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Archive for the ‘Government Ineptness’ Category

The Over Regulated United States

Posted by Steve Markowitz on January 14, 2014

 

RegulationsThe Washington Examiner posted a story of regulations gone wild within the United States.  It included a photograph from Utah Sen. Mike Lee Facebook page that shows 80,000 pages of rules and regulations created in 2013 by unelected bureaucrats who work for the federal government.  On top of the case that includes these voluminous pages is the small stack of papers that are all of the laws passed by Congress and signed by the President during the same period.

This comparison is an indication that the Country is being run by unelected bureaucrats, which was never intended by the Founders or included in the Constitution.  It also goes a long way in explaining not only the ongoing problems of our economy, but of the greater country.

The problems of the ever-increasing regulations go beyond the resistance they add to the economy or even the more general problems they cause to society.  These regulations also give powers to bureaucrats endangering personal liberties and freedoms.  However, the ever-increasing number of regulations should not come as surprise.  As government and its employees grow, they are often rewarded based on finding societal problems and then solving them through regulations.  Whether these regulations hurt or benefit the Country rarely plays in the equation.

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Faith in Government at New Lows

Posted by Steve Markowitz on December 21, 2013

A recent CBS News poll indicates a significant shift in American public opinion towards government.  Americans trust in government is at historic lows, as indicated in the first chart below.  Given this it is not surprising that 63% of Americans believe that government is doing too much.  This does not bode well for Liberals who promote the government and governmental solutions as the way to solve societal ills.

For the past three years President Obama has blamed problems on the “do-nothing” Republicans in Congress.  The results of this poll would seem to indicate that the American people want more of less action.  Still, the Republican Congress must accept some fault in the negativism Americans have towards government.  However, this is greatly overshadowed by the inept action of government in general and more specifically the Obama administration.

The Obama administration’s failures include the catastrophic implementation of Obamacare.  The very word “Obamacare” has become synonymous with inept government.  However, the NSA snooping, the IRS scandal, “fast and furious”, failures such as the wasteful Solyndra “investment”, and America’s inept response to the ongoing mess in the Middle East have shown almost a continuous failure of government since Obama’s first election.  In fact, if it were not for the successful hit Obama put on bin Laden, his failure rate would be almost perfect.

The government’s failure in recent years should not come as a surprise.  First, we have had at the helm of the executive branch for the past five years a person with no prior executive experience.  In addition, the growth in government over recent decades has made an inefficient bureaucracy even more cumbersome to operate.

The CBS News poll opens opportunity for Republicans, but by no means a guarantee.  The GOP has been inept over the years and many of its politicians are more concerned with their reelection then governing, just like the Democrats.  In fact, Americans distrust for government may be an opening for a libertarian-type third-party movement.  It is likely that continued inept government programs will stoke the fire of such movements.

Trust In government

Trust In government2

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Bureaucracy and Inefficient Government Threatens US’s National Defense

Posted by Steve Markowitz on December 10, 2013

John Lehman, who was President Reagan’s Secretary of Navy, has written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal concerning America’s depreciating military capabilities.  In the editorial titled More Bureaucrats, Fewer Jets and Ships Lehman points out that the problem is not lack of funding for the military, but instead inefficient and wasteful usage of the funds.  Here are some of the issues pointed out by Lehman:

  • America’s defense spending, adjusted for inflation, is now higher than at the height of Reagan’s military buildup.  However, the then 600 ship Navy is now down to less than half that number.  In addition the then 20 Army divisions have been cut in half.
  • Air Force fighters are now about 30 years old and their numbers have been cut significantly since the Reagan administration.
  • In the past 20 years the number of civilian and uniformed bureaucracy has increased by more than two times.  Currently there are over 1.5 million full-time civilian employees working for the Department of Defense, as well as 1,000 civil servants and 700,000 contract employees.  Making these numbers more protests, Lehman points out that currently more than half of active-duty servicepeople have staff positions.  As an example, Lehman points out that in the past 25 years Joint Task Force Staffs have increased from seven to over 250.
  • One of the most complex weapon systems developed by the US military was the Polaris missile system that took a near four years from its initial draft requirement to the first operational submarine.  Today, complex procurements require about 22 years for the same steps.

