Posted by Steve Markowitz on September 16, 2016
Irrespective of good intentions, once started, government agencies and bureaucracies take on a life of their own in never-ending attempts to gain power, influence, and money. A poster child for this is the US Department of Energy formed in 1977 during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Its primary mission was in response to the oil crises of the 1970s and America’s need to become less dependent on imported oil.
As indicated in the chart, at best the DOE could claim some early success in its primary mission. However, between 1985 and 2005 net imports of oil surged. That did not stop the DOE’s employment from increasing from its initial 20,000 to today being over 100,000, when contract employees are included.
Progressives, who never find a government program they don’t like, would point to the significant drop in net oil imports since 2005. That decrease, however, was the result of private industry ingenuity, specifically fracking technologies. Since the election of Barack Obama, the federal government has done all it can in efforts to actually increase America’s dependence on imported oil, putting coal out of business, increasing drilling regulations, stopping pipelines, etc.
Steve Forbes published an op-ed in Forbes titled The Latest in the Never-Ending Assaults on Our Freedoms. One of These Is Lethal that appropriately attacks the tyranny of government. Forbes states that: “Even in democracies the natural tendency of government, unless stopped, is to expand its powers and extend its tentacles into every facet of its citizens’ lives–always in the name of helping them”.
Forbes uses the tobacco industry as an example of governmental overreach. This includes:
- The FDA’s (US Food and Drug Administration) has implemented regulations that will ultimately put out of business small manufacturers of premium cigars and makers of e-cigarette.
- E-cigarettes, which are a safer alternative to cigarettes, will now be less safe by the new regulations that subjects all devices designed after February 15, 2007 to FDA approval. Prior to 2007, e-cigarette’s were crude and inferior, both in convenience and safety, to those produced today. As a result, these regulations will limit consumer choices for safer and superior devices.
- The smaller, boutique cigar manufacturers are been basically run out of business with the new regulations. The requirement of 5,000 hours of testing takes several years to complete, an expense the smaller companies cannot afford.
- Pipe smokers are not immune to from the FDA’s lunacy. Tobacconists who mix special blends of pipe tobacco will have to go through an FDA registration process as if they were a tobacco manufacturer. This added expense will put many of the blunders out of business.
It is not coincidental that the FDA’s tobacco regulations hurt small and newer producers of products and benefit the larger suppliers. This is but another example of crony capitalism that inflicts our economy. The incumbent suppliers have the mass in the political clout to push through laws that hinder potential competition. Politicians benefit from this incestuous relationship through political contributions. The bureaucracy and their governmental agencies profit through increased control, larger employee counts, and funding. This is not a new phenomenon, but one that has been repeated throughout history in many countries and governments. Following the money ultimately leads to the actual motivations behind governmental interventions in society and the economy.
Posted in Government Ineptness, Governmental Intervention | Tagged: Cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarette’s, FDA, Government, tobacco, Tyranny | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on May 14, 2016
Parts of Chicago are beginning to look like a failed Third World state. Following are statistics supplied by USA Today in an article titled “Chicago’s murder rate soars 72% in 2016; shootings up more than 88%”. According to USA Today:
- For the first quarter of 2016, murders in Chicago are up 72% with shootings increasing by over 88%, compared to the same quarter in 2015.
- In the first quarter 2016 there were 141 murders in the city, compared to 82 in the previous year. During the same period, shootings increased from 359 to 677.
- The 2016 increased carnage follows increases in 2015 with murders jumping by over 12% and shootings increasing to 2,900, an approximate 13% increase compared to 2014.
- Chicago police report that the surge in violence is related to gangs and mainly located in the South and West sides of the City, which includes mainly minority populations.
The trend in Chicago is getting worse by the month according to USA Today. In March alone, the city saw 45 murders and over 271 shootings.
Possibly the most troubling aspect of Chicago’s carnage is the seeming lack of concern in the media, or by politicians, and civil rights organizations. The victims of these crimes are mainly minorities. It is hard to believe that had the victims been white that there wouldn’t be greater outrage expressed not only locally, but also nationwide.
It is not the purpose of this posting to try to determine reasons behind the breakdown of civil authority and increased violence in America’s inner cities. Neither will this posting offer suggested solutions. Such discussions cannot be productive until the problem is acknowledged at a national level.
Progressives have made a cornerstone of their social reengineering thesis that when minorities are shown to be statistically at disadvantage, corrective actions is required. Their unwillingness to use this same yardstick for the murder of minorities in Chicago brings into question their actual motivations. It is likely that since Barack Obama associate Rahm Emanuel is mayor of Chicago, that this city is getting a pass on scrutiny other cities have received.
Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly recently had an exchange with Progressive Kirsten Powers (video posted below) that discussed not only the violence in Chicago, but the motivations behind those politicians who refuse to take action to protect its citizens. Ms. Power’s unwillingness to question motivations of the politicians in charge of Chicago, or those at the federal level, is telling. Progressives are quick to experiment with social engineering. However, when things go wrong they refuse to accept any responsibility. This goes to the crux of the dangers of an activist government for without accepting responsibility for failed initiatives, the only answer is to double down on the failed policies.
Posted in Government Ineptness | Tagged: Chicago, Murder, Rate | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on April 10, 2016
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe penned an op-ed titled “If you don’t rent to criminals, are you a racist?” It points out yet another grotesque example of governmental overreach that not only infringes on rental property owners’ rights, but also will ultimately lead to negative consequences for a broad spectrum of renters.
Last week the Obama administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development warned/threatened landlords about refusing to rent to individuals with criminal records. They \ justified this overreach by stretching the intent of The Fair Housing Act that makes it illegal to discriminate on the sale or renting of housing based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin. HUD’s guidance states: “Because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the US criminal justice system criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African Americans and Hispanics. . . . [T]herefore such a practice would violate the Fair Housing Act.”
This is an incredible stretch of executive branch authority and another example of a laws reasonable intent being distorted by unelected bureaucrats. It was never intended that The Fair Housing Act would protect convicted criminals. Using HUD’s logic there are a myriad of federal agencies from the CIA to the Secret Service whose actions are racist. If there is a problem with the criminal justice system, then it is the Congress’s and the Justice Department’s responsibility to fix the defects.
As Jacoby points out, people who rent housing not only desire reasonable rental fees, but also want clean and safe environments. These renters’ neighbors are chosen by landlords who they hope will choose wisely. In a free market a landlord is most likely to achieve profits by offering desirable living spaces. While property upkeep is an important part of this formula, so are the clientele who become renters and renters’ neighbors. Should this include unrepentant individuals with criminal records, with the record showing a high recidivism rate for criminals, as the song goes, “there goes the neighborhood”.
In the short run HUD’s actions might assist some with criminal records having greater access to housing. In the longer run, however, a broad spectrum of renters will be hurt as landlords not only relax standards as to who they will rent to, but also likely have less concern for property upkeep. The result will be increased blight in the inner cities, adding to the mess created in most large cities by governmental overreach and social engineering.
While HUD’s action is ill-conceived, there may be a more insidious motivation to it. Grand governmental interventions often modify the discussion allowing deflection of the real issues facing America’s inner cities. This includes the disintegrating education systems, increased unemployment rates especially among minorities, growing crime, and civil dissatisfaction that have been increasing in recent decades. If you are a Progressive, you are likely to blame those with more conservative views, i.e. Republicans. However, most large American cities have been run by liberal Democrats for decades. It is therefore more likely that Progressive social engineering is at the heart of the failings. Forcing landlords to rent to those with criminal records will not positively impact one of these root causes.
Posted in Government Ineptness | Tagged: Housing, HUD, Obama, Racism, Rent, renters Jacoby | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on February 28, 2016
The Left and Right both believe they have the answers to America’s economic downward spiral. Those on the Left are sure the problems relate to income inequality, racism and/or too much spending on the military. My friends on the Right are just as strong in their convictions that the problems are caused by an efficient tax system, excess entitlement programs, illegal immigrants, and of course the Left itself.
To this Blogger the cause America’s economic issues, as well as those of the greater world, is government itself, the world’s largest special-interest group. The video below share some facts proffering the danger of the growing government elites and their minions that includes:
- During the past 10 years the number of private sector jobs in America has grown by only 1% while during the same period the number of federal government employees has grown by 15%.
- Prior to the economic meltdown approximately eight years ago, the US Department of Transportation had only one employee earning over $170,000 annually. That number is now about 1,700.
- At the beginning of the economic meltdown the US Department of Defense had approximately 1,700 employees making $150,000 or more annually. That number is now over 10,000.
- During the first two years after the beginning of the economic meltdown the number of federal employees earning in excess of $100,000 annually doubled.
- In 2009 the average compensation package including salary and benefits in the private sector was approximately $61,000 per employee. During that year the average total compensation package for federal employees was over double that or $123,000.
There are currently about 21 million government employees in the United States, approximately 16% of potential voters. This is a huge voting-block, especially considering how few votes often separate winners and losers in important elections. However, add to this number families of government workers and the potential influence this voting-block rose enormously.
There is a growing anger and disillusionment among American voters that has not been seen in many decades. On the Left this is expressed by the surprising strength of Socialist Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. On the Right this is seen through the strength that Donald Trump has within the Republican primaries, even though his views have historically been in conflict with basic Republican ideology.
The electorate’s growing disillusionment has occurred during a time of historic growth in government power and spending. Those who believe that giving more power to government or allowing them to spend more money change this direction ignore historical precedent.
Many Democrats are on enthused by their likely candidate, Hillary Clinton. Similarly, many Republicans are aghast at the thought of Donald Trump being their party’s standard-bearer. Here’s a consolation for both: Not to worry, the special interests groups, including those who make a living on the public payroll, will ensure that the Country continues in the same direction that it has been taking for the last 50 years no matter who is president. Yikes!
Posted in Government Ineptness | Tagged: Democrats, Employees, Government, Republicans, special-interest, Taxes, Workers | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 27, 2015
One year ago 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, an African-American, was shot and killed by police officer Jason Van Dyke. Last week Van Dyke was charged with murdering McDonald. Given the video released by the city of Chicago during the same week Van Dyke was charged, there is little question as to the justification for the charges. The timing of the charges and other issues that indicate a cover up ans.
Immediately preceding the shooting, Laquan McDonald was being chased by Chicago police after they received reports of someone vandalizing automobiles in the area. One video shows McDonald running from the police carrying a small knife. Another video shows Van Dyke exiting his vehicle and shooting McDonald who was walking away from the police. The first shot took McDonald down and then Van Dyke emptied his clip shooting the victim another 15 times. There is no justification for Van Dyke’s actions.
The facts behind the McDonald shooting captured in the video are troubling enough. However, what happened since is also very problematic. First, the police department’s dash-cam video was not released for one year after the shooting and then only after a legal foundation took the Chicago PD to court to obtain its release. In addition, civilian video taken at a nearby Burger King was reportedly tampered with by the police the evening of the shooting. Finally, there were approximately a half a dozen other police officers on scene who witnessed the shooting, but did not participate in it. Their code of silence is inexcusable.
Justice must be served for Laquan McDonald and the charges leveled against Jason Van Dyke is a good start. However, the delay in making the charges, as well as the police department’s attempt to bury the video and cover up facts behind the shooting, are also inexcusable. Police officers who witnessed the shooting and did not come forward should be held culpable. In addition, those in the police department and the City who were in any way involved in a cover-up need to be made accountable.
Chicago’s corruption and tainted politics have been the subjects of national jokes for too long. The city that made famous: “vote early and vote often” needs to be cleaned up. Unfortunately given the power of the entrenched Chicago political machine, realistic cleansing is unlikely.
President Barack Obama has shown a willingness to step into local police matters on various occasions throughout his presidency. The corruption in Chicago is one issue this President should use his bully pulpit to address. However, given his close association with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other Democratic ward politicians, such a response by Obama is unlikely.
Posted in Government Ineptness | Tagged: 16, Chicago, Laquan McDonald, Police, shooting, Video | 2 Comments »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 31, 2015
CNN has reported that the US Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into a huge governmental program designed to assist severely disabled Americans find work. According to the report, AbilityOne and SourceAmerica are being investigated for potential infractions including financial fraud, inappropriate steering of contracts, and obstruction of justice.
The AbilityOne program is responsible for spending approximately $3 billion of taxpayer funds annually, which is supposed to be funneled to companies with at least 75% of their workforce being severely disabled. This program was initiated during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration in 1938. Typical of government programs, once started they continue into perpetuity. This program’s continuance is questionable given the many newer laws that protect handicap workers, including the infamous Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
According to CNN, up to half the companies receiving contracts from AbilityOne and SourceAmerica under this program do not meet the requirements of employing severely disabled in appropriate numbers. In other words, this program is yet another form of crony capitalism that permeates our government. In this case, approximately 10 large companies are receiving the lion’s share of this program’s funds. This degradation of a program initiated with the best intent is not surprising given that the person who runs AbilityOne is a presidential appointee, in other words a political hack.
Very large organizations are difficult to control under the best of circumstances. Lines of communications are tenuous and complex. Holding people accountable for their performance is nearly impossible.
The outrageously large US federal government has added burdens that ensure its inefficiency and ineffectiveness. This includes political appointments of unskilled managers, as well as a bureaucracy that answers to no one. Its employment rules also make it nearly impossible to terminate ineffective employees.
The greatest albatross on the government’s ability to reform itself is its nearly limitless budget that is only possible because of deficit spending. Only by removing the government’s ability to borrow funds for other than catastrophic needs could Americans hope to limit governmental corruption. Limited budgets force competition between different agencies for scarce funds, help weed out inefficient agencies, and would also help create transparency as groups vie for funds.
Posted in Government Ineptness | Tagged: AbilityOne, disability, disabled, DOJ, Fraud, SourceAmerica | 2 Comments »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 13, 2015
July has not been a good month for government and those that look to it to resolve societal challenges.
After the carnage in a South Carolina church that resulted in the death of nine African-Americans at the hands of deranged racist, Progressives sought to use the tragedy to push a gun control agenda. Then, last week it was announced that the accused shooter, Dylann Roof, was not legally able to purchase the gun used in the massacre. Admitting that the background check of Roof is not properly handled, FBI director James Comey said: “This rips all of our hearts out“. This is also an indication that America does not need more laws, but competent enforcement of current laws.
In San Francisco, 32-year-old Kate Steinle was murdered on Pier 14. Any murder of an innocent is a tragedy, but it becomes especially troubling when it could have been prevented had authorities acted responsibly. Ms. Steinle was reportedly shot by Francisco Sanchez, who is not only an illegal alien, but had been deported multiple times and had multiple felony arrests in the United States. Adding an explanation point to this avoidable tragedy, it was reported by the Associated Press that the gun used in the murder belong to a federal agent, but was reported stolen. Again, additional gun control laws would not have prevented the murder. However, had the city of San Francisco reported to the federal government that Sanchez was being released from jail, as requested by the federal government, he would have been deported prior to the killing.
Finally, last week the Country learned of a very damaging, but less violent event involving governmental incompetence to the max. Over 25 million Americans had their personal information stolen from a governmental computer system. This led to the resignation of Katherine Archuleta, the director of the Office of Personnel Management. Ms. Archuleta’s resume included working for the Obama administration’s reelection team. It is little wonder that she lacked competence computer/personnel security.
Over the years those with a Libertarian view of government have railed at the crony capitalism, waste and incompetence of government. As the government has grown, increasing its reach deeper into the economy and society, the opportunities for incompetence and abuse increases.
Posted in Government Ineptness | Tagged: Charleston, church, computer, Government, Hack, Steinle | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on May 15, 2015
The Amtrak train crash earlier this week resulted in the death of eight and dozens of seriously injured. The victims were not even buried before this tragedy became a political tool championed by Democrats to increase governmental spending.
The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) quickly concluded that the train crash occurred due to operator error. The train was traveling over 100 mph, twice the safe speed at that point in the track. While operator error was the cause, Democrats immediately began placing blame on Republicans who supposedly refused to supply funding to Amtrak to install the safety equipment that could have avoided the accident.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York, stated:
“Speaker Boehner’s comments are patently false. Experts have made clear that Positive Train Control could have prevented the tragedy in Philadelphia. It is simply a fact that insufficient funding for Amtrak has delayed the installation of PTC, and to deny a connection between the accident and underfunding Amtrak is to deny reality.”
While this Blog is no fan of Republican Speaker of the House Boehner, in this case it is Schumer who is “patently false” and “denying reality”. Here are the facts reported by the New York Times:
- In 2008, seven years ago, Congress mandated installation of Positive Train Control system in trains, the system mentioned by Schumer.
- The Amtrak train involved in the crashed was already equipped with Positive Train Control.
- The main reasons Positive Train Control in the Amtrak train was not operational were due to technical hurdles and bureaucratic bungling.
- Amtrak took four years to obtain the wireless frequencies needed for the Positive Train Control system, which were finally approved by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in March, 2015.
This tragedy and the way Democrats attempt to use it to further their political agenda is telling at various levels. First, it demonstrates that Schumer is either ignorant, a liar or both. It further demonstrates the incompetence of government to implement its own regulations.
Liberals offer a basic solution to any societal problem; throw money at it. Since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and more specifically since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the United States has gone through perhaps the most expensive social reengineering experiment in history. The results are in and they show failure. A prime example is the War on Poverty initiated by Lyndon Johnson. After spending trillions on this “war”, the poverty rate remains nearly unchanged in 50 years. Then there is Nixon’s War on Drugs that has failed in its efforts to stem the flow of drugs to the United States, has resulted in the growth of cartels south of the border, and led to too many inner-city “capitalists” being imprisoned. Examples are nearly endless. But still Progressives call for more spending and more government. That is indeed insanity.
Posted in Government Ineptness, Government Spendning | Tagged: Amtrak, crash, Funding, Republicans, safety, Senator | 1 Comment »
Posted by Steve Markowitz on February 24, 2015
Another high level US government official has been caught in a lie. This time it is Veterans Administration Secretary Robert McDonald. On January 30, a CBS video captured a homeless veteran informing McDonald that he was once in the US Special Forces. To that McDowell responded: “Special forces? What years? I was in special forces.” While a touching response, it was false with McDonald serving with the 82nd Airborne, not Special Forces.
After being confronted with the lie, McDonald forced to make a retraction saying: “I was not in special forces. What I said was wrong. I reacted spontaneously and I reacted wrongly, [with] no intent in any way to describe my record any different than it is.”
While in the scheme of things McDonald’s lie was not grand in scale, it represents yet another high-level government official being caught lying. In addition, McDonald’s retraction/excuse is lame.
What is it about high-level “public service” that too often leads these supposed representatives of the People to become disingenuous? Does the lust for power attract a high percentage people with disingenuous traits or does the power of the positions corrupt? Whatever the answer, it is difficult to justify giving the political and bureaucratic elites more power.
Posted in Government Ineptness | Tagged: McDonald, special forces, VA, veterans-administration, why | Leave a Comment »