A Thought Sparked By Another Incredible Revelation: Could It Be Ethical To Just Accept Outrageous Government Incompetence?

idea-spark

A persistent election cycle joke is the candidate who swears the deficit can be brought into line without cutting any sacred cow programs or entitlements, or raising taxes. All that has to be done, the candidate explains, is to eliminate the billions of dollars lost to “waste, fraud, and abuse.”

The theory is either dishonest or proof of disqualifying naiveté. Massive systems create massive inefficiencies, and massive systems that confer power and influence attract the inept, the foolish and the corrupt like the Clintons attract cynics. Not only is it impossible to significantly eliminate waste, fraud and abuse from the government, as long as the government keeps growing, their incidence will only increase.

Every time I see evidence of flagrant waste of taxpayer money, or absurd programs that encourage irresponsible behavior and public assistance dependence on a crack-brained theory based on misplaced compassion, I wonder if it’s even worth flagging any more for the unethical betrayal of public trust that it is. Nothing changes, or is likely to change. The waste and unconscionable lack of responsible government has persisted my whole life, though administrations of both parties.

It is true that this administration seems to be the first that doesn’t even try to be competent or responsible, or perhaps that places such negligible value on those qualities that their absence isn’t even viewed by its supporters as a flaw. Good intentions are all that matter. To me, this is insanity, as well as deadly arrogance and obvious incompetence, but it is the theme of the Obama Administration. The attitude appears to be reaching its apotheosis in the rhetoric surrounding the Iran nuclear deal, with the President’s recent comments suggesting that it is a good deal because the alternative is facing a reality we don’t want to face. Even though John Kerry claimed that the operating negotiation philosophy would be that no deal was preferable to a bad deal, he was clearly either lying or off mentally wind-surfing somewhere, because that is not the way his own administration reasons. A bad health care law is better than no health care law, so bad is really good. A bad illegal immigration policy is better than no illegal immigration policy, so the bad policy is good. A terrible recovery from the recession is better than no recovery at all, so the administration is crowing about depressing job numbers and more citizens on public assistance than ever before. This entire administration and its political culture is based on the rationalization I have termed the worst of them all, #22, Comparative Virtue, or “It’s not the  worst thing.”

Nearly seven years of this have  turned the brains of many Americans and especially Democrats to Swiss cheese, and that may have terrible consequences down the road. For example, a recent poll showed that 59% of Americans favor the pending deal with Iran, and 59% also don’t think it will work. Hmmmm. Now, I’m going to be kind and assume that the 41% of my countrymen who don’t like the deal are in that second 59%, but even then, this leaves a significant 18% who like a deal they don’t think will work. Why? Because it’s well-meaning.  Because the President is doing “the best he can.” Because they really think that hoping and wanting and avoiding unpleasant truths is a good way to live. Anyone who is in both 59%  groups is brain-washed or brain dead, and a victim of this President’s acceptance of incompetence without accountability as a management model.

My most recent thoughts on this topic were prompted by this incredible item:

From ABC:

A federal audit has found that some Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. territory have received disability benefits in part because they could not speak English. The Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration said in a report issued this month that there were 218 cases from 2011 to 2013 in which benefits were granted under those circumstances.

The report said Social Security determined it was difficult for those people to find a job because they did not speak English, but the inspector general said they could have found work given their Spanish-speaking skills in a largely Spanish-speaking island. English and Spanish are Puerto Rico’s official languages, but some 84 percent of people in Puerto Rico say they do not speak English very well.

Adds law professor Jonathan Turley:

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the SSA was misapplying a rule that is intended to provide financial assistance to individuals who are illiterate or cannot speak English in the United States.

Wait, what? Not being able to speak English is a disability worthy of recieving public assistance in the U.S.? Haven’t Democratic administrations done everything possible to discourage immigrants from learning English, under Carter, for example, mandating that public school must teach in students in their native tongues? Haven’t Democrats and Hispanic activists fought efforts to make English the national language? If you pay people for not learning English, more people will refuse to learn English. Ah, but the policy is so well-meaning, though! Kind! Compassionate! Yes, it is jaw-droppingly idiotic, and apparently administered by graduated of Madam Louisa’s Home For The Bewildered, because millions have been sent to help poor, suffering citizens of a territory where Spanish is the primary language for the crippling handicap of speaking it. But it is well-intentioned, and that’s what matters.

