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Archive for the ‘Bureaucrats’ Category

I should get an award for equal opportunity.

The Bureaucrat Hall of Fame has plenty of American members, but it also has civil servants from India, France, and Italy, and the United Kingdom, all of whom have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their efforts to rip off taxpayers.

And now we have a new applicant from overseas, so maybe we’ll enjoy even more diversity.

The U.K.-based Times reports on a Spanish bureaucrat that didn’t bother to show up for work for six consecutive years.

A civil servant in Spain didn’t turn up to work for six years. …He had continued to collect his annual salary. Records show that the engineer started working for a water company run by the municipal authorities in Cádiz in 1990 but last did a day’s work in 2004.

Even though this bureaucrat is an amateur compared to the Indian civil servant who skipped work for two decades, I think he’s worthy of membership in the Hall of Fame.

Especially since one aspect of the story perfectly symbolizes the mind-boggling inefficiency of government.

…his absence was noticed only when he was due to collect a long-service award. …Mr Blas said: “We thought the water company had supervised him but it was not the case. We discovered this when we were about to present him with a commemorative plaque for his 20 years of service.”

You may be thinking that this combination of sloth and incompetence at least led to a termination.

Not exactly.

…he cannot be sacked from his €37,000-a-year job as he has since retired.

For what it’s worth, Senor Garcia supposedly is now obliged to return 30,000 euro of his ill-gotten loot.

I’m not holding my breath expecting that to happen.

However, even though it’s not mentioned in the story, I feel very confident that he’ll get a bloated pension courtesy of the Spanish taxpayers.

Why do I think a deadbeat will get a pension?

For the simple reason that Spain – even though it’s in the middle of a deep fiscal crisis – has an above-average burden for bureaucratic compensation.

P.S. Back in 2012, I pointed out that Obama and Romney both were endorsed by different porn stars.

So you probably won’t be surprised to learn that porn stars also are playing a role in the 2016 campaign.

First, the Cruz campaign put together a commercial featuring an actress who is better known for her other roles. The Daily Caller has the details.

Amy Lindsay, the actress featured in films such as Kinky Sex Club, Milf, Carnal Wishes and Sex Sent Me to the ER starred in Sen. Ted Cruz ‘s latest campaign ad entitled “Conservatives Anonymous.” In the ad, the Lindsay said, “Maybe you should vote for more than just a pretty face next time.” Seconds before this story was to be published, the Cruz campaign removed the ad from YouTube.

The Daily Caller also reports that the other conservative senator in the race also has a link to the adult industry.

Jenna Jameson…former porn star recently criticized the $1.1 trillion omnibus federal spending plan, and on Monday, she expressed some serious support for Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio.

But she apparently doesn’t like compassionate conservatives.

Jameson told TheDC that she isn’t a fan of Bush.

Though maybe I’m making a mistake by assuming that she’s referring to President Obama’s big-spending predecessor.

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What’s the link between government employees and the Iowa Republican Caucus?

You’re probably thinking there’s little or no connection. After all, bureaucrats presumably would more likely be interested in the choice on the other side between the two peas in the statist pod, right?

That’s true, but bear with me. To understand the link I’m going to make, start by reading Kevin Williamson’s scathing column posted at National Review. Here are my favorite passages.

Veterans Affairs hospitals had, through their negligence and stupidity, killed more of our servicemen than died during any year of the Iraq war, and then engaged in a massive criminal cover-up. Legislation was introduced to make it easier to fire people for — let’s focus here — killing veterans through their negligence and stupidity. But government employees are the single most important Democratic interest group, and the president and his congressional allies complained that the bill was too harsh on public servants who were killing veterans through their negligence and stupidity. And so the bill died in the Senate… In the Treasury Department, the EPA, and the FCC, employees have been found to routinely spend the equivalent of a full workday every week watching pornography on their office computers. Most of those crank-yanking bureaucrats are still on your payroll. At the Commerce Department, paralegals spent their days shopping online and trolling dating sites because they were assigned no work — their supervisors were afraid giving their employees work would “antagonize the labor union.” …The IRS and the AFT are routinely used as political weapons. …Beyond spending on (overwhelmingly Democratic) political campaigns, government workers and their unions also show up to vote, to knock on doors, and to bully, harass, and threaten nonconformists. They are the backbone of the Democratic party — and they are thieving, lazy, grasping, thieving, dishonest, thieving, pervy, thieving, detestable, despicable, thieving, thieving thieves… We are ruled by criminals.

