Who’s Watching Washington?

February 14, 2013

In light of President Obama’s pledge to introduce more programs to solve our nation’s problems, someone ought to ask him how those already in place are doing! How well are taxpayers being served by the Energy Department’s Economic Recovery Act grants, for example? The one to LG Chem Michigan, the manufacturer of car batteries, seems to have been a near total waste of $150 million dollars. According to today’s Washington Post (Page A11), the U.S. Inspector General issued a report that found less than half of the promised jobs were created AND workers were found to be playing games, watching movies––even volunteering for animal shelters WHILE GETTING PAID.

Those were monies that the administration spent to stimulate the economy and we already know they deserve a C at best for those efforts. What about the day to day routine operations of government in Washington? Let’s take the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a case study in how Washington operates. First, Congress authorizes expenditures that propose to solve some problem. In this case affordable housing. Then dozens of people are hired to administer the program at the federal level and of course at the state level as well. Then if there’s anything left over, local politicians decide where those monies are spent and which of their campaign donars get the work. The people who need affordable housing? A few of them get the housing, but not as many as if Washington had just given them the money in the first place and let them buy their own housing.

Then there’s the sad truth that all these federal and state employees whose job it is to manage the $1 to $2 billion annual expenditure designed to build, buy or renovate housing are not up to the job. I don’t blame them individually, but I do fault the concept. Why would we expect layers upon layers of bureaucrats to be able to do a good job managing monies whose intent is clouded by political aims? At best the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development should be shuttered. If states want to use taxpayer monies to build and renovate affordable housing, fine, but why should the federal government be involved? Oh, the Inspector General–which seems to be the only agency in Washington that does its job–which found HUD’s oversight faulty a year ago says there hasn’t been much improvement (Washington Post, 2/14/13, Page A2). Are we surprised?


Washington Post Now Washington Enquirer

May 11, 2012

Marcus Brauchli, executive editor of the Washington Post, announced today that the newpaper’s name will changed to the Washington Enquirer for the remainder of the 2012 election season.

“Our goal is to provide our readers with the most salacious election coverage in the country. Today’s hatchet job on Mitt Romney’s prep school days is just the beginning.”

At the same time Brauchli announced that Jayson Blair has been hired as deputy news editor and Sari Horowitz has been promoted to national election assignment editor.

Blair was fired by the New York Times in 2003 for plagiarism and news fabrication. Horwtiz plagiarized two paragraphs from the Arizona Republic story about Jared Loughner the man who killed six people and severely wounded former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Blair thanked Brauchli for the opportunity to resume his career. “I mean to prove that I can make up facts with the best of the Post’s current writers,” he stated.

“We have more stories like today’s attack on Romney waiting for the right moment to publish,” Horwitz stated. “We do anything we can to discredit him since there’s little we can say that our readers will believe about Barack Obama’s presidency.”

Understanding the Tea Party movement

October 25, 2010

The Washington Post is trying to help its readers understand the tea party phenomenon. They sent a reporter to travel with tea partiers to Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally and tried to contact all 1500 or so registered tea party groups to try to get them to fill out a detailed survey.

Why they should think that they are entitled to get answers from tea party members is a question for another day. However, here are a few points that anyone trying to understand the tea party needs to understand.

1: The tea party represents a segment of the population that was not being served by the existing political establishment. No one knows how many people fall in that category, but it’s probably in the millions. Because their values place them closer to the GOP than the Dems they represent both a threat to the GOP establishment and, if they can sustain their efforts, to the Democratic Party dominance in Congress and many state legislatures. The latter remains to be seen.

2. The political establishment in America would like the public to vote on election day and then shut up. That goes for both parties. They really don’t want the public to know about the deals they’re cutting. Elected officials for the most part pretend their happy to have constituents show up to voice their concerns, but they’d rather be free to call the shots without any consequences. That’s why there’s such a gap between campaign rhetoric and the actions of elected officials post election. That’s why the tea party is so upsetting to people at the Washington Post and party leaders.

It’s ironic to me — having been turned on to politics in the 1960s by the idea of participatory democracy — to see the tea party movement echo many of the complaints from 50 years ago. As a recent college graduate I joined SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) after coming in contact with a community organizer in Topeka Kansas who was trying to help disenfranchised African American residents of that city gain the proportionate rights from city and state government.

Sean Hannity Has It Wrong

If you’ve listened to Sean Hannity lately you know that one of the most telling criticisms he levies against Barack Obama is that he was a “community organizer” from the Saul Alinsky school or organizing. Having been trained as a community organizer myself (as a VISTA volunteer in 1965) by adherents of Alinsky’s philosophy, I know that Hannity is dead wrong.

An Alinsky trained organizer never imposes his/her views on the group. Their role is to help the community come together to act on issues of common concern. A good organizer never even expresses his/her views on the issue the community has chosen to focus on.

I’m not saying that Obama is or was a community organizer or that he was brought up in that school, but Hannity is wrong about Alinsky. That’s not to say that Alinsky wasn’t a lefty. He was, but he believed that as an organizer you couldn’t succeed if you tried to lead people to adopt your views. They would reject your leadership and you’d be discredited.

In terms of the tea party, what will be interesting to follow is whether the political establishment is able to coop the movement or whether they will remain resistant to being led around by the nose and how much disruption they will cause. Participatory democracy is a fine ideal. However, it is difficult to sustain the emotions that get people off their couches.