The inefficient bloating of US military costs is an example of government out-of-control.  It does not seem to matter whether the spending is for national defense, education, the needy, entitlements or the Department of Energy, costs increase and services depreciate.  This is an unfortunate result of a system that rewards (reelects) politicians for spending money that in essence purchases their future votes.  In addition, bureaucracies are self-perpetuating islands of power that fear cost-cutting as it endangers that power and potentially the incomes of those working for government.

Unless government employees are rewarded and disciplined based on results and not the size of the programs, the misappropriation of taxpayer funds will increase.  There is no better example than the current debacle that is called Obamacare.  Our depreciating military capabilities is a close second.

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Obama Administration Admits Government Cannot Match Private Sector Efficiency

Posted by Steve Markowitz on December 2, 2013

This past Sunday the Obama administration released a statement concerning the Obamacare website, healthcare.gov.  It included the following rather remarkable quote:

While there is more work to be done, the team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness, and will continue their work to improve and enhance the website in the weeks and months ahead”.

Finally, even Progressives are getting the idea when it comes to ineffectual government.  This was not lost on even the usually Left-leaning NBC when its reporter Chuck Todd said on last weekend’s Meet the Press (see video below): “That is an acknowledgement that, ‘You know what?  If this was a government operation for a long time and it failed, now we’re bringing in the private sector folks.’  I mean, that is an indictment on the whole idea of government as a solution, frankly…

President Obama, through his failed programs, has done more to hurt the cause of expanded big government than any Tea Partyier could have hoped.  Quite remarkable!

 

 

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Obama Care Fiasco in the President’s Own Words

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 18, 2013

During last week’s hour-long news’ conference President Obama was untypically contrite in discussing the catastrophic implementation of his signature legislation referred to as Obamacare.  An important eight minute segment of that conference is included in the video clip below.

Mr. Obama’s responses, although long-winded, are reasonable concerning problems related to the website, as well as those Americans who’s insurance was canceled after the President promised they could keep their policies.  However, missing from the discussion is how a website costing in excess of $200 million did not work in the first place.  Why did a government with nearly unlimited assets and spending with over three years on preparation fail so miserably at implementation?  These important questions need to be openly discussed as America considers future directions and power of the federal government.

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State Department and the Peter Principle

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 14, 2013

According to Wikipedia the Peter Principle “is a proposition that states that the members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability”.  This principle is often as “people within an organization tend to rise to their level of incompetence”.  While many organizations are guilty of perpetuating the Peter Principle, bureaucratic governments tend to take it to heightened levels.

Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens published an op-ed titled “Axis of Fantasy vs. Axis of Reality” that focuses on the US State Department’s current naïve stance concerning negotiations with Iran on its nuclear weapons.  Stephens also shares a glaring example of the Peter Principle in action within the government with the following history of State Department employee Wendy Sherman.

  • Prior to entering government service/politics Sherman was a social worker.
  • In 1988 Sherman managed Mike Dukakis’s Washington office during his failed presidential run.  She also worked at the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
  • During the mid-1990s Sherman was the CEO of the Fannie Mae Foundation.  While classified as a charity, it was ultimately shut down for inappropriately using its tax-exempt status.
  • Sherman joined the State Department and was a key person in our negotiations with North Korea over its illicit nuclear weapons program.  She later held other positions at the State Department.

Okay, so Sherman was involved with Dukakis’s failed run for the presidency, she held political positions in the DNC, and was heavily involved with the US’s failed negotiations with North Korea over nuclear weapons.  While this record of failures should have relegated Sherman to at best a low level desk job, instead she has since been appointed the US’s chief negotiator with Iran over to nuclear weapons program.