Wow, I thought I sometimes employed a bit of sarcasm when writing about overpaid scroungers in the bureaucracy. Heck, I even created a Bureaucrat Hall of Fame to mock our paper-pushing overseers. But Kevin doesn’t mince words.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with the GOP contest in Iowa.

Well, I think “The Donald” had a great opportunity to exploit this issue. He’s the guy who’s famous for “You’re fired” and he could have used that reputation to argue he would clean house in the federal bureaucracy.

Best of all, he wouldn’t even have to try very hard.

According to Government Executive, a non-trivial number of federal workers would retire or quit if Donald Trump is elected.

One in four federal workers would consider leaving their jobs if Trump were elected president, according to a new survey conducted by the Government Business Council, Government Executive Media Group’s research arm. About 14 percent of respondents said they would definitely consider leaving federal service under President Trump, while an additional 11 percent said they might. The findings indicate those leaving government would come from agencies’ top ranks… Among Democrats, 42 percent said they would consider leaving, while 48 percent would not.

Imagine what would have happened if Trump’s people had run commercials with this information, or handed out copies of the article at the Caucus.

Just think of all the taxpayers who might have been convinced that there was finally a candidate who would get rid of some of the over-compensated dead wood in Washington.

Definitely a missed opportunity for The Donald.

By the way, I should take this opportunity to point out that bureaucrats aren’t necessarily bad people. I realize it’s a trite phrase, but some of my best friends work for the government.

Nor are they all leftists.

The article reports that a majority would have been embarrassed with Trump in the White House, but there was also widespread disdain for Hillary. And Rubio actually did better than either Democrat.

…a majority — about six in 10 — would be “embarrassed” to have him as their boss. About half of respondents said the same of Hillary Clinton, compared to 45 percent for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and 37 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Just one in five said the same of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

I have two additional observations about Iowa.

First, it was great to see that the corrupt and sleazy ethanol industry failed in its all-out effort to defeat Cruz. Hopefully this will be interpreted as a sign that politicians no longer have to kneel at the altar of King Corn.

Second, I find it remarkable that Rubio is now being portrayed as the “establishment” candidate. This is a guy who was part of the Tea Party revolt. A guy who defeated the establishment-endorsed governor to win his Senate seat. A guy who has one of the most pro-market voting records in the Senate. A guy from a state filled with old people who is openly pro-entitlement reform. So if he’s the “establishment,” that’s a major victory.

By the way, the first observation doesn’t mean you should vote for Cruz and the second observation doesn’t mean you should vote for Rubio. I’m simply making two points that should be encouraging for advocates of good policy.

Actually, let me add a third observation. In my prediction yesterday, I guessed Cruz would come in first with 28 percent, and…drum roll, please…he came in first with 28 percent. And I said he would be followed by Trump, Rubio, Carson, Paul, and Bush, all of which was true. And I predicted Hillary would beat Bernie.

Sure, some of my percentages were off, but I’ll take this as a partial victory.

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The Bureaucrat Hall of Fame, created to highlight government workers who go above and beyond the call of duty, is apparently such a prestigious honor that there’s been a strong competition between Americans and foreigners to engage in behavior that merits this great award.

Consider the U.S. bureaucrats who have earned membership so far in 2015.

The civil servant at the Patent and Trademark Office who was paid to shoot pool and drink beer.

The bureaucrat at the National Weather Service who pulled an impressive get-reclassified-as-a-consultant-for-a-lot-more-money scam.

A drone from the Commerce Department managed to combine porn downloading, obstruction of justice, overseas shopping trips, and not showing up to work.

Bureaucrats from overseas also have earned membership this year.

The French official who had a taxpayer provided car and chauffeur, yet still billed taxpayers for $44,000 worth of taxis.

Or the Indian bureaucrat who kept his job for more than 20 years even though he stopped going to work.

As I look at these 2015 honorees, I feel like the system is a bit unfair. Maybe it’s just me, but it appears that the foreign bureaucrats are more deserving than their American counterparts.

And I’m guessing that a senior-level bureaucrat at the Department of Veterans Affairs felt the same way. So he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Literally.

Here are some excerpts from a report in the Daily Caller.

…the Department of Veterans Affairs’ former top watchdog, resigned after being caught masturbating in the agency’s all-glass conference room in full view of people across the street, including school teachers at an education conference. …investigators confronted him with detailed instances of public masturbation in multiple states, according to a previously undisclosed report by the Department of the Interior inspector general and obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Obviously a very deserving member of the of the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame. And he’s definitely upped the ante on what it take to become a member.

