Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Case of the Fake But Accurate Social Security Card”

My ethics conundrum regarding the fake but accurate Social Security card solution—the Dan Rather approach, if you will— continued to garner a wide range of responses. Rick, as usual, has delivered one of the most thoughtful and provocative, and it is a worthy Comment of the Day.

Here is his comment on “Ethics Quiz: The Case of the Fake But Accurate Social Security Card”:

It strikes me that sometimes—not always, but sometimes—ethics is on a continuum. There’s the truly ethical, the not unethical, and the unethical, with many finer distinctions to be made.

I don’t running screaming into the night at the idea of faking a card, under the circumstances. Still, the truly ethical thing to do in this situation is to tell the prospective employer the truth. And the availability of all those other possible means of identification is indeed relevant. Provide one of the non-Social Security card alternatives and whatever other documentation is available. Importantly, if the employer, for whatever reason, is unwilling to accept this legally sufficient documentation, you don’t want to work for this person, no matter how much you need a job. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Case of the Fake But Accurate Social Security Card

A conundrum I have been asked to solve:

A mother is working to get her foreign adopted child a new copy of his Social Security card, which was lost. The child is a citizen since infancy, and a SS number has been assigned to him, but the process for a naturalized alien to get another is long and fraught with red tape, delays and frustration. So far, replacing the card has taken ten months, though it was supposed to take three. Now the son is waiting for the card to be issued. Social Security says it is waiting for final approval from Immigration, and Immigration says that there is a bottle neck, but not to worry.

Meanwhile, the boy has a standing job offer for a job that he is excited about and that would help family finances considerably. He cannot be processed without a Social Security card, however. And the job will not be held open forever.

For $250, a friend of the mother’s can get a counterfeit Social Security card with the son’s real number on it. He can have it in a week,

Your Question, in the last Ethics Quiz of 2011:

Granted that getting such a fake card is illegal, is it unethical?

None of the agencies involved dispute his citizenship, that he is enrolled in Social Security or that his number is valid. He has a document from Social Security that lists his number. The fake card would not assert anything that wasn’t true, except that he actually had the official card. He would be offering fake proof, but fake proof of something that is undisputed and true.

Is this one of the rare cases when conduct would be both illegal and ethical?

I’ll take your responses and update this with commentary later.

Robert Samuelson’s Brilliant, Ethical, Hopeless Proposal

Great idea, Robert. Too bad it requires courage and honesty.

I don’t generally regurgitate other writers’ essays, but in this case I am making an exception. Robert Samuelson, rare among op-ed columnists in that he is a truth-teller without party bias, has a column today that proposes a joint act of integrity and heroism by Barack Obama’s immediate predecessors. His idea, if implemented, could have a major impact on breaking the impasse in Congress that threatens the nation’s future. It could be accomplished without bureaucratic red tape, and is profoundly responsible and ethical. And it would burnish the legacies of two former presidents who could use some burnishing.

Will it happen? Never. That’s the disturbing part. Continue reading

Gov. Perry, Social Security, and Condemning the Truth

He speaks the truth! STONE HIM!!!!

In the Bizarro World that is American politics, Gov. Rick Perry was deemed to have stumbled not at all when he spoke of his skepticism about evolution, because a depressing number of Americans are cheered by the delusion that humans were created in a god-like image 10,000 years ago, despite all evidence to the contrary. But Perry is now seen as making a possibly fatal blunder in his presidential aspirations by telling the truth. Stranger yet, the truth Perry told is an essential one that must be acknowledged to address America’s financial ills, and identifying problems is what leaders are supposed to do. Never mind. People don’t want to believe it, so speaking this truth is “wrong.”

The statement Perry made that has Republicans, Democrats and the media in a dither is that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Continue reading

Ethical Quote of the Week: Ed Koch

You're still doin' just fine, Ed!

“David Weprin is making phone calls trying to scare seniors. They’re nonsense. Weprin should be ashamed of himself . . . Bob Turner is running for Congress to protect your Medicare and Social Security. If anyone tries to scare you with lies about Bob Turner, tell ’em Ed Koch told them to knock it off!”

——Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, in a robocall on behalf of Republican Bob Turner, who is alarming Democrats by threatening to win Anthony Weiner’s vacant House seat in New York’s 9th Congressional District.  The State Democratic Committee, trying to bolster his opponent, Democrat David Weprin, had sent their own robocalls to senior voters, warning that Turner wanted to “dismantle” Social Security  (Translation: “You won’t get your checks!” This is a lie, as no politician has proposed any Social Security reform that would alter the benefits of any current or soon-to-be recipients of Social Security benefits.)  and end the program “as we know it.” Continue reading

Comment of the Day #3 on “Ethics Dunces: The Senate and House Leadership”

Come back, Ross! We need your charts!