Sherman has a history of failure, but has been promoted due to political patronage.  Expecting a positive outcome from her negotiations’ efforts with Iran borders is not rational.

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Governments Take Advantage of citizens’ Weaknesses

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 7, 2013

This week voters in two states made decisions that take advantage and profit from human frailties.

PotIn Colorado voters approved a measure to place a 25% tax on the sale of recreational marijuana.  In this vote the good citizens of Colorado earmarked the first $40 million of pot revenue for public schools.  How noble!  How ludicrous!  Pot at the least is not a benefit to students or their education.  Recognizing the reality of this lunacy, Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper attempted to defer criticism of the tax saying: “We will do everything in our power to make sure kids don’t smoke pot and that we don’t have people driving who are high.  This ballot measure gives Colorado the ability to regulate marijuana properly.”  Since when has any government been able to regulate the actions of hormone filled teenagers?

New York’s voters legalized casino gambling joining other states who have found the allure of gambling revenues to be too goodCraps to pass up.  The media justifies this affirmative vote in financial terms, indicating it will bring revenues into New York State.  The fact that the money will come from many who cannot afford to lose it is of little consequence to these modern-day Robin Hoods.

With our Libertarian bent, this Blog does not believe morality can be legislated.  We therefore are a proponent of allowing individuals to gamble and get high, as long as their actions do not endanger others.  However, having governments benefit from these human weaknesses puts them in conflict with the interests of the greater society.

For decades governments at various levels spent hundreds of billions of dollars attempting to eliminate gambling and drug use in society.  Many governmental employees and industries earned a living on these massive efforts.  Now their pensions will be paid for by those currently legal practices.  What a clear example of governmental moral corruption.

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Progressive EEOC “Benchslapped” by Court

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 10, 2013

This Blog has often writes about a government out-of-control that tramples on individual and corporate rights with increasing impunity.  Laws that may start with good intent often morph into discriminatory regulations enforced by an out-of-control bureaucracy and regulators.  The bureaucrats and regulators, who are rewarded for enforcement activities, end up taking rights from some Americans for the benefit of others.  The system is ripe for political interpretations and partisanship, as we have seen in the recently IRS scandal

Earlier today Fiona W. Ong, an attorney with the labor law firm Shawe & Rosenthal, posted an article about the EEOC’s (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s) overreach that was castigated by the courts.  The case, brought by the EEOC against a temporary staffing firm, is discussed in Ms. Fiona’s article and its links posted below.

The case was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan that not only found against the EEOC, but castigated the Commission for pursuing a meritless lawsuit.  The court ordered the EEOC to pay the defendant $745,000 to help defray its cost of litigation.  The EEOC appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit who this week upheld the lower court’s decision.

As a labor lawyer, Ms. Ong likely see firsthand the huge costs employers expend defending against frivolous claims.  While those employers succeed in many of the cases, the legal costs are huge, especially with the nearly limitless pockets available when the plaintiff is the US government.  This reality forces completely innocent defendants to pay “green mail” since such settlements ultimately are less costly than litigation.

Like Ms. Ong, seeing a government agency slapped down for abuse is heartwarming to this blogger.  However, that warm feeling is tempered by the damage abusive government programs have done and will continue to do to individuals and the greater economy.  For this and similar reasons, American industry has been gutted as companies respond to the abuse in the only logical manner available to them; move to countries with friendlier business environments.

In addition, my fleeting feeling in of warmth engendered by the court’s decision quickly cools when realizing that the EEOC made the outrageous decisions with taxpayers not only paid for this foolish litigation, but also the fine levied by the court.

This should be a lesson to Progressives looking for even more government.  It should be remembered that behind every bureaucratic and regulatory position there is a human being who is just as greedy and flawed as those in the private sector.  However, there are significant differences with the main one being that government employees are rarely held accountable for their poor decisions.