For all intents and purposes, he’s thrown down the gauntlet to foreign bureaucrats: What can they do to…um…beat this?

But let’s set aside the U.S. vs. foreigners aspect of this issue and look more closely at our new honoree.

He apparently had lots of time on his hands (so to speak) because his office decided that it was okay for the Department to operate de facto death panels.

Sort of a trial run for Obamacare!

It was during Wooditch’s tenure as deputy inspector general that the VA IG first uncovered — then all but ignored — dozens of clues of the widespread patient wait-list manipulation that contributed to the deaths of dozens of veterans.

It’s also impressive that he got a promotion shortly after getting caught with porn on his computer.

He was caught with porn on his work computer in 2003, but VA officials only “counseled” him. Not long afterward, he was promoted to the top job.

Not surprisingly, he won’t face any penalties. Indeed, the net result is that he’ll go from being an overpaid bureaucrat to being an over-compensated retiree.

Wooditch retired with a federal pension without ever facing administrative discipline or criminal charges.

Though I don’t want to think what he’ll be doing with all this extra time on his hands.

And here’s a final excerpt.

IG agents also learned during their investigation of a separate incident…they were told, he made an “inappropriate advance” on his next-door neighbor as she was grieving her husband’s death. …“…she said Wooditch began to pose nude and masturbate in front of a window that was only viewable from her house” repeatedly, the report said. The woman…did have police warn him to stop. Wooditch lectured the police that he was a “high-level government employee.”

I think you’ll agree that it nicely captures the arrogance of the federal bureaucracy.

It’s the mindset that leads to these kinds of outrages.

P.S. Shifting to a different topic, I can’t resist an I-told-you-so moment.

There was a disagreement last year among advocates of smaller government about whether Doug Elmendorf, the then-Director of the Congressional Budget Office, should be replaced since Republicans were in full control of Capitol Hill.

I was one of those who argued a new Director was needed. Here’s some of what I wrote.

Elmendorf’s predecessor was a doctrinaire leftist named Peter Orszag. If Orszag’s policy views were a country, they would be France or Greece. By contrast, I’m guessing that Elmendorf would be like Sweden or Germany. In other words, he wants more government than I do, but at least Elmendorf basically understands that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. …That being said, while it’s much better to be Sweden rather than Greece, I obviously would prefer to be Hong Kong (or, even better, pre-1913 America).

The GOP leadership ultimately decided to replace Elmendorf.

It’s too soon to make any sweeping assessment of his successor, though early indications are somewhat positive.

But that’s not the point of this postscript.

Instead, I want to pat myself on the back for being right about Elmendorf. Now that he’s no longer at CBO, he’s come out of the closet and is openly pushing statist policies.

Here’s some of what he wrote earlier this year about “a fairer approach to fiscal reform.”

…the incomes of people across most of the income distribution have risen quite slowly, while incomes at the high end have risen rapidly. …There are a variety of ways to increase tax revenue for Social Security by imposing a payroll tax on income above the current-law taxable maximum. …this approach…does not offer a free lunch. …would reduce people’s incentives to work and save.

So the bottom line is that he recognizes his preferred policy (which is what Obama has endorsed) will hurt the economy, but his ideological support for redistribution and his myopic fixation on income distribution leads him to the wrong conclusion.

And here’s something else. The Hill reports he’s urging class-warfare tax policy.

Former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf on Thursday said the tax code should be changed so that the wealthy pay higher taxes…in a video released Thursday by the left-leaning Bookings Institution, where he is a visiting fellow.

Another example of his support for Obama’s preferred policies.

And another reason why those of us who favored a new person at CBO can take a victory lap.

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Three years ago, I shared a chart about the fiscal burden of the welfare state, calling it the picture that says a thousand word.

It’s astounding, after all, that taxpayers spend so much money on means-tested programs and get such miserable results.

Indeed, if we took all the money spent on various welfare programs and added it up, it would amount to $60,000 for every poor household.

Yet the handouts for poor people generally (but not always) are way below that level, so where does all the money go?

Well, this eye-popping flowchart (click to enlarge) from the House Ways & Means Committee is one way of answering that question. As you can see, there are dozens of programs spread across several agencies and departments.

In other words, a huge chunk of anti-poverty spending gets absorbed by a bloated, jumbled, and overlapping bureaucracy (and this doesn’t even count the various bureaucracies in each state that also administer all these welfare programs).

This is akin to a spider web of dependency. No wonder people get trapped in poverty.

Fortunately, we have a very simple solution to this mess. Just get the federal government out of the business of redistributing income. We already got very good results by reforming one welfare program in the 1990s. So let’s build on that success.