The third Comment of the Day on this “Comment of the Day Friday” is an epic from Michael, expanding on the theme of my original post.

“I hate the fact that no one is talking facts, only ideology. In such an atmosphere, these selections make sense. The S&P statement said our downgrade was because we failed to tacked long-term indebtedness especially the main drivers of long-term debt: Medicare and SS, but no one really wants to deal with that. To talk facts, you really need some tables, figures, and analysis. I’m not just talking about politicians, here. Isn’t this the reason we tolerate the media? Aren’t they supposed to keep us informed of about things like this so we can then get outraged by such a stupid selection of people to ‘fix’ our problem.

“Why can’t we find a news outlet that will break things down like this?” Continue reading

Fact Checker Ethics, Part II: Validating Deceit, and Practicing It Too

Et tu, Fact Checker?

In its review of Washington Post “Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler’s shameful refusal to call the Democratic dissembling on Social Security, Ethics Alarms saved the best—which is to say, worst—for last.

Beginning with a statement typical of Obama Administration and Democratic leadership positioning on the subject, Rep. Xavier Becerra’s (D-Calif.) “Social Security has never contributed a dime to the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt…not one penny to our federal budget deficit this year or any year in our nation’s history,” Kessler gives a brief history of Social Security, why it has no more money, and concludes with this nonsense:

“Becerra is sincere in his convictions and his statement is true, so far as it goes. Yes, Social Security in the past has not contributed to the nation’s debt. But it’s basically a meaningless fact and actually distracts from the long-term fiscal problem posed by the retirement of the baby boom generation and the shrinking of the nation’s labor pool.” Continue reading

Fact Checker Ethics: Alibis For Obama, Part I

The Washington Post “Fact Checker,” Glenn Kessler, is among the most biased of the breed. On the issue of the Obama Administration’s outright dishonesty on Social Security, however, he is embarrassing his paper and the entire Fact-Check community.

Lately, his strategy has been to bury obvious dishonesty by the Obama Administration and Democrats regarding Social Security in technical details, excusing straightforward misrepresentation (how’s that for an oxymoron?) and encouraging readers to shrug, give up, and move on

How nice for the President to have political allies posing as objective truth-tellers. Continue reading

How the Lack of Ethics Cripples Democracy, Reason #1: Ethical Leadership Is Neither Encouraged Nor Rewarded


How many elected leaders will be responsible when it means risking THIS?

Washington Post Metro columnist Robert McCartney relates the cautionary tale  of Fairfax (Va.) School Board member Liz Bradsher.  The school board, like others across the nation, was required to make some tough choices with its resources scarce and stretched to the breaking point.  The costs of renovating a high-achieving elementary school in the Fairfax County countryside  didn’t pass an objective, cost-benefit analysis, so the board voted to close it. Bradsher, whose district includes Clifton, the neighborhood served by the school, was expected to vigorously oppose the move.  But after studying the costs and enrollment forecasts, she reluctantly concluded that it made more sense to shutter the facility so the county could spend scarce renovation dollars where they would benefit more children.

She did what was best for the Fairfax community as a whole, which, as an elected official, is her duty. But rather than appreciating the courage it took to agree to close a beloved institution in her district for the greater good, she is being attacked. Anonymous postings on a popular local website have spread false rumors that she has a drinking problem and that her marriage is on the rocks. She is receiving threatening letters, and obscene e-mails.   Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Daily Kos Blogger “bal”

Did Past Paul Ryan make Future Paul Ryan a hypocrite, or vice-versa? Is that even possible?

I sometimes comfort myself with the fantasy that the extreme left websites like The Daily Kos are written and read solely by 15-year-olds. While this adds to my anxieties about the public schools’ incompetence at teaching basic skills like logic, analysis and argument, it soothes my fears that our nation’s policies and political discourse are being dangerously warped by millions of addled adults whose passion is untempered by even a modicum of fairness and common sense. In this spirit, I am hoping that bal is a teenager, which would explain, though not justify, his absurd post on Kos. I fear he is not.

He writes, “I guess it’s only when social programs help other people that they’re bad, because I haven’t seen Paul Ryan acknowledging how Social Security benefits helped him and his family in trying times. Continue reading