Archive for the ‘Public Service’ Category

The best way to entrench the worst? Form a union. TSA approves AFGE union.

November 10, 2012 2 comments

When the TSA was first formed in the comparatively innocent times just after September 11, 2001 (yes, you read that right), it was expressly prohibited that the workforce be unionized. Since then, the number of employees has exploded from 16,500 to 62,500. The amount of abuse travelers put up with has risen exponentially, from pat-downs to porno scanners. And the number of terrorists caught by TSA has… Well, that’s still a big, fat zero.

Nonetheless, TSA Administrator John Pistole, who knows which side his bread is buttered on, has allowed the TSA to go forward with an American Federation of Government Employees union contract. And just when you thought the TSA couldn’t get any worse.

While my views on unions are well-known, I think it bears repeating that this can only end in a disaster for both American travel security and Americans’ wallets.

Consider the example of the teachers’ unions. Since 1970, the cost of educating one student from kindergarten through 12th grade has roughly tripled, from $55,000 to $155,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Since 1970, American students have seen no improvement in math and reading, and regression in science scores.

This is because, once unionized, the workforce becomes entirely caught up in labor concerns to the detriment of their actual jobs. Hence, students suffer once the teachers’ unions begin to treat the public school system as nothing more than a jobs bank.

Using the example of history, it is easy to see that unionization of a workforce entrenches the worst elements of that workforce. Efficiency is sacrificed, goals go unmet, poor performers cannot be fired, and consumers bear the brunt of this failure.

Of course, airport security seems important enough that we should want to avoid these things, but no matter. The screeners pressed ahead with their unionization anyway, the public be damned. After all, the attitude of the unions has always been that the public owes them jobs, not that they owe the public a job well done.


Some Pretty Insightful Humor from Mark Steyn

May 6, 2012 1 comment

Insightful and incisive. I like the “Fauxcahontas” bit.

As always, you should check out the original.

Hallelujah! In the old racist America, we had quadroons and octoroons. But in the new post-racial America, we have – hang on, let me get out my calculator – duoettrigintaroons! Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when men would be judged not on the color of their skin but on the content of their great-great-great-grandmother’s wedding license application. And now it’s here! You can read all about it in Elizabeth Warren’s memoir of her struggles to come to terms with her racial identity, Dreams From My Great-Great-Great-Grandmother….

Just in case you’re having difficulty keeping up with all these Composite-Americans, George Zimmerman, the son of a Peruvian mestiza, is the embodiment of endemic white racism and the reincarnation of Bull Connor, but Elizabeth Warren, the great-great-great-granddaughter of someone who might possibly have been listed as Cherokee on an application for a marriage license, is a heartwarming testimony to how minorities are shattering the glass ceiling in Harvard Yard. George Zimmerman, redneck; Elizabeth Warren, redskin. Under the Third Reich’s Nuremberg Laws, Ms. Warren would have been classified as Aryan and Mr. Zimmerman as non-Aryan. Now it’s the other way round. Progress!

Or, as Barack Obama would say, Forward!

The radical idea that poor people are people

March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

My ongoing skepticism of “public service” is well-known, but J.E. Dyer, a writer on Christian social thought, drives the point home very well in a post on Patheos.

After many years, we have learned what happens when we seek to “redistribute” income or wealth. The goal of “redistribution” becomes more important than actually helping the poor. The abstract idea of removing income or wealth from some and transferring it to others trumps everything else. Seeking to “redistribute” income or wealth is not, in fact, a very good method of helping the poor; it is better characterized as a method of wielding power and seeking to control outcomes.

…”Redistribution” is an abstract goal, focused on numbers rather than people, and based on an invidious and theoretical dissatisfaction with material conditions. “Helping the poor,” by contrast, is focused on the people involved, and is a goal that can only be satisfied through personal attention and observation.

Of course, thinking that we can eradicate poverty totally is dangerous utopianism, but it is dangerous precisely because of the institutional structures that such thinking is wont to produce and not because it is wrong to attempt to make a person’s situation better without payment.

It is no secret that poverty has not been ameliorated by government programs before or since Lyndon Johnson’s cynical “War on Poverty.” It is also no secret that, as people become generally better off thanks to the march of market progress, the political definition of poverty is “defined up.”

And while it is certainly true that there will always be people in dire straits, isn’t it much healthier for us as a society of equals under the law to treat those people as people?

If we want to help those who are in need – and we should – the most efficacious and moral way to do so is through free action, not through government coercion. The latter reduces people to numbers and fosters a cynicism, correct in many instances, that the people being helped are not truly needy.