EEOC Slapdown Over Meritless Criminal Background Check Lawsuit

By Fiona W. Ong on October 9th, 2013 Posted in Background Checks, Employment Discrimination, Litigation, Workplace Trends

I like the EEOC – I really do.  They do important work, and most of the time they seem to get it right.  But every once in a while they dig in their heels over something patently ridiculous, leaving employers and management attorneys like me tearing out our hair in frustration.  So there’s no small measure of satisfaction when the EEOC gets benchslapped by a court for engaging in an unreasonable lawsuit, as just happened in EEOC v. Peoplemark, Inc.

As I mentioned in a recent blogpost, EEOC’s Attempt to Prohibit Use of Background Checks Rejected, the EEOC is being rather aggressive in its pursuit of employers using criminal background checks in the hiring of employees.  Although the EEOC’s own Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions contemplates the reasonable use of criminal records, the EEOC has been pursuing criminal background check claims against employers that just don’t make sense.

In the Peoplemark case, the EEOC brought suit against a temporary staffing company because a company VP told the EEOC that the company had a policy of denying jobs to those with felony records.  It turned out that the VP was mistaken (and what a mistake that was!), but the EEOC pursued the case even after it was clear that no such policy existed and that the company did, in fact, refer felons for jobs.  After the case was finally dismissed, the trial court scolded the EEOC for bringing a lawsuit that lacked merit from the beginning and forcing the company to incur significant defense fees and costs.  Deeming the EEOC to be unreasonable in continuing to litigate even after it was clear that there was no basis for its claims, the court ordered the EEOC to pay the company $219,000 in attorneys’ fees and $526,000 in expert fees, plus costs. This award was upheld on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Frequently employers are forced to spend excessive sums of money to defend against frivolous claims.  Rarely do courts award fees and costs to employers who successfully defend themselves against such claims, and realistically, individual plaintiffs could rarely afford to pay them in any case.  So it really warms my heart on those extraordinary occasions when justice is served!  Three cheers!

 

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US Marshals Service’s Missing Thousands of Encrypted Radios

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 22, 2013

The Wall Street Journal reported on yet another example of an inept and wasteful federal government.  According to the report the US Marshals Service that is charged with protecting federal courthouses and protecting witnesses cannot account for at least 2,000 two-way radios worth approximately $6 million.  Making matters worse, these radios have protected encryption for secure communications, which in the hands of criminals could endanger innocent people’s lives.

The Journal obtained the information about the inept government waste through Freedom of Information Act requests.  When confronted with the report a US Marshals Service spokesman made the lame excuse that “this issue is in large part attributable to poor record keeping as a result of an older property-management system, as opposed to equipment being lost.”  However, that same agency’s Office of Strategic Technology had a more blunt assessment stating: “It is apparent that negligence and incompetence has resulted in a grievous mismanagement of millions of dollars of USMS property.  Simply put, the entire system is broken and drastic measures need to be taken to address the issues.  The 800 pound elephant in the room needs to finally be acknowledged.”

Last year the US Marshals Service was on the hot seat for a very different reason.  The Wall Street Journal then exposed the fact that almost all of the USMS’s Virginia employees had government cars.

It is remarkable that with nearly daily examples of inept government actions being reported that so many in the United States remain willing to give that government still more power.  As Forrest Gump once so infamously said, stupid is as stupid does.

 

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Americans Don’t Trust the Government

Posted by Steve Markowitz on June 20, 2013

Many Americans are conflicted on the issue of the NSA tapping into our telephones and Internet.  On the one hand all desire protection from the radical terrorists that threaten the Country.  At the same time we fear what the government will do with the information they are collecting on incent citizens.  This conflict has made for unusual political bedfellows that mate up Leftists and conservatives into coalitions on both sides of the argument.

One preeminent conservative thinker of our time is Dr. Thomas Sowell, who also is a respected economist.  He published an article titled Trust in Government Long Gone that clarifies why Americans are conflicted about an issue that should not be creating such dissonance; our leaders have lied so often that the trust in government has been broken.  Sowell correctly concludes:

 “Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon happened – and both were shameless liars.  They destroyed not only their own credibility, but the credibility of the office.”

“When Barack Obama squanders his own credibility with his glib lies, he is not just injuring himself during his time in office.  He is inflicting a lasting wound on the country as a whole.”

“But we the voters are not blameless.  Having chosen an untested man to be president, on the basis of rhetoric, style and symbolism, we have ourselves to blame if we now have only a choice between two potentially tragic fates – the loss of American lives to terrorism or a further dismantling of our freedoms that has already led many people to ask:  “Is this still America?””

Trust in Government Long Gone, by Thomas Sowell, June 18, 2013

Amid all the heated cross-currents of debate about the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program, there is a growing distrust of the Obama administration that makes weighing the costs and benefits of the NSA program itself hard to assess.

The belated recognition of this administration’s contempt for the truth, for the American people and for the Constitution of the United States, has been long overdue.

But what if the NSA program has in fact thwarted terrorists and saved many American lives in ways that cannot be revealed publicly?

Nothing is easier than saying that you still don’t want your telephone records collected by the government.  But the first time you have to collect the remains of your loved ones, after they have been killed by terrorists, telephone records can suddenly seem like a small price to pay to prevent such things.

The millions of records of phone calls collected every day virtually guarantee that nobody has the time to listen to them all, even if NSA could get a judge to authorize listening to what is said in all these calls, instead of just keeping a record of who called whom.

Moreover, congressional oversight by members of both political parties limits what Barack Obama or any other president can get away with.

Are these safeguards foolproof?  No.  Nothing is ever foolproof.

As Edmund Burke said, more than two centuries ago: “Constitute government how you please, infinitely the greater part of it must depend upon the exercise of the powers which are left at large to the prudence and uprightness of ministers of state.”

In other words, we do not have a choice whether to trust or not to trust government officials.  Unless we are willing to risk anarchy or terrorism, the most we can do is set up checks and balances within government – and be a lot more careful in the future than we have been in the past when deciding whom to elect.

Anyone old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, when President John F. Kennedy took this country to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, may remember that there was nothing like the distrust and backlash against later presidents, whose controversial decisions risked nothing approaching the cataclysm that President Kennedy’s decision could have led to.

Even those of us who were not John F. Kennedy supporters, and who were not dazzled by the glitter and glamour of the Kennedy aura, nevertheless felt that the President of the United States was someone who knew much more than we did about the realities on which all our lives depended.

Whatever happened to that feeling?  Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon happened – and both were shameless liars.  They destroyed not only their own credibility, but the credibility of the office.

Even when Lyndon Johnson told us the truth at a crucial juncture during the Vietnam War – that the Communist offensive of 1968 was a defeat for them, even as the media depicted it as a defeat for us – we didn’t believe him.

In later years, Communist leaders themselves admitted that they had been devastated on the battlefield.  But, by then it was too late.  What the Communists lost militarily on the ground in Vietnam they won politically in the American media and in American public opinion.

More than 50,000 Americans lost their lives winning battles on the ground in Vietnam, only to have the war lost politically back home.  We seem to be having a similar scenario unfolding today in Iraq, where soldiers won the war, only to have politicians lose the peace, as Iraq now increasingly aligns itself with Iran.

When Barack Obama squanders his own credibility with his glib lies, he is not just injuring himself during his time in office. He is inflicting a lasting wound on the country as a whole.

But we the voters are not blameless.  Having chosen an untested man to be president, on the basis of rhetoric, style and symbolism, we have ourselves to blame if we now have only a choice between two potentially tragic fates – the loss of American lives to terrorism or a further dismantling of our freedoms that has already led many people to ask:  “Is this still America?”

 

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