Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bad Government by Design

Do you like it when businesses are allowed to make millions of dollars by overcharging on government contracts, or do you feel that it is wrong? Halliburton and KBR does it yearly on no-bid contracts for Iraq, and engineering companies closer to home have done it while building roads, bridges, and highways.

According to an article by Robert O'Harrow Jr in the Washington Post : "Design and engineering companies helping to build the nation's highways ran up millions of dollars in inappropriate charges at the expense of taxpayers, including bills for parties, luxury car leases and hefty paychecks for executives, according to auditors."

The bills were described by the firms as overhead costs but should not have been allowed, according to a Feb. 5 report by auditors in the Department of Transportation's inspector general's office." 

Do you like it when drugs are allowed on the market with serious side effects that can cause permanent damage or even kill you? How about letting food products and where they are produced go untested on the market with the results making hundreds of people sick, even killing some. An unlicensed peanut company sold peanut products with salmonella, causing six deaths and 600 ilnesses, yet, as the NY Times stated: "Federal and Texas officials did not even know PCA's Plainview facility existed until after they started investigating the Blakely plant. It was unlicensed and had been uninspected by the government for four years.

If the company was undetected in Plainview, it had a minimal presence in Lynchburg. Parnell ran PCA from a converted garage behind his home in a wooded, upscale suburb. Earlier this week, kayaks and a covered powerboat sat in the driveway next to the two-story building. A sun-faded banner with a picture of a squirrel hangs nearby from Parnell's house reading "Welcome to the Nut House."

Do you like it when banks are allowed to make bad investments while the regulators turn their heads on purpose, and you loose your life savings, your house, your retirement, and even your job? 

Bernie Madoff got away with a giant ponzi scheme (or a private social security scheme) for years while the SEC ignored complaints about him. His wife withdrew $15 million right before he was arrested, and the courts have allowed him to live in his $7 million apartment instead of a jail cell. Again, from the NY Times: "Lawmakers spent the rest of the hearing in a heated dialogue with senior S.E.C. staff members, getting little satisfaction and suggesting the agency was the problem.

In the torrent of criticism that Mr. Markopolos and lawmakers heaped on the S.E.C. and its senior staff members, some complaints were serious — that the agency lacked the expertise to tackle major frauds by big players and had no systematic way of dealing with whistle-blowers. Others were sarcastic, with Mr. Markopolos saying regulators seated in Fenway Park in Boston would have trouble finding first base."

If none of this seems fair, if none of the government agencies seem to be doing what they are supposed to do, leaving places like New Orleans a wreck even now, then you can thank the right wing of the Republican Party. Every time they have been in power they have purposely tried to destroy the way government agencies function; this has occurred since Ronald Reagan was in office until George W Bush. In fact, George wasn't all that stupid, he did it on purpose.

One of the fundamental ideas that has to change is the corruption of the idea of limited government into making it a dysfunctional one. The right wing has gone out of its way to  make it one that is easily corruptible and can be bought off by lobbyists and special interests. It has to change back to one that looks out for the safety and interests of the American people. If the Obama administration can change this inbred culture just a tiny bit, then it was worth electing the man.

But as long as the Republicans are holding their breaths until their faces turn blue every time they are asked to help out in the spirit of bi-partisanship, I'm afraid that the situation will be similar to the one in Iran. The younger generation will just have to wait for those crusty old farts to die off before they can recreate their Party into one that will listen to more diverse opinion. Instead, they listen to Newt Gingrich, who, according to Political Animal: "Given the extent of Gingrich's failures, it seems odd that Republican lawmakers would turn to the former Speaker for guidance, especially now that the party is struggling so badly with message, direction, leadership, and public standing. Indeed, Gingrich led the fight against Clinton's economic policies -- he guaranteed they would lead to a recession -- which in retrospect only makes his judgment look even worse." Newt Gingrich is like Jason, no matter how many times he gets killed, he just won't die...

The reason why I think every Congressional candidate should take a proficiency exam, is because we are led by people like John Boehner and Eric Cantor: "Mr. Cantor, along with the House minority leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, faces the challenge of trying to lead a shrinking and increasingly conservative caucus. 

And it is Mr. Cantor who is pushing the party in a direction that Democrats, and some Republicans, say is risky: almost lock-step opposition to Mr. Obama’s economic plan. 
Mr. Cantor’s increasing prominence is in many ways a reminder of the difficult time the party faces after losing the presidential election and in the absence of any high-profile Republican leaders in the House or the Senate. Mr. Boehner routinely defers to him at news conferences, reflecting the concern of Republicans that they put forward new and relatively young faces. (Mr. Cantor is 45, but looks younger.)

In discussing the Republican defeat, he said: “I don’t think it was an outright rejection of what I call common sense conservative principles. And as a Virginian, holding James Madison’s seat, I don’t think it was a rejection of the principles upon which this country was built.”

In that spirit, I offer:

Rules Of Washington

If it's worth fighting for, it's worth fighting dirty for.

Don't lie, cheat or steal...unnecessarily.

There is always one more son of a bitch than you counted on.

An honest answer can get you into a lot of trouble.

The facts, although interesting, are irrelevant.

Chicken little only has to be right once.

"NO" is only an interim response.

You can't kill a bad idea.

If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you ever tried.

The truth is a variable.

A porcupine with his quills down in just another fat rodent.

You can agree with any concept or notional future option, in principle, but fight implementation every step of the way.

A promise is not a guarantee.

If you can't counter the argument, leave the meeting.

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