At worst, a system of government coercion removes all moral reasoning from the basic moral agent, i.e. the individual. Rich or poor, people qua people are what really matter. Such a system of coercion is inimical to a free and prosperous society.

This is the definition of cognitive dissonance

March 4, 2012 Leave a comment

An article at Fox News a few days ago points out an interesting conundrum. Say you are a supporter of a “movement” like Occupy Wall Street. You are against corporations having too much power and influence. You are against government bailouts. You want more jobs. You hate it when executives give themselves pay raises despite bankrupting their firms.

Oh, and you trust Barack Obama and his political ilk to right these wrongs. So what happens when Obama’s policies not only fail to stop these problems, but actually further them?

An electric car battery company reportedly has laid off 125 employees since receiving $390 million in government subsidies, but is still handing out big pay raises to company executives.

…A123’s primary customer, Fisker Automotive, is also struggling financially. “Yet, this month A123’s Compensation Committee approved a $30,000 raise for CFO David Prystash just days after Fisker Automotive announced the U.S. Energy Department had cut off what was left of its $528.7 million loan it had previously received.”

This month has seen significant pay boosts for other A123 executives, as well, including vice presidents Robert Johnson and Jason Forcier.

…“It looks highly suspicious,” Paul Chesser, associate fellow for the National Legal & Policy Center, told Mackinac [Center for Public Policy]. “It looks like they are trying to pad their top people’s wallets in case something really bad happens.”

Seems to me that this is the definition of cognitive dissonance. Obama’s class warrior rhetoric only goes so far, and we are beginning to see just exactly where its limits lie.

It seems to me that politicians are saying that “it is never okay to lay people off while paying your executives too much money. Unless we say it is okay.” Cognitive dissonance.

Tell me again why you think Obama is the right man to stop corporate abuses? Again, you want fewer mosquitoes, you drain the swamp. Take away the corporate subsidies, even for such touchy-feely pet causes like “green energy,” and you’ll get less corporate abuse.

In a world of politics devoid of principle, is picking the “least bad” the best we can do?

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

In the Wall Street Journal last week, James Taranto interviews Jeffrey Bell, the author of “The Case for Polarized Politics.”  Cutting against the prevailing wisdom on the relative electability of Rick Santorum, Bell makes the point that Republicans tend to win on social issues arguments and lose on economic arguments:

Social conservatism, Mr. Bell argues in his forthcoming book, “The Case for Polarized Politics,” has a winning track record for the GOP. “Social issues were nonexistent in the period 1932 to 1964,” he observes. “The Republican Party won two presidential elections out of nine, and they had the Congress for all of four years in that entire period. . . . When social issues came into the mix—I would date it from the 1968 election . . . the Republican Party won seven out of 11 presidential elections.”

This may be true.  It certainly seems compelling.  However, it also makes me sad.

Ultimately, this seems to be good evidence for the idea that the worst ideas of the Republican Party are the most attractive ideas to Republican voters, and that the worst ideas of the Democratic Party are the most attractive ideas to Democratic voters.  Also, and most depressingly, the swing vote seems to be irredeemably stupid.

Not that anything about the depressing nature of politics surprises me at this point, but it raises an interesting question. Given the choice between Barack Obama, who we know is a terrible president on all fronts, and Rick Santorum, who would at least have a chance to be merely mediocre on a few issues, whom do you pick?  Do vote Libertarian?  Do you run away screaming?  Move to Canada?

In other words, from a small-“l” libertarian perspective, is bad the best we can do?

Make no mistake about it: even on traditional pet issues of the left like civil liberties and war, Obama is nobody’s friend.  Neither would Santorum be,  but we would know that going in. Is it better to roll the dice on a Santorum budget than take the inevitable reaming that would come from four more years of Obama?  Perhaps more importantly, would it be preferable to get another Samuel Alito over another Sonia Sotomayor?

I go back and forth.  On the one hand, the tea party groundswell of the last few years might serve to keep Santorum at least relatively honest on economic issues. On the other hand, Santorum may be a conservative Trojan horse, who like George W. Bush before him gets elected on lower-spending rhetoric and therefore gets a pass from his Republican base when he balloons spending.  Like we saw with George W., the latter circumstance could easily set the stage for a disastrous follow-up act.

Without a crystal ball, I am not sure that there is any way of knowing this for sure.  My hope is that we do not end up with the Hobson’s Choice of Santorum vs. Obama, but I am not so sure we will be that lucky.

I have not made a decision.  Have you?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.

EEOC Says Requiring a High School Diploma May Violate the Law

January 3, 2012 Leave a comment

The Washington Times reports that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission posted an “informal discussion letter” on its website December 2, warning employers that requiring prospective employees to have a high school diploma may run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the Times, employers could violate the ADA by screening out those individuals unable to complete a high school degree due to a learning disability that meets the ADA’s statutory definition of “disability.”

