My greatest struggle in writing an ethics blog is to flag unethical conduct without sliding into political commentary. Explaining why Barack Obama is an atrocious and unethical leader need not involve political commentary, but many people assume that any criticism of political figures or their policies are partisan and political. Now take the Affordable Care Act (Please!)—I have never argued pro or con about its substance. It’s the lousy ethics I care about. I object to the lying, the undemocratic way it was debated and passed, the incompetence of Congress voting for a huge and expensive bill no members read, the dishonesty of the title, the fact that it does not address the unsustainable rise in health care costs, the unethical manner in which the news media lobbied for it, the unconstitutional way that flaws in the law have been “fixed” by executive fiat rather than by the legislature, the irresponsible debt the program will require, the incompetence of administering it…these are ethical issues, not political. It is the great weakness of party loyalty that these are not recognized as non-partisan issues. Democrats should be as concerned about lying to get a progressive program passed as a conservative program.
Avoiding politics becomes even harder when I am confronted with a mind-blowing*example of ideological insanity like the Energy Department’s Energyween.gov page. It isn’t just that everything about it is ridiculous. The problem is that it is ridiculous, sinister, and exemplifies the left’s accelerating fondness for the methods and attitudes of totalitarian regimes, including the attempted infantilization of citizens, and a fondness for indoctrination. Some forms of government are unethical as well as unwise, among them being totalitarianism and socialism.
On Energyween, the celebration of Halloween, an activity that the government should not have any part in, is transformed into a something resembling an Obama Youth exercise with what is supposed to be a light-hearted tone, perhaps to put readers off the track. It seems to be an attempt to hijack Halloween and make it a political exercise, taking the holiday away from children and exploiting them for a political agenda. The Obama Administration has done this before, with its directive to true believers to use Thanksgiving to push Obamacare. That was despicable. This is much worse. Or perhaps much stupider. It’s hard to tell, as you will see.
Here are suggested designs for pumpkin carving, for example… Continue reading →
Oh, I almost forgot….
If this can save millions, what other measures are out there? Never mind—if they couldn’t find this, they won’t find them, either.
Here is the news story that justifies the title, and also that made my dome blow, as I’m sure yours will.
A 14-year old sixth grade student from Pittsburgh named Suvir Mirchandani devised, as his science fair entry at Dorseyville Middle School, a computer project that examined printing costs. He analyzed a random sample of school printouts and measured how much ink various fonts use. Noting studies that found ink remarkably expensive (I thought it was just my printer), Mirchandani calculated that by simply switching from the Times New Roman font to a thinner, more ink-thrifty font like Garamond, his school district alone could reduce its annual ink costs by 24%, saving up to $21,000 annually.
His teacher encouraged him to submit his work to the Harvard-based Journal for Emerging Investigators, who were moved to inquire, “How much money could the government save if it switched to Garamond?”
Plugging in the Government Services Administration’s estimated annual cost of ink, Suvir concluded that if the federal government used Garamond exclusively it could save nearly 30% of the total $467 million, or $136 million per year. Placing state governments on a font diet would save an additional $234 million, he reported.
They checked his figures, and he was right. The simple act of changing a typeface would save taxpayers $400,000,000 a year. Kaboom.
Now permit me a brief rant…
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“And the best part is, those poor suckers in coach are paying for all of this! Bwahahahaha!!!”
The Washington Examiner acquired records of federal agency travel through the Freedom of Information Act, and made an interesting discovery:
“The federal government spent millions of dollars on thousands of upgraded flights for employees in 2012 and 2013, paying many times more for business and first-class seats than the same flights would have cost in coach or the government-contracted rate. Premium travel reports from 14 federal agencies documenting the flights show these agencies alone spent an estimated $8.7 million on 1,903 upgraded flights in those two years. That was about $6.4 million more than the same coach and government-rate flights would have cost. The agencies spent $5.7 million in 2012, almost double the $3 million they paid for premium travel in 2013. The cost of coach and government-rate flights is approximate because several agencies either reported estimates for some coach fare or didn’t report them at all.”
There is just no excuse for this. None. I can conceive of some rare situations when first class travel would be called for, but not many. The accommodations in coach for most international air travel is perfectly endurable, and the huge difference in price isn’t justified unless you have serious back problems or some other malady. The basic ethical question every public servant should ask himself or herself is this: would I fly First Class if I had to pay for it? Almost always, the answer will be “no,’ and even if the answer is yes, the standard for buying luxury seating on the public’s tab should be more stringent. It’s not their money. That’s really the answer to the threshold “What’s going on here?” ethics query in this instance. What’s going on is that the public’s trust is being abused by officials casually using scarce taxpayer resources for their own comfort and convenience. Continue reading →