Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: July 23, 2010


Bureaucracy and bureaucratese – no sign of common sense

This story out of Ann Arbor, MI is a perfect example of bureaucratic inertia and the use of bureaucratic language to evade a common sense solution to a changed situation:

The debate in Ann Arbor, where firefighters are being laid off due to a multimillion dollar budget deficit, is over an $850,000 piece of art.

That’s how much the city has agreed to pay German artist Herbert Dreiseitl for a three-piece water sculpture that would go in front of the new police and courts building right by the City Hall.

The city has the money to do it because in 2007, it agreed to set aside for public art 1 percent of money that went into capital improvement projects that were $100,000 or larger. Most capital projects involve streets, sewers and water.

Anyone – what has changes since 2007?  Perhaps the economic climate?  So if a city can agree to “set aside” money for public art – a luxury for economically flush time – why can’t it now agree to change that previous agreement?  Why can’t it now spend the money set aside on critical jobs jeopardized by the economic downturn?

Well here’s the city administrators answer, I guess:

City Administrator Roger Fraser wrote in an e-mail that the solid waste coordinator position was eliminated as a cost-cutting measure because the solid waste millage had decreased. Fraser wrote that the art coordinator position would be paid for by the public art fund.

Fraser noted that the public art dollars did not come from the city’s general fund, which is used to pay salaries and benefits, and that less than $6,000 of the art money came from the general fund.

The art projects also must have a "thematic connection" to the source of funding, Fraser wrote. The $850,000 art project is water-themed, because the money came from storm water funds.

So there.  If that isn’t a pant load of, well you know what it is.   As one resident noted, when it wants too the city has always found ways to shuffle money from one fund to another.   But if it did that, it couldn’t scare the hell out of the citizenry claiming it was going to have to lay off critical public safety types and therefore justify increasing taxes, etc.

"Administrators cry poverty while lavishing money on the beautiful people," LaFaive said. "The threat to dismiss firefighters often comes while officials protect golf courses, wave pools and art. No city can cry poverty while it defends recreation and aesthetics such as art."

Have you ever noticed that?  Layer upon layer of bureaucrats and non-essential workers stay on staff, but police and fire protection are the first on the block.  Meanwhile almost a million bucks is slated for “water art”.  And it is all defended by bureaucratic nonsense – bureaucratese.  When they want to do something, the rules mean nada.  When they don’t want to for whatever reason, the rules constrain them.

And Ann Arbor isn’t unique here – the same song and dance is going on at the state and local level.

This is your government at work.  The politicians are only the part-time help.  Bureaucrats are who really run it all.  And the the result?

Well, look around you.

~McQ

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The usual hypocrisy

Apparently the “pay czar” is about to release a report that the Wall Street bonuses, paid by financial firms that had received bailout money, were largely “unmerited”.

With the financial system on the verge of collapse in late 2008, a group of troubled banks doled out more than $2 billion in bonuses and other payments to their highest earners. Now, the federal authority on banker pay says that nearly 80 percent of that sum was unmerited.

In a report to be released on Friday, Kenneth R. Feinberg, the Obama administration’s special master for executive compensation, is expected to name 17 financial companies that made questionable payouts totaling $1.58 billion immediately after accepting billions of dollars of taxpayer aid, according to two government officials with knowledge of his findings who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the report.

Of course, that is Mr. Feinberg’s opinion.  However I don’t know his opinion about this, reported in March of this year:

Fannie Mae is due to pay retention bonuses of between $470,000 and $611,000 this year to some executives, despite enormous losses at the government-backed mortgage company. Fannie’s main rival, Freddie Mac, also plans to pay such bonuses but hasn’t yet provided details.

I know what my opinion is, but of course our government won’t talk about these two entities – both of which had a key, if not major role in the financial collapse.  You see, if they investigated this with an eye toward actually figuring out how that collapse transpired, it would inevitably lead back to those two institutions and the Community Reinvestment Act. And that would lead to calls for “accountability”, a standard to which only generals and the “little people” are held. With government and politician’s popularity rating already below that of used car salesmen, they’d prefer to pretend it all happened on Wall Street.

Not that anyone should be particularly surprised by that.

~McQ

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