Snowy Day Ethics Flurries, 1/31/2021

1. Nice. Earlier this week, as noted on Ethics Alarms, the New York Attorney General released a report suggesting that the number Wuhan virus nursing home deaths could be more than 50 percent higher than originally claimed by Governor Cuomo’s administration.

In response to the report, Cuomo said, in part, “”Who cares? They died!”

Meanwhile, the mainstream media seems intent on minimizing the whole scandal. Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean accused NBC anchor Lester Holt of censoring her friend to shield Cuomo. Dean’s friend, appearing on Holt’s show, claimed that she was directed by him not to say “Governor Cuomo failed us” regarding the death of her own family member in a nursing home, but rather “New York failed us.”

“The mainstream is STILL protecting this guy. Disgusting,” she tweeted. “New York State did not fail us. The governor, his administration and his health department FAILED US. You are a disgrace to all families.”

2. From the Ethics Alarms “I don’t understand this at ALL” files: There have been many stories in the media about a persistent problem involving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the federal program that covers gig workers, part-time hires, seasonal workers and others who do not qualify for traditional unemployment benefits. The program, established by Congress in March as part of the CARES Act, has provided over $70 billion in relief. It also has erroneously send some citizen too much money, since, you know, mass government programs are inherently wasteful, inept, and inefficient.

To be accurate, “some” is an understatement. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were overpaid, and now states are asking for the money to be returned. The amounts can be thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. The recipients of these “Oops! Our bad! Now pay up or else!” letters are told that their benefits will be reduced to compensate for the government’s error, and that the state may put a lien on their home or attache future wages.after future wages or withhold tax refunds. In most cases the money has been spent, and in many cases, the recipients are still in fiscal distress.

Many who collected payments are still out of a job, and may have little prospect of getting one. Most had no idea that they were being overpaid. While any states waive overpayments on regular unemployment insurance when no fraud is involved or when paying the money back would cause someone significant hardship, the federal rules for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance make no such allowances. How many Americans are affected? Well, as of October 1, 2020, about 27% of those approved for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Ohio had been overpaid amounting to 162,000 claims. Colorado has about 29,000 at last count; Texas has over 41,000. That’s 232,000 claims, each worth thousands, for just three out of 50 states and the District.

This is an easy call for Ethics Alarms. People in need should not be punished because the government misleads them due to its own incompetence. The grants should stand, and the states and federal government should make up the loss with budget cuts and increased taxes. Maybe the public will start to understand that there’s no free lunch, and when you get one by mistake, the government can’t pump your stomach to get it back.

3. Oh, sure. This is rational...Progressive activists are targeting sign language interpreter, Heather Mewshaw, whose crime appears to be that she has appeared in a MAGA cap and did signing for the deaf for some conservative groups. Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki has used Mewshaw’s skills now that the woke administration has added signing to all press briefings. Jon Henner, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, wants the signer sacked. “I personally cannot trust the integrity of her interpretation. That means I have no reason to trust what the Press Secretary says if it’s coming through her hands,” he says. The Democratic Coalition has picked up on Henner’s witch hunt. Though there is no evidence of Mewshaw ever mistranslating anything due to any political bias, her skills apparently won’t save her from the ongoing ideological purges now underway.

4. This is amusing…A friend who had been reading about the New York Times’ firing of Lauren Wolfe (discussed here and here on Ethics Alarms) reports finding this in the Times social media policies:

“If our journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media, that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom. We’ve always made clear that newsroom employees should avoid posting anything on social media that damages our reputation for neutrality and fairness.”

As my friend points out with uncharacteristic subtlety: “That ship has sailed.”

9 thoughts on “Snowy Day Ethics Flurries, 1/31/2021

  1. #2. That brings back memories of the Good Old Days while serving as a military officer. When disbursing made a mistake and overpaid you for something (e.g. travel claim, changes to overseas allowances, etc), as soon as they realized their mistake they would deduct the entire amount of their error from your next paycheck. Couldn’t have employees taking advantage of the Government, could we?

  2. Relevant to nothing in this post: Are there any administrative law experts out there who can tell me whether the Keystone XL Pipeline people can sue Biden for yanking their existing permit? Is that sort of thing within the discretion of a sitting president? How could the lenders on that project make any loans under such circumstances? Where are all the District Court judges all over the country insisting Trump’s executive orders were void because they were not reasonable? Won’t the pipeline people have some recourse?

  3. In Massachusetts, the unemployment relief has been a total screwup. My son found out quite by accident that a claim was filed in his name. He was not unemployed. Now there is a demand against him for the return of funds and a threat of taxes on money he did not get. He just received a 1099-G. Also, they have also managed to totally both the vaccine rollout, but no worries. Most of our elected officials cut the line.

    • This is why I have a running gripe against the whole idea of “Identity Theft”. His identity wasn’t stolen, the issue is the government was defrauded, plain and simple, by someone who misrepresented their identity. Your son was never involved. But the government, along with banks and other institutions, like the “Identity Theft” construct because it relieves them of the duty to verify who they’re giving money to, and makes it the individual’s burden to make sure other people aren’t making claims in their name.

  4. On 3;

    “I personally cannot trust the integrity of her interpretation. That means I have no reason to trust what the Press Secretary says if it’s coming through her hands,”

    First, and most obvious: Does… Anyone…. Literally anyone, actually believe what the press secretary says regardless of who’s hands does their translating? If you know someone, let me know, I have a bridge to sell at rock bottom prices.

    Second, I already know the answer, but has anyone pointed out something that Mewshaw signed that was inaccurate, or are they going into vapors because they don’t like her politics and she *might* misinterpret something?

  5. (2) Why isn’t the money coming from the departments who made the mistake? Why aren’t the people who made the mistake fired? I had a job where I was docked in pay if there was a discrepancy in my drawer less than $0.50. If there was over a $0.50 discrepancy, I would be written up and possibly fired. I was once almost fired because there was $20 (even) extra in my drawer. When asked to explain, I asked if I was supposed to start the day with a $20 in the drawer (which was odd and I noticed).

    The taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay extra in taxes for mistakes caused by public employees. That should come out of department budgets and the employees.

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