P.S. Leftists generally will oppose good reforms, both because of their ideological belief in redistribution and also because overpaid bureaucrats (who would have to find honest work if we had real change) are a major part of their coalition. But there are some honest statists who admit the current system hurts poor people.

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Since the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame is getting crowded, I’ve decided we need a system to limit new entrants.

So today we’re doing an experiment. We’ll look at two separate stories about lazy and overpaid bureaucrats, and the comments section will determine which one actually is most deserving of joining the Hall of Fame.

Let’s start in Italy, where Alberto Muraglia stakes his claim to membership. Here are some excerpts from a story in the UK-based Times.

Video footage of a policeman clocking in for work in his underpants before allegedly heading back to his bed has become the symbol of an embarrassing absenteeism scandal among council employees in San Remo, on the Italian Riviera. Alberto Muraglia, a pot-bellied, 53-year-old officer, was secretly filmed as he clocked on at council offices. He lives in the same building, a converted hotel, where he occupies a caretaker flat — allowing him to register his presence at work, and then go back to bed, it is alleged.

To be fair, our Italian contestant has an excuse for his truancy.

Though it’s about as plausible as the Groucho Marx quote, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”

Mr Muraglia’s wife, Adriana, said the family had an alibi for every instance in which her husband was suspected of clocking in at 5.30am, opening the gates to the council building, and then returning to bed. “Some mornings, if he was a few minutes late pulling on his trousers, he would clock in in that manner and then get fully dressed immediately after and go off to work,” Mrs Muraglia told La Stampanewspaper. “Some mornings he may have forgotten, and he telephoned me to clock in on his behalf.”

In any event, Signor Muraglia is not the only bureaucrat scamming the system.

More than a hundred employees — 75 per cent of the council workforce — are under investigation for allegedly skiving off in the resort town…investigators…filmed employees swiping their time cards, and sometimes those of multiple colleagues, before turning tail and heading off to pursue other interests. One employee, filmed paddling a kayak on the Mediterranean, is alleged to have spent at least 400 hours away from his desk in the planning office, a dereliction of duty estimated to have cost San Remo council more than €5,600.

Though I have to say 400 hours away from his desk is chicken feed compared to the Italian doctor who worked only 15 days in a nine-year period.

And I like how the bureaucrats awarded themselves bonuses for their…um…hard work.

Eight of the suspected skivers shared a €10,000 productivity bonus last year.

Just like the IRS bureaucrats and VA bureaucrats who got bonuses for improper behavior.

I guess there must be an unwritten rule in government: The worse your performance, the higher your compensation.

Now let’s see how Alberto compares to our American contestant. As reported by the Contra Costa Times, former City Manager Joe Tanner is scamming taxpayers for a lavish pension, yet he’s asking for more on the basis of a shady deal he made with the City Council.

By working just two and a half more years, retired Vallejo City Manager Joseph Tanner boosted his starting annual pension from $131,500 to $216,000. He wants more, claiming he’s entitled to yearly retirement pay of $307,000. …he is now taking his six-year dispute to the state Court of Appeal. At issue is whether CalPERS must pay benefits on a contract Tanner and the Vallejo City Council concocted to boost his pension.

An extra $85,000 of pension for the rest of his life just for working 2-1/2 years?

Geesh, and I though the Philadelphia bureaucrat who is getting $50,000 of yearly loot for the rest of her life, after just three years of “work,” had a good deal. She must be feeling very envious of Mr. Tanner.

Yet Mr. Tanner isn’t satisfied.

Here’s the part that seems like it should be amusing, but it’s not actually funny when you realize that government employee pensions are driving states into fiscal chaos.

Ironically, Tanner was a critic of pension excesses. …Yet his personal spiking gambit was breathtaking. The case exemplifies how some top public officials try to manipulate their compensation to grossly inflate their retirement pay. …Tanner’s quest for another $90,000 a year, plus inflation adjustments, for the rest of his life is unreasonable.

Here’s how he schemed to pillage taxpayers.

His first contract with Vallejo called for $216,000 in base salary, plus a list of add-on items that would soon be converted to salary, bringing his compensation to $306,000. But when CalPERS advised that the amount of those add-ons would not count toward his pension, he insisted the contract be fixed. The result: His contract was amended. The add-ons were eliminated and his base salary was simply increased to $306,000, plus management incentive pay and other items that brought the total to about $349,000. If CalPERS used that number, his pension would have started at $307,000 a year. CalPERS says it was an obvious subterfuge. The amended contract was never put before the City Council at any public meeting. And there was never a truthful public explanation for it.

