Accountability

Accountability in America has been in decline for decades and the decline appears to be accelerating. Examples abound.

On December 9 it was announced that 5 TSA (federal) employees, all unnamed, were placed on administrative leave (i.e., with pay) because secret Homeland Security guidelines were posted on the internet. There was no mention of the employees’ grade levels nor any supervisory aspect to the incident. Nothing has been heard about this since, as far as I can find. Vacation with pay. That’s some punishment. Incidentally, Congress has failed to approve a director for the TSA so far in 2009 with at least one panel member being concerned that the nominee seems more interested in unionizing the department than in leading it.

On December 30, I caught a Channel 7 noon-news item that said “A judge” has reduced the bail of a man who was arrested for hiring another to kill his wife, and that the accused is now free on $50,000 bond. Why was the judge’s name not mentioned? Does the press not want the judge to be accountable for his decision?

After 9/11 and the Gulf War, the “9/11 Commission” decided that our intelligence forces had performed poorly. The solution by the Bush administration in February 2005 was to create a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to coordinate the 16 intelligence agencies. The first appointee to this job was in it for less than two years. He moved on, leaving behind his bureaucracy for the next short-term appointee. The DNI has 1,500 employees and a $50-billion-dollar budget to supervise other agencies. How effective the DNI has been is exemplified by the recent failure to bar from U.S. commercial flight a Muslim radical whose own father months ago reported him as dangerous to an American consulate. I will be astonished if any government leader or worker is held accountable for this embarrassment.

In the U. S. Navy, the service with which I am most familiar, responsibility and authority have historically gone hand in hand. If the ship goes aground the Captain’s career almost surely is toast, regardless of the circumstances. This kind of accountability appears to be completely lacking in government federal service and in society in general.

Bureaucracy is not the answer, it is the problem. There are many quotes about this, including this one: “Government machinery has been described as a marvelous labor saving device which enables ten men to do the work of one.” – John Maynard Keynes

A recent headline caught my eye and it went something like this: “Women Denied Free Mammogram Screening”. Wait a minute, thought I. How can anyone be “denied” something that is free? The problem of course was that some screening had previously been free and now was viewed as an entitlement simply because of its previous existence. In other words, we are not responsible for our own health, the “government” is. Never mind that the majority of health problems are due to poor lifestyle-choices. (Yes, smoking and obesity do increase the incidence of breast and other cancers.)

There are numerous “wars” going on now and they are all being waged and lost by bureaucracy. These include the war on poverty, the war on hunger, the war on cancer, the war on drugs, and the war on terrorism (thousands of highly-paid contract employees who are not subject to military-justice rules). I think the government is now gearing up for a war on obesity. Will that bureau have to compete with the hunger bureau for funds?

Ronald Reagan was right when he said that government is not the solution, it’s the problem. But, having said it, he failed to stop its growth. The two major parties are hostage to the intrenched bureaucracy. Politicians come and go and the bureaucrats remain. I wonder what the headless TSA has been planning for itself this year?

Does anybody else agree with me on this? I welcome a dialogue and I especially invite additional examples of failures of accountability. Where is the politician who will take up this banner? (December 31, 2009)

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About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Independent, tending progressive as the GOP recedes from its Eisenhower roots.
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