Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Your tax dollars hard at work

It’s hard to say that the government is less corrupt than private industry:

Carrie Lopez, director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, charged taxpayers to fly from Sacramento, where she works, to Los Angeles, where she lives, to attend a Justin Timberlake concert with her daughter. She listed the trip on her expense report as a meeting with the energy company that paid for the concert tickets. Lopez also billed the state for meals on days she received those meals for free from corporations, according to state records.

Rosario Marin, head of the State and Consumer Services Agency, blamed a miscommunication for her failure to repay $582 the state spent to fly her to Washington in July to speak at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, an appearance for which she received $1,000. She reimbursed the state for the airfare after The Times inquired about the trip last month.

Over the last two years, as California has slashed services and scrambled to pay bills, top administration officials have made free use of government expense accounts with little oversight and, in some cases, no documentation, The Times has found.

Together, they have spent tens of thousands of dollars on state-funded trips between Sacramento and the areas where they live, justifying the travel as necessary for state business. Some built weekend trips around one short meeting, and some charged the state to attend events with no apparent connection to their jobs. . . .

"Is anybody at the wheel here?" said Michael Josephson, president of the nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles.

"The best possible case for this, which is still not a good case, is [that] nobody is providing oversight. . . . The worst case is that you have some people who are knowingly taking advantage."

That’s why increasing the size and scope of government is unlikely to do what so many hope it will do. As Walt Kelly put it, we have met the enemy, and he is us. There is little evidence that the wealthy are more corrupt than the poor or that business is less corrupt (and corrupting) than government. Madison does a nice job with this idea in Federalist 51.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Can a person steal from the government if the government is of the people. Is that not stealing from yourself. In all reality, send her to Chino, if a black kid in LA stole that money from a liquor store that is what would happen. All that has to happen is start prosecuting the criminal government. It is the only way to stop corruption is to punish it harshly and make it less attractive. That would mean some congressmen might have to go after their sponsors and golf buddies though so it is unlikely.

rockefeller-libertarians, What is that group?

In a sense this seems like a problem solved. "liberal/conservative" media, watchdog groups, shareholders, PACS, investigative journalism, forensic economists, rather intelligent and advanced automatic flagging software...all of these conspire to make government credit card fraud more difficult...you can't eliminate it, and I am sure that it is prosecuted. Not everyone gets the priveledge...but if it confers status upon the job...it may be cheaper even with some fraud than higher pay to maintain quality retention. Also in so far as everyone is working and blurring the lines between work and play...being full time ambassadors...and in so far as business/gov trips can be symbolic, unproductive and complete wastes...while golf or poker or even concerts can yield results...there is not as much reason to jump the gun on minor improprieties. In some sense I trust democrats to crack down on this with a harsher hand, as such stories are really bad PR for friends of larger bureaucracy. Of course by the same token/logic you would think that the so called rockefeller-libertarians would chop down on discretionary spending, fancy getaways/conferences for PR reasons...but again I think the reason they don't is that these perks show greater return/appreaciation/morale boosts than similar amounts in increases in pay(after taxes)...this tends to be especially true for middle management and those around the cusps of the next tax bracket...I am not saying that the problem of dishonest employees is solved...but really sometimes you have to wonder if the increased hiring and large salaries of PR and HR people to pin and it down and constrain it is worthwile...because it is these HR/PR/accountants/acutaries/MBA theorist that "solve" or come up with safeguards, protocols for fixing the problem...so it is a mixture of rules and cost/benefit number crunching.

Interestingly enough while I think the HR guys have this part of the problem down as well as can be expected, what is alarming is that such folks are often times dealing with questions that involve how much they themselves should be paid/compensated...You could try making HR departments more performance dependent... but then again it is the HR guys who doctor the data around the power point bullets....somehow government and business is getting 20% more efficient and honest and transparent every year!

Again this doesn't seem that different than the complaint in education of teaching to tests...it makes for really bad customer service in areas that are not quantifiable in bullet points...In so far as government workers/businessmen are full time ambassadors/salesmen discretionary expense accounts are the equivalent of letting teachers instruct with greater latitude...such discretion will be abused to a point...but really there is a sort of infinite regress at work unless you are willing to believe that someone can come along with The Answer...if you believe someone can come along with an answer then that clever person is your HR guy...but in so far as the same rules apply to your HR guy...you have an infinite regress.

Greater trust=greater risk/reward, wisdom discretion/foolishness corruption, less regulation, less enforcement, differentiated, specialized, subjective, higher social status. Lower Trust=assembly lined, reductionist, quantified, highly regulated, less risk/reward, homogenized, interchangeability.

The triumph of the HR guy, and the feasability of highly efficient goverment requires systematically reducing everyone to the lower trust bracket...expense accounts serve the function of filling in gaps HR guys cannot efficiently cover and provide renumeration in the form of status(public trust/discretion) that is hard to make up(less efficient) in income dollar amounts alone.

Yeah, send her to Chino with Rosario! Let them compare notes on how to rip us all off! Carrie Lopez cheated the taxpayer so HEAD ON A STICK! HEAD ON A STICK!!

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