Of course there wasn’t a truthful explanation.

Whether bureaucrats are negotiating with other bureaucrats or whether they’re negotiating with politicians, a main goal is to hide details in order to maximize the amount of money being extracted from taxpayers.

By the way, the example of Mr. Tanner is odious, but it’s not nearly as disgusting as what happened in another California community.

Before inviting readers to vote, I want to make a serious point. Government employee pensions are a fiscal black hole because they are “defined benefits” (DB plans), which means annual payments to retirees are driven by formulas. And those formulas often include clauses that create precisely the perverse incentives exploited by Mr. Tanner.

The right approach is to reform the system so that bureaucrats instead are in a “defined contribution” system (DC plans), which basically operates like IRAs and 401(k)s. A bureaucrat’s retirement income is solely a function of how much is contributed to his or her account and how much it earns over time. By definition, there is no unfunded liability. There’s no fiscal nightmare for future taxpayers.

Now that I have that cry for fiscal prudence out of my system, I invite readers to vote. Does the shirking underwear-clad Italian bureaucrat deserve to join the Hall of Fame, or should that honor be bestowed on the scheming and hypocritical American bureaucrat?

P.S. While I think DC plans are inherently superior (and safer for taxpayers) than DB plans, I will acknowledge that some nations manage to run DB plans honestly.

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I’ve used the “everything you ever wanted to know” hook on many occasions, dealing with diverse issues such as demographics, entitlements, fiscal policy, France, Greece, corporate inversions, supply-side economics, income inequality, the Ryan budget, Social Security reform, comparative economic systems, and healthcare economics.

I even once made the grandiose claim that one of my speeches revealed everything you ever wanted to know about economic policy.

Needless to say, I was exaggerating in every instance. All I’m really doing is sharing things that are very useful in making a broader point about various public policy issues.

And that’s what I’m going to do today by sharing something that will tell you “everything you need to know” about bureaucracy and government.

It’s based on this column, authored by Professor Fred McChesney, about ever-expanding fire departments in the Washington Post.

Let’s start with some unambiguously good news.

…being a firefighter these days doesn’t involve a lot of fighting fire. Rapid improvements in fire safety have caused a dramatic drop in the number of blazes, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Buildings are constructed with fire-resistant materials; clothing and curtains are made of flame-retardant fabrics; and municipal laws mandate sprinkler systems and smoke detectors. The striking results: On highways, vehicle fires declined 64 percent from 1980 to 2013. Building fires fell 54 percent during that time. When they break out, sprinkler systems almost always extinguish the flames before firefighters can turn on a hose.

But here’s the part that tells us a lot about government and bureaucracy.

…as the number of fires has dropped, the ranks of firefighters have continued to grow — significantly. There are half as many fires as there were 30 years ago, but about 50 percent more people are paid to fight them.

And that means a lot of time doing nothing. At a very high cost (especially in California).

Firefighters responded to 487,500 structure fires across the United States in 2013, which means each of the nation’s 30,000 fire departments saw just one every 22 days, on average. And yet, taxpayers are paying more people to staff these departments 24-7. As a result, the amount of money shelled out for local fire services more than doubled from 1987 to 2011, to $44.8 billion, accounting for inflation. …Firefighters earned a median salary of $45,250 in 2012,according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but overtime can more than double that. In Los Angeles, for example, the average firefighter was paid more than $142,000 in 2013, including overtime and bonuses, the Los Angeles Times reported.

This doesn’t make sense. Why spend so much to achieve so little?

The answer is that politicians are scared of powerful unions (labor bosses, for instance, have targeted – and defeated – tough-on-crime lawmakers for being in favor of criminals simply because of disagreements about fringe benefits).

…firefighter unions have fought hard to grow their ranks as fires decline. …union-negotiated minimum-staffing levels that often mandate four firefighters per engine be on duty at all times, regardless of the cost or workload. …the International Association of Fire Fighters has an annual budget of nearly $60 million, most of it derived from its 278,000 members. IAFF calls itself “one of the most active lobbying organizations in Washington,”… Its political action committee, FIREPAC, spent nearly $6.4 million in 2014.

So what’s the solution?

Professor McChesney suggests that volunteer firefighters are part of the solution.

…cities and towns should consider throwing out the very concept of the career firefighter and return to the tradition of volunteers. …Municipalities that have stuck with the volunteer model got it right — and that is most of them. About 69 percent of all firefighters in the country are volunteers.