Comment Of The Day: Public Confidence And Trust (2): Observations On Gallup’s Confidence In Institutions Poll

After Charles Green‘s recent  Comment of the Day on the post, Public Confidence And Trust (1): Observations On Gallup’s Trust In Occupations Poll, I was pretty sure that there would be an encore when I posted Part 2, an overview of the Gallup poll on public trust and confidence in American institutions. Charlie didn’t disappoint, so here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Public Confidence And Trust (2): Observations On Gallup’s Confidence In Institutions Poll:

…I agree with you that this stuff is as mission-critical as anything.

As you know, my life’s work is studying trust, and while I focus on interpersonal trust, you can’t ignore the systemic institutional issues either. In fact, they are connected.

In fact, I agree with your fundamental point that the cure for what ails our institutions must lie in personal behaviors, personal relationships, personal ethics.

Without taking anything away from that fundamental and massive agreement, let me suggest two tweaks to the issue as you have presented it.

The first is that this is NOT simply a US phenomenon. I recommend even more sobering reading from the Edelman Trust Barometer, a study that has been ongoing for over a decade. See the 2017 version here: https://www.edelman.com/global-results/

That survey covers about 18 western countries: fully half of them report the level of distrust in institutions – business, communications, NGOs, CEOs, etc. – not materially different from what we see in the US. Continue reading

Fair vs Fair: Ethics and the “No-Tip” Restaurant

You know, this looks like a place that would believe that dishwashers deserve as much pay as waiters...or as bankers, for that matter.

You know, this looks like a place that would believe that dishwashers deserve as much pay as waiters…or as bankers, for that matter.

William Street Common is a new restaurant in Philadelphia, and is getting publicity for, we are told, experimenting with a different and (maybe?) fairer compensation model. Owner Avram Hornik  pays all of its employees, from the servers to the dishwashers, at least $15 an hour plus paid sick leave and health insurance benefits. There is a 20 percent service charge for drinks, and that goes into a common fund that makes that  $15 an hour wage affordable. Money left over at the end of a pay period is divided up among employees based on a point system related to various factors.

Hornik came up with this structure, he says, to deal with the well-debated problems of tipping. “Some people just tip the same amount, but some people base it on how quickly the food was there, whether we were out of something, whether the server was there when they wanted them to be,” he says. “So much of that is out of the control of the individual server… So why would it be fair for the service employee to be responsible for the poor decisions of management?”

Hornik argues that his model “essentially creates a guaranteed floor. But we’re also capping the ceiling,” he points out, because the tipping gets shared equally with all employees. “We didn’t think it was fair [that] in some places you have dishwashers earning 10 dollars an hour and the bartender earning 30 dollars an hour.” He also is convinced that the customers will benefit.  “That atmosphere among the employees, a sense of community and empowerment and happiness with the job, is going to translate into a better environment for customers,” he said. “By having happy staff customers are going to be happier too.”

Is this system really fairer than the current one? Progressives are cheering it, because it represents a “living wage,” or at least something close to it. OK, but it would be nice not to feel hyped: ThinkProgress, for example, had headlines that the William Street Common “got rid of tipping” and writes “tips aren’t mandatory.”

Inept reporting or lies, take your pick. A 20% “service charge” is a mandatory tip, so tips ARE mandatory. The reports don’t explain how voluntary tipping has been eliminated, or whether a server would be prohibited from keeping a ten-dollar bill that a diner hands him, saying, “You know, the food was lousy, but you were so gracious and accommodating that you single-handedly made the evening bearable. Thank you. If I ever come back, it will be because of you.” If so, is that fair?  I don’t think so. In fact, it’s exactly as unfair as a diner not rewarding excellent service, and tipping a dime. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Washington Post

Better yet, just THINK...

Better yet, just THINK…

Here is another reason Why Our Children Will Grow Up To Be Cheats And Liars: ethically obtuse thinking like that expressed by the Washington Post editors this morning.

The Jackie Robinson West Little League team was stripped of its national title for a very good reason: it had an unfair advantage over its competition, so its victory was corrupt. Its coach and administrators cheated, manipulating league boundaries to assemble a team fortified by “ringers.” The victory didn’t count because the victory was a sham. The team wasn’t playing by the rules. This is not a difficult concept, or shouldn’t be.

Yet the Post’s editors are aghast, writing, “The fact is they punished a group of children who did everything right, on and off the field — punished them for the sins of adults who did wrong and an organization that was willfully oblivious.”

Yup. That’s the way life works. That’s the way it has to work and has always worked, and the sooner children learn that lesson, the less likely they are to grow up as ethically muddled as the adults who write Post editorials. Continue reading

Jonathan Gruber, Bad Law Ethics, The Corruption Of Democracy, And The Affordable Care Act

"Oh what a tangled web we weave..." You know the rest of Sir Walter Scott's famous quote. So why doesn't the Obama Administration?

“Oh what a tangled web we weave…” You know the rest of Sir Walter Scott’s famous quote. So why doesn’t the Obama Administration?

There are important democratic lesson to be learned from the ongoing Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck, and we could discuss them objectively if the beleaguered supporters (enablers? excusers? rationalizers? propagandists?) of the law would just start accepting facts rather than resorting to dishonesty in all of its forms. The law is a mess. The law is a mess because its proponents in Congress passed it without reading it, because the public was deceived and misled in order to pass it, and because Congressional leaders and the President, in addition to not reading  major legislation that have massive consequences to the nation’s population, businesses, and budget, pushed it through without the usual two House scrutiny and amendment process.

Fixing the mess, or trying to fix it, has caused as many problems as the misbegotten law itself. (Please note that I am not discussing the intentions of the law, or what good things it might accomplish for Americans show needed help getting health insurance. That is beside the point. Good intentions don’t make a good law, or a bad law good. Look at the chaos at the border generated by the 2008 anti-human trafficking law, when it was mixed with irresponsible Democratic rhetoric and administration policies suggesting that illegal immigration restrictions were a thing of the past where children were concerned. Yes: many Americans have benefited from the Affordable Care Act. That fact alone, stated without reference to all the chaos, uncertainty, corruption, division and misrepresentations that accompany it, does not mean the law has been a success.)

The law depended on a penalty for not buying health insurance, a penalty that Democrats insisted was not a tax (so the President didn’t have to defend a large tax increase.) But a penalty for not doing what citizens should be free to do was unconstitutional, so Chief Justice John Roberts, in the spirit of avoiding government by judge, allowed the ACA to slip by in a 5-4 decision by declaring that the mandate was a tax, regardless of what it had been called to get it passed, and thus was constitutional after all.

Then the President began delaying deadlines and waiving provisions in the law that weren’t ready to go into effect or that were obviously going to cause more embarrassments. This was an abuse of power: Presidents can’t change laws by fiat. It established a dangerous precedent that undermines Constitutional democracy and the Separation of Powers. But it’s a bad law, and an unpopular law; the Republican House obviously won’t agree to the fixes needed without also doing a major overhaul, and this is, in the ironic words we keep hearing, most recently by the New York Times, Present Obama’s “most significant legislative achievement“—how sad is that?—and must be preserved at all costs.

At all costs. So far the costs of the ACA have been complete partisan polarization, the public’s realization that the President who pledged “transparency” will lie repeatedly to get his way, judicial rescue or dubious validity, and the defiance of the lawmaking procedures delineated by the Constitution. And the ethics train wreck goes on.

In Halbig v. Burwell, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that those who purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act are only eligible for federal tax credits if they do so through an exchange established by a state.  (Another court ruled otherwise.) The court did this because this is what the miserably drafted, rushed, never-read by its own champions actually says, stating that tax credits are only available to those who purchase insurance in an “[e]xchange established by the State.” Obama-propping pundits, Democratic officials and the Administration’s spokespersons have attacked and indeed ridiculed the decision, saying that he court should have refused to enforce the actual wording of the law because it creates an absurd result. After all, the ACA’s stated goal is to expanding access to health insurance. Why would Congress try to limit it in this fashion—I mean, other than the fact that they had no idea what the law they were voting for actually had in it, just a general idea about what it was supposed to do? Continue reading