I will, for the moment, forego discussion of the most obvious problem: with an economy in the doldrums and real unemployment sky high, bureaucrats in Washington are doling out heaping helpings of uncertainty to the marketplace, making it difficult to know which practices are acceptable and which will be interpreted as against the law.  And when employers are uncertain of what they can and cannot do, the default is to avoid even the possibility of problems.  In this case, that means they will avoid hiring.

As important as I think this criticism is, I also believe the EEOC’s guidelines – which thankfully do not carry the force of law at the current time – are indicative of another problem, which I can illustrate using myself as an example.

I am an attorney, and with my law license, I am a[n unwilling] member of a cartel.  I was required to finish a terminal law degree, and then required to pass a three-day examination. One may wonder what the difference between requiring a high school diploma and a law degree is, or how, if disabilities cause you to fail your tests in high school, they would not also cause you to fail the bar exam.

And yet the EEOC seems not to care about the law profession (or about doctors, psychologists, dentists, etc.) and its relation to the non-exclusionary implications of the ADA. Why is that?

My thought is that it is because lawyers (and doctors, psychologists, dentists, etc.) have their own comfy little cartel. With the imprimatur of the government – both in individual state licensing schemes and the nationwide aegis of the American Bar Association and its school accreditation scheme – lawyers are exempted from still further meddling by such entities as the EEOC.  The EEOC considers the law cartel “one of us.”

And yet, what of the effect on the rest of “them”?  The cartelization typical of professional occupations like law, as well as the zealous restrictions on all other professions by Washington bureaucracies does not tend to help the vast masses of people who are seeking jobs.

On the contrary, the regulations are drawn up to do the exact opposite: if you are already a member of the cartel or securely in a job, you are generally unaffected.  If you are not, you are getting ever more difficult to hire.  Institutions like the EEOC claim that they are run in the interest of the public. But when a large chunk of the public is looking for work and being blocked by bureaucratic policies, it seems more likely that the EEOC is run in the interest of the EEOC.

Which is fine if you are on the inside, but not if you are on the outside looking in.

The Disturbingly Close Ties Between Chicago Gangs and Chicago Politicians

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

When Barack Obama was elected president, most of the intelligent electorate knew exactly what to expect.  You may take the politician out of Chicago, but you can never take the Chicago out of the politician.

As expected, Obama has rewarded the country with corruption, sweetheart deals, arbitrary policies, and a spoils system on steroids.  Despite the frantic efforts of most mainstream news sources to avoid coping with this reality, the roots of the Obama presidency are solidly set in the seedy underworld of Chicago.

So when Chicago Magazine’s David Bernstein and Noah Isackson published their expose “Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance,” I probably should not have been surprised at the length, depth, and breadth of corruption and crime in the highest reaches and lowliest bureaus of Chicago’s political machine.

But I was.

I strongly encourage you to read the entire article, as I cannot hope to encapsulate the perverse nature of this institutionalized corruption in a single quote.  However, the authors have helpfully summarized their findings, so hopefully reading this will induce you to seek more.

• While they typically deny it, many public officials—mostly, but not limited to, aldermen, state legislators, and elected judges—routinely seek political support from influential street gangs. Meetings like the ones Baskin organized, for instance, are hardly an anomaly. Gangs can provide a decisive advantage at election time by performing the kinds of chores patronage armies once did.

• In some cases, the partnerships extend beyond the elections in troubling—and possibly criminal—ways, greased by the steady and largely secret flow of money from gang leaders to certain politicians and vice versa. The gangs funnel their largess through opaque businesses, or front companies, and through under-the-table payments. In turn, grateful politicians use their payrolls or campaign funds to hire gang members, pull strings for them to get jobs or contracts, or offer other favors (see “Gangs and Politicians: Prisoner Shuffle”).

• Most alarming, both law enforcement and gang sources say, is that some politicians ignore the gangs’ criminal activities. Some go so far as to protect gangs from the police, tipping them off to impending raids or to surveillance activities—in effect, creating safe havens in their political districts. And often they chafe at backing tough measures to stem gang activities, advocating instead for superficial solutions that may garner good press but have little impact.

The paradox is that Chicago’s struggle to combat street gangs is being undermined by its own elected officials. And the alliances between lawmakers and lawbreakers raise a troubling question: Who actually rules the neighborhoods—our public servants or the gangs?

The extent of the corruption is shocking, and the brazen attitude with which politicians ally themselves with [more] common criminals is unbelievable.  If you want any indication of the source of the corruption currently in the White House, look no further than here.

%d bloggers like this: