Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reform and Accountability?

Politicians have a lot of annoying habits. Presuming to tell us what we think and then validating that opinion with some selective poll are two of the worst. Before the election, the senator from Illinois told us that "corruption" was the grievance most frequently cited by voters (Washpost, 04 Jan 08). By that account, you might think the economy and the war were small potatoes.

Since then, the President has frequently said; "it's not enough to change the players, we have to change the game." Game is the key word in the argument. Hearing about ethics from a chap who represented a state where his vacant Senate was put up for auction is a little like hearing from Harry Reid about the evils of gambling and prostitution.

Whenever politicians start to preach about ethics and accountability, we need to recall Mark Twain's observation that politicians are the only permanent class of organized criminals. We are told daily that draconian measures are necessary to “recover from the mismanagement of the last eight years”. Polosi, Reid, Frank, and Dodd were the financial management of the last decade. Where’s the accountability in this group? Congress proposes; a president merely disposes.

The recovery plan (aka bailouts) has drop-kicked all moral hazards out of the financial arena. To be replaced with what? The fatal flaw of all government roles in commerce is the assumption that politicians or federal bureaucrats are moral and competent; at least more so than entrepreneurs and the titans of industry. All those who believe politicians and integrity belong in the same sentence, raise your hand!

In short, on the oversight front, President Obama wouldn't do more with less; he would do less with more. The “unprecedented effort” to be led by the Vice President is a cipher. Biden’s first effort was to strong arm governors into accepting funds they do not want. Surely the President knows that a deeper oversight matrix makes any corrective action less likely. Joe Biden has spent his entire career inside the Beltway. Should we believe he’s about to have an epiphany?

Here's a thought. Instead of new bureaucracies, boards and commissions; let's disband all the inert oversight and ethics monitors that aren't doing the job and let the Justice Department do its job. Revive the ABSCAM stings if you will, with apologies to Representative Murtha and Senator McCain of course. If we must have another "people's public watchdog," let's keep the varmints out of the hen house - no politicians on the oversight dais. The solution isn’t bipartisanship; the answer to oversight is no partisans - citizens who have never held office.

It's hard to believe that smart people like Obama and Pelosi do not understand all of the above. We are left to conclude that, like the McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform, we can look forward to a lot of moral sizzle, but no steak. Creepier still is the similarity of Obama's proposals to Marion Barry's recent stunt. Councilman Barry introduced legislation, since withdrawn, to the DC Council that would prohibit employment discrimination against ex- convicts. Presumably that would mean the guy who gave your neighbor a lead pipe lobotomy might someday return to your street as the beat cop. When the President and the Speaker have their way, the folks who stole your chickens will get to watch the hen house.

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