is the conclusion “With our methods we find  a 9.3% increase in the average premium per covered life when the mandate is repealed” primarily “due to a change in the composition of enrollees.” Their overall conclusion states “Our analysis demonstrates that the individual mandate is important to achieving the goal of near-universal coverage for all Americans.”

Jonathon Gruber, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was a key architect of the Romney Massachusetts health reform insurance legislation and an advisor to Democrats and the Obama administration during the build of the Affordable Care Act.  Gruber has been  quoted as comparing Obamacare with Romneycare by saying “the two were the “same (expletive deleted)  bill.” In an August 2013 Massachusetts poll conducted by the Massachusetts Medical Society Physicians Group and reported on by Healthwatch,  84% expressed satisfaction with their healthcare.   In a 2008 paper in the Journal of Economic Literature, titled “Covering the Uninsured in the United States,” Gruber introduces a metric of new government spending per new insurance enrollee called “bang for the buck.” His modeling indicates that with the mandate the total government cost per enrollee is $3,659 and without the mandate, the cost is $7,468–essentially a factor of two. The huge difference is due to the fact that government spending will be roughly the same, with or without the mandate, but 12.5 million fewer people will gain coverage without the mandate.

The KOC effort to kill Obamacare with a focus on this alleged unprecedented unfairness is an incredible irony and is undoubtedly the reason that the Individual mandate is the one component of the ACA that is not supported by a majority of those polled.  The Times article indicates that the Koch brothers, through Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, have disbursed more than $200 million in the KOC effort. The campaign has featured young people enticed into demonstrations featured by “Burn Your Obamacare Draft Card” rallies, inferring that the Individual Mandate is unfair to youth –comparing it to the military draft.

As the effort to Kill Obamacare (KOC)  proceeds,  along with the government remaining shut down along with the threat of default due to a  failure to lift the debt ceiling,  this writer is reminded of a recent cartoon.  An elephant is standing beside an oncoming train that is labeled “Obamacare”. A portion of the track has been removed in the train’s path and the reader gets the image of the oft-repeated claim that Obamacare is headed for a train wreck.  However, the frame with the elephant shows the elephant with a crowbar and other tools by which the missing segment of track has been removed-assuring the impending train wreck.  The KOC effort is determined to create an Obamacare Train Wreck.  My plea to KOC conservatives is:  “Please put away your crowbars.” Your misguided efforts are leading us to a national train wreck.

The Fallacy of New Money Needed for Budgeting for Progressive Pay for Teachers (Increment Costs)

White Paper Executive Summary

Young teacher pointing at notes in his pupil copybook

In the American workplace, it is common to find a formalized structure of pay by position with a substructure or lanes of compensation that within a position or lane pays for experience and longevity with the employer. Progression in pay also occurs across lanes for individuals with increasing skills, certification, or job responsibilities. Within the teaching profession, this is known as the “single salary” schedule that came into general use following World War I. In describing the origin of the single salary system, Cuban and Tyack observed:

“teachers themselves fought to install in schools, from World War I forward, a single salary schedule for all public school teachers. While supporting salaries calibrated to training and years of experience teachers opposed “class distinctions” in pay based on position or sex and endorsed the fundamental intrinsic equality of all good teaching. To ensure that all teachers were, in fact, professionals–they worked to require special training and certification as prerequisites for employment in teaching.”

Universal Single Salary System

Today, the system is almost universal in school districts across the country. The single salary system is also frequently referred to as the increment or step system. Herein, it will also be referred to as “progressive pay” (or by the acronym ILL to refer to the Increment, Longevity, and Lane change). This system is also common in government at the local, state, and federal levels but also exists in some form in some corporate structures. In recent years, due to the economic downturn, jurisdictions facing budget shortfalls, have chosen to curtail the pay adjustments of positions associated with progressive pay along with withholding Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs). In the process of rationalizing this course of action financial officers and government
officials frequently use what the author calls a “rule of thumb” where the claim is made that progressive pay costs, at whatever percentage, (e.g. 3% for the increment component), will lead directly to a 3% increase in payroll costs (in terms of additional new money needed ) if granted.

The Logical Mind Trap

I have heard this claim made for years, observed that it arises from an intuitive
“logical mind trap” (LMT) arising from the concept of focusing on individuals and their salaries as opposed to tracking positions, the numbers of individuals at each position, and the aggregate salaries for each position while at the same time accounting for the normal cyclical process of retirees, dropouts and new hires. As a result of seeing how teachers in my local area were denied both COLAs and progressive pay for four of the last five years, I set out to formally study the concept through a computer-based mathematical model. The model, employing Harford County, Maryland Public School (HCPS) data as input, to represent a typical educational workforce, explicitly confirms the following:

  1. The rule of thumb is totally invalid as a predictor of follow-on new money costs added to preceding base year costs when increments, longevity, and lane change (ILL) pay adjustments are provided to the workforce. Even in a wholly unlikely case of no retirees, no dropouts, and no new hires, providing a 3% ILL pay adjustment leads to a nominal 1.7 % to 1.9% increase due to the fact that top of the pay scale staff receives no increments and infrequent or no longevity and lane change pay adjustments. A parametric study for a range of parameters likely to span the possible scenarios indicates that providing the ILL adjustment during a period with the current level of retirees, dropouts, and new hires, leads to a nominal change in payroll costs of -.27 %, with variations rarely expected outside the range of (-.5% to .5%).
  2. Withholding the ILL pay is not cost-neutral. In a given year when ILL is withheld (along with a normal situation of retirees and new hires) the payroll cost (all other factors being equal) is actually reduced by – 2.0% from the previous year with variations between -1.5% and -2.2 %. This results in salary component budget surpluses (from salary costs) which are usually attributable to good fiscal management without explicitly acknowledging or understanding that the result was from an actual pay cut when based on positions rather than individuals or alternatively the funds are used to cover budget shortages elsewhere.
  3. The cost differential associated with progressive pay is strongly affected (drops strongly) with an increased number of retirees. The cost drops strongly with an increasing average level of the dropouts but at a significantly lower level than retirees due to the difference in salary levels.
  4. The extension of the rule of thumb, which leads to the suggestion that a COLA increase and progressive pay are additive, (e.g. a 5% COLA added to a so-called average 3% ILL increase leads to a needed 8% budget increase) is also totally invalid. Typical parametric calculations using the model show that the true cost of a 3% ILL, as described in 1. above, adds the range of “true ILL cost” increase in the absence of a COLA plus the COLA plus a negligible amount (product of the “true ILL cost”, times the COLA fraction).
  5. Failure to include Turnover in budgeting for ILL costs leads to a gross overestimation of budgeted “fixed charges” associated with employer-paid social security, medicare, and pension system withholdings. See Appendix B of the full white paper for a description of how the HCPS system adds these erroneous fixed charges to the erroneous estimation of the ILL cost.

Read the full treatise

A Simple Analogy for Understanding the Added Cost of Steps

I sent this simple analysis to Harford County, Maryland budget authority officials in February 1979 seeking to have them correct their erroneous claim regarding the “new/additional money” needed to provide steps or increments for teachers and other personnel.

Because Harford County officials have continued to make similar false assertions ( circa 2014-2016) regarding the added cost, this retired mathematician has examined the issue anew (this time more formally), created a web site, and placed the analysis therein. Hopefully, the widespread and readily available analysis will work toward officials ceasing to make false claims and accordingly chose to treat its employees fairly by routinely providing steps or increments since the added cost is negligible-as proven by the author’s analysis.

An experience increment of $500 dollars paid to an employee earning $11,000 per year amounts to approximately a 4% increase in salary. Discussion of the Harford County budget for the coming year in the local press indicates that the county treasurer and chief of administration plus certain writers analyzing the budget believe that an additional 4% over the previous year must be budgeted for each employee receiving the increment. This I claimed in my letter and enclosure of January 30, 1979, is not
correct. The enclosure contained a mathematical analysis which showed that a payroll system was cyclic in that people in the high experience levels, whose salary contained many increments, retired and thus compensated for many employees moving up the increment scale. I observed that the experience “shift” from year to year could cause an increase (or equally a decrease) depending on the experience statistics of the workforce. I claimed that the budgeting of 4% (as in my example above) was an
absolute upper bound that applied only in the unlikely circumstance of no retirees in a given year. The analogy below helps to put the problem in perspective and aids in understanding the point of contention.


Consider a classroom of 30 students and a teacher. Assume the 30 children are sitting in a row of chairs facing the teacher as depicted below.

C1          C2          C3 . . . C30

The student sitting in C1 has one piece of candy, the student sitting in C2 has two pieces of candy, etc. and the student sitting in C30 has thirty pieces of candy. The candy is analogous to the experience increments. The teacher instructs the child sitting in C30 to leave the room (analogous to retiring) and to leave his/her 30 pieces of candy on the vacated chair. The teacher then instructs each of the remaining 29 students to stand, leave their candy on their vacated chair, and to be seated in the adjacent chair to their left. The teacher then goes into the hallway and returns with a child whom
she seats in C1.

Happy laughing pupils of primary school having fun during break with their teacher, playing musical chairs

Now each child has one piece of candy more than when this exercise of chair moving began. Yet the teacher has not had to produce a single piece of additional candy. The moving from one chair to another is equivalent to personnel moving up in salary due to an additional year of experience. The child brought in from the hall is analogous to a new employee entering at a base salary. The analogy illustrates the point that when a workforce is stable or in steady-state, as far as average experience, then the year to year cost increase due to the increment is expected to be zero. Alternatively, in the absence of this steady-state, an average taken over a suitable number of years will find the increases are balanced by decreases.

Fallacy of Increment Costs-Experience in Jefferson County Kentucky

One of the hoped-for benefits of posting my paper on Increment costs on the Internet (on this web site) was that it would lead to a consensus of validation and support for the concept that progressive pay/increment systems lead to the need for little or no “new money” for projected year funding compared to a prior reference year payroll.

The availability of the paper led to my exchange of correspondence with Mr. Brent Mckim, a physics teacher in Jefferson County (Louisville), Kentucky, who was on leave of absence serving as his school district’s Teacher Association President. In that role, he engaged in a discussion with his Jefferson County Board of Education (JCBE) chief financial officer (CFO) who claimed that an annual 1.8% increase in funding was needed to pay for that County’s increment system.

This claim is essentially identical to the claim made by the Harford County, Maryland School system as documented in this post, which includes my full white paper. In a series of e-mails with me, Mr. Mckim first described a thought process (gedankenexperiment) that lead him to the conclusion that the year-to-year budget should be largely unaffected by the increment. In a follow-up e-mail, he thereafter cited how the state of Kentucky mandated that each school district must provide annual data to a master state database listing average teacher salaries for the year. In the correspondence, Mr. Mckim then showed how analysis of that data confirmed the thesis that providing the increment leads to the need for little or no new money to fund the increment. Below is the email sequence between Brent Mckim and me, the full details of which can be downloaded here.

E-Mail Correspondence Discussing the Fallacious Claim of Required New Money to Fund Increment Pay Systems

Sept. 7, 2014, e-mail

FW: Actual cost of a 1% raise

Thank you for sharing your rigorous analysis of step increase costs relative to turnover savings for the Harford County, MD school system. Below is an approach I recently used with our school board in Jefferson County (Louisville), Kentucky. I used a gedankenexperiment in which we assume a 10-year period with only step increases and no raises. I ask if we really expect the same salary schedule with the same pay in every cell to cost far more ten years from now than it does today if the salaries in each cell
have not changed.

Thanks again,

Internal Jefferson County E-mail attached to above Sept. 7, 2014, e-mail

From: Brent McKim
Sent: Friday, June 13, 2014 8:04 AM
To: Names Witheld by Request (NWBR)

Subject: Actual cost of a 1% raise

Q: Since step increases amount to an average of about a 1.8% increase in salary, wouldn’t a 1% teacher raise actually cost the school district 2.8% more in salary, benefits, and related expenses?
A: No, a 1% raise will only cost the district 1% more in salary benefits, and related expenses because the savings that occur when higher-paid teachers leave the district and are replaced by lower-paid teachers balances the additional costs associated with step increases.

There are micro and macro perspectives on teacher compensation costs.
From a micro perspective, we could say this ten-year teacher, who receives a 1% raise and a step represents a 2.8% cost increase for the district. This 30-year teacher with a Master’s degree who retires and is replaced by a beginning teacher with a Bachelor’s degree represents a 45% cost decrease for the district. And this veteran teacher who receives a 1% raise but does not receive a step represents a 1% cost increase for the district.

All of these micro perspectives are individually accurate and are occurring simultaneously. Notice that one 45% decrease offsets several 1% and 2.8% increases, and it would be inaccurate and unfair to the employees to only consider the 2.8% increases and make decisions based on the premise that the summation of these multiple micro perspectives yields a macro perspective in which the cost increase
for the group is 2.8%.

So what would the group cost increase amount to?

Given that we are dealing with a large sample of around 6,000 employees, the group is almost certainly in very nearly a steady state from year to year in which the savings that occur due to the replacement of more expensive teachers with less expensive teachers balances the cost increases associated with steps.

One can see this from a thought experiment in which we think of a scattergram of JCPS teachers for the next 10 years during which the district provides step increases but no raises at all. If no raises are offered, would the fact that the average teacher step amounts to a 1.8% cost increase for the individual teacher mean that 10 years from now employee costs for the exact same salary schedule that we have now (because we are assuming no raises in this thought experiment) would be 18%, more even though
there have been no raises? No, it would not. The actual year-by-year scattergrams of how many teachers are making specific salaries will be slightly different each year, with some years costing a little less and other years costing a little more; however, the total cost from year to year for the exact same salary schedule will not change in any significant measure. This shows that the cost of steps is statistically balanced by the savings that occur when more expensive teachers exit the district.

So, apart from some random noise from year-to-year variations in exactly how many teachers are in specific cells on the salary grid, a 1% increase to the salary schedule will cost the district 1% more.

This is absolutely the most accurate way to look at this. If the school board commits the district to a 1% increase on the salary schedule, the cost increase to the district for salaries, benefits, and related expenses will be almost exactly 1% more.

The CFO only chooses to focus on the cost of step increases. In the micro examples above, this is like only considering the teacher who costs the district 2.8% more without acknowledging the teacher who costs the district 45% less. In my opinion, this intellectually misleads the school board and creates an inaccurate perspective of what is occurring on the macro level that intentionally overstates the cost of employee raises and thereby discourages the school board from considering teacher raises in a way that
is more fair and accurate toward teachers.


Sept.13, 2014, e-mail

Hi Brent:

I really appreciated your letter and analysis because I feel so lonely in my advocacy for creating an understanding and acceptance of the true increment cost or as I put it “needed new money”, Your email reinforced my thinking that it is important to so many teachers and other workers to fix what I have described as this “logical mind trap”. I am attaching three old items from my first entry into this argument over thirty years ago. The first attachment is an editorial from our leading newspaper–a paper that has led a “jihad” for over 30 years against teacher’s pay and increments. The second is an analogy I forwarded to local officials who might not have followed the details of my first paper. The third item is a 1984 letter to the editor five years after I first joined the argument with my first paper.

I like your explanation of the gedanskanexperiment. I had to google it to get the origin of the term. Comments I have received on my paper include the observation that it is too difficult for many to follow in particular the local officials who make budget decisions. Accordingly, I would like to use your e-mail as a supportive analysis of my work and conclusion. In particular, I would like to post it on my website but I would do so only with your permission.

Please advise.

BTW: What has your experience been in your County’s reaction to your analysis? Is there any official acceptance that there is little or no ‘new money” cost from the increment? Related to that: My analysis suggests that there is a small (negligible) compounding effect when both the COLA and the increment are given. See Section 6 (g), page 27.

Best wishes,

Sept. 14, 2014,reply e-mail


Your point regarding the complexity of explaining how turnover savings essentially balance the cost of step increases is well-taken. We have certainly encountered that here. Consequently, I have opted to engage the same issue from a different direction. Specifically, I am in process of asking very specific questions of the district CFO, based on the previously claimed cost of the step increase versus the documented actual cost, viewed through the lens of average teacher salaries in the district.

Basically, if the step increases actually cost what they were claimed to cost, this should have shown up as increases in the average teacher salary. One could simply divide the extra cost asserted for step increases by the number of teachers to see how much this additional amount (which is supposed to be going into teacher paychecks) should elevate the average teacher salary BEYOND what one would expect from the pay raise alone. (See below.) Of course, no such additional increase in average salaries occurred. So the obvious question then becomes “Why?”

What I am working towards is having the CFO actually provide turnover savings as the reason why average salaries did not increase as one would expect based on the asserted cost of step increases. In short, I am hoping a patient and persistent focus on average salaries will be an easier framework with which to build a shared understanding (especially among a lay audience) of this complex issue than just
working on step increase costs/turnover savings alone.


Internal e-mail attached to above Sept. 14, 2014, e-mail

Subject: Avg JCPS Teacher Salaries

Here is a link to the page on the KY Department of Education website where the KDE provides a spreadsheet with year-by-year data showing the average classroom teacher salary for every district in Kentucky (it is important to select the classroom teacher spreadsheet, rather than the certified staff spreadsheet which includes administrators).

As you know, the KDE calculates this information based on the information officially reported to the department by each school district.

Below is the portion of the KDE spreadsheet showing the average JCPS teacher salary for each of the past three years, as well as the percentage change between these years.

Click here to see the table on page 5 of 6 in the white paper.

As you can see, in 2012-13, when JCPS teachers received a 1% raise on the salary schedule, the average teacher salary in Jefferson County increased by only 0.9%. This is presumably the case because the turnover savings from more experienced teachers leaving the district and being replaced by less experienced (and therefore less expensive) teachers was greater than the additional cost of step increases for those teachers who did not leave the district. Similarly, in 2013-14, when JCPS teachers
received a 0% raise, the average teacher salary in Jefferson County actually decreased by 0.2%. Again, this is presumably the case because the turnover savings from more experienced teachers leaving the district and being replaced by less experienced teachers was greater than the additional cost of step increase for those teachers who did not leave the district.

Question #1:
Can you explain why you have indicated to both the JCTA and the JCBE that the average teacher salary increased by more than the percent raise in each of the last two years while the information provided by JCPS to the Kentucky Department of Education indicates that the average teacher salary in JCPS increased by less than the percent raises?

When the Association and the District were negotiating last summer, you indicated to both the JCTA and JCBE that although the district was providing no raise for teachers, step increases would increase salary costs in JCPS by $10.2 million dollars in 2013-14, compared to 2012-13. Since teachers account for approximately half of the total salary expense in JCPS, step increases for teachers would have been approximately $5 million, based on the total cost you provided. However, the information provided by JCPS to the KY Department of Education indicates the average teacher salary actually decreased by $115 from 12-13 to 13-14, which would mean the 13-14 teacher salary schedule with no raise actually cost JCPS less than the year before.

Question #2:
If step increases had caused teacher compensation to cost $5 million dollars more in 13-14, we could determine the average salary increase this would lead to (by dividing the $5 million by the number of teachers in JCPS) (6,830). This calculation indicates that if step increases had caused teacher salary costs in JCPS to increase by $5 million dollars in 13-14, the average teacher salary should have increased by approximately $732. Could you explain why the information JCPS reported to the Kentucky department
of Education indicates the average teacher salary went down by $115 in 2013-14 rather than increasing by $732, as would have been expected?