Perusing the many ethics issues that have slopped into my inbox, I realized that a fascinating theme was developing: wanton, willful, inexcusable stupidity. Being stupid is not intrinsically unethical, for in many cases it is a malady, a Nature-dictated state like being short or bald, just one that is more limiting than most. Being stupid and allowing yourself to be placed in a position where your stupidity will harm others, however, is unethical.
Incompetence is not the same thing as stupidity necessarily, but it is a kind of stupidity and it generates stupidity: stupid risks, stupid decisions, stupid statements, stupid policies, stupid results. The recent Pew study showing that the two most common descriptions of President Obama were “good” and “incompetent” was intriguing on that issue. A man can be both “good” and “incompetent,” but a leader cannot. Obama can be a good man (though after hearing his defiant, dishonest, petulant and self-destructive State of the Union address, I find that hard to believe), but he cannot be a good leader while being an incompetent one.
The President is incompetent, and the incompetence has, as it always will with those serving under incompetent leadership, metastasized throughout his administration into incontrovertible stupidity of a sort that it is unethical for a leader to tolerate or allow to continue. Yet he does.
This brings us to the IRS. Believe it or not, just even months after federal officials fired the firm CGI Federal for its botched work on the Obamacare website Healthcare.gov, the IRS awarded these same bunglers a $4.5 million IT contract for its new Obamacare tax program.
Let me say that again, slowly, so it sinks in:
CGI Federal was found substantially at fault for the disastrous failure of the Affordable Care Act website. Only this past week, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report concluding that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “did not perform thorough reviews of contractor past performance when awarding two key contracts.” The report, which covered similar territory covered by a Washington Post story over a year ago, showed that CGI Federal had ties to failed previous botched projects. The Post had also shown, in an earlier story, that the company was a nest of executives from another malperforming IT firm. The government spent about $800 million creating HealthCare.gov, yet the site barely functioned during its disastrous launch in October 2013. CMS eventually fixed the flaws, but the remedies added millions to the cost of the project.
HHS finally terminated CGI’s contract in January of 2014. And yet, knowing all this,IRS officials still signed a new contract for CGI to provide “management support” and “critical functions” for its Obamacare tax program (!!!!!) in August of 2014, paying the firm another $4.5 million.
There is no conceivable excuse for this. It is res ipsa loquitur, self-indicting stupidity and incompetence. It is also signature significance: an administration that suffers a massive embarrassment and inflicts inconvenience and pain on the citizens it is obligated to serve because of terrible performance by a negligently selected contractor and then hires that same contractor again for another project is, by definition and beyond dispute, too stupid to be trusted to do anything.
Does anyone disagree? I hope not.
Now consider this, which does not involve stupidity, exactly, but rather the virulent bias that creates stupidity.
The only news organizations and websites reporting the IRS’s incompetence are the among much derided “conservative media.” Even though the “mainstream media,” aka “left-biased media,” reported this week on the inspector general’s condemnation of process leading to the first time CMS was hired, neither the Washington Post, nor the New York Times, not the Los Angeles Times, nor USA Today, nor CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, MS..never mind, you already guess that, nor The Daily Beast, nor the Daily Kos, nor Talking Points Memo, thought that this continuing proof that President Obama and his administration have a tragically flat learning curve was news.
Come to think of it, maybe they are right.
Pointer: Jonathan Turley