In the end, I, we, sane people, responsibility people, have to keep condemning these outrages to ethics and logic, even though they will keep on coming until leaders with the remarkable and rare combination of integrity, intelligence, courage and charisma author a cultural tipping point, and a majority of the public suddenly snaps out of their trances, like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. It can happen; it’s happened before: such leaders have appeared throughout our history.

Even if it doesn’t, imagine how bad things will get if we just accept this incompetence. Actually, don’t. Thinking about the non-English speakers assistance program is bad enough.

_____________________________
Pointer: Jonathan Turley

Facts: ABC News

 

14 thoughts on “A Thought Sparked By Another Incredible Revelation: Could It Be Ethical To Just Accept Outrageous Government Incompetence?

  1. I’ve got my own personal horror stories about governmental agencies – the Post Office, for example, and the NJ State Police. But in fairness, those stories tend to be anecdotal. Ditto the bit about the IRS coming down on the Tea Party. And ditto most of the thrust of this post.

    Yet at a systemic level, another kind of damage done is far more serious – and not at all the harm that you’re focusing on, which is the acceptance of low standards.

    The greater harm is the low standards themselves that inevitably result as an anecdotally-informed public votes in those morons who use “fraud and waste” as a tool to strangle government.

    Exhibit A: Bloomberg Businessweek’s current issue story called An Emotional Audit: IRS Workers are Miserable and Overwhelmed.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2015-04-08/an-emotional-audit-irs-workers-are-miserable-and-overwhelmed

    This is the agency required for collecting 95% of revenue. It depends on the respectful acquiescence of citizenry for the legitimacy of that function, which is key. And it is being hamstrung.

    IRS employees are forced to do things like buy their own pencils and staplers, forego all sorts of interactions fundamental to any modern organization, make do with ancient software and no tech support, and so on. And all this is the direct result of the largely-but-not-wholly GOP shrill harping on how all government is bad. (Not to mention the continued demonization of all IRS employees for what, as far as I can see, is still a trivial issue – or at least an isolated one– about tax exempt status of non-profits).

    Any business run this way would have long been out of business. Any modern manager would be horrified at the conditions we expect these people to work under. And any poor citizen who has to interact with these hapless folks can expect huge delays, inadequate responses, referrals to automated websites, and other items guaranteed to do nothing but cause more irritation – all the name if “efficiency.” And what do we do? Blame the staff. Honestly, the problem starts and ends with cynical politicians who love bloviating about demons and cheap solutions.

    Acceptance of low standards, I’d submit, is nowhere near the problem of enforcing low standards in the first place by starving good people of the ability to do a half decent job.

    Read the article and thank your stars you don’t have to work in such a place.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2015-04-08/an-emotional-audit-irs-workers-are-miserable-and-overwhelmed

    • You aren’t going to get any sympathy from me about the travails they’ve suffered after being used as a political weapon. Also, as noted here, if your family recoils from you based on what you do for a living, maybe you’re doing something wrong.

      Incidentally, do you really consider selectively targetting one side of the political spectrum just before an election trivial? Regardless of how much of an impact spending actually has (hint: less than most people assume) they sure looked like they were trying to influence things. The fact that several computers which would have had relevant emails all went bad at the same time COULD be chance, but it’s not the way to bet.

      Regarding things like buying their own office supplies: maybe they shouldn’t be doing things like spending money on a star trek themed training video.

      It really looks to me like the IRS has a leadership issue, which is the ultimate cause of most of their recent scandals.

      • I have to agree: the IRS misconduct was frightening, serious, and the failure of the news media to cover it is pure abdication of duty. The GOP, and every other American, has no reason to trust a powerful agency whose highly placed executive takes the 5th as part of a cover-up, and and who is protected by the politicized Justice Department. It certainly isn’t a minor question of non-profit eligibility. It’s an agency pledged to be politically neutral using its power to influence the election—Nixon stuff.

        I don’t see how anyone can follow the investigation and not be alarmed.

        http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/irs_news/

        • The travails, budget cuts and starvation diet the IRS has been facing have been happening for the better part of a decade. The Tea Party issue was less than two years ago.
          Prior to that, what was the rationale for strangling the agency in charge of collecting 95% of revenue, for cutting back on the ability to conduct audits and prevent fraud, and for intentionally degrading customer service?

          And even post Tea Party issues (which I think you horribly overstate, but never mind), what is the rationale for punishing the taxpayers, encouraging tax evasion and ruining customer service–how and who does that help anyone or anything?

          How does slashing service and budget-cutting at the IRS serve any good cause? Do tell, because it sure looks like Nyah-Nyah childish posturing by cheap pols to me.

          • An incredibly powerful agency with power to harass, persecute, seize funds and prosecute is found to be unaccountable, untrustworthy and politicized, incompetent and a tool of political warfare, and it seems unfair to you that responsible legislators seek to restrict it? Wow. Do tell me how can rationalize that.

            I just specified on good cause. The other is that the tax system is a mess, wasteful, abused, and making the agency charged with executing a system that demands reform unable to do so is a direct route to changing the system.

            Only deep confirmation bias can explain dismissing the IRS scandal as trivial after all the repeated and proven lies about its extent and origins from the administration. the power to tax is the power to destroy. The IRS official most responsible has refused to cooperate with Congress. The DOJ has refused to make her. It is the obligation of the government to ensure that the tax collecting agency is trustworthy. It hasn’t. It is unaccountable, political, biased and corrupt. Why should Congress fund such an agency until it shows that it can be trusted?

            • “making the agency charged with executing a system that demands reform unable to do so is a direct route to changing the system.”

              More like an indirect route, I’d say. And grossly ineffective.
              –Is disabling the INS the best way to immigration reform?
              –Will strangling the FDA make it do a better job of approving new drugs faster?
              –Should we choke the SEC to effect a new regulatory policy?

              This was happening years before the Tea Party incident–it is a separable, and separate, issue.

              Seems to me that an instinct to strangle a governmental agency gies way beyond policy disputes–it’s motivated by a blind hostility to government in principle. To call it a “direct route” to policy change–well, I don’t get that.

    • Resident Liberal Crackpot Achievement Unlocked –
      Seriously argue that the GoP is responsible for the IRS unpopularity

      • Expect this and more from Charles.

        He can be counted on for non sequitur and straw man filled kneejerker every so often. Especially when his sacred cows are targeted.

        I’ll dissect his nonsense tomorrow.

  2. “–Is disabling the INS the best way to immigration reform?
    –Will strangling the FDA make it do a better job of approving new drugs faster?
    –Should we choke the SEC to effect a new regulatory policy?”

    Yes.
    It sounds like a good way to get rid of entrenched corruption.
    An even better example is disabling the Department of Education in order to improve education.

  3. ‘For example, a recent poll showed that 59% of Americans favor the pending deal with Iran, and 59% also don’t think it will work. Hmmmm. Now, I’m going to be kind and assume that the 41% of my countrymen who don’t like the deal are in that second 59%, but even then, this leaves a significant 18% who like a deal they don’t think will work.’
    One subtle possibility is that they hope its failure will engender a more realistic approach to negotiating with religious fundamentalists, possibly going as far as Punch’s advice to those about to marry.

    • “One subtle possibility is that they hope its failure will engender a more realistic approach to negotiating with religious fundamentalists”

      Wouldn’t count on that, Ted. The U.S. Government has shown itself, over and over, to be willfully ignorant of alien cultures, values and behaviors throughout our brief history. I suspect we will continue to believe that the Islamic culture is just like the Christian one, and that Arabs, Jews and Texans are all pretty much alike.

  4. Some people out there have nothing but low expectations from the federal government and have given up caring about anything but what benefits they can squeeze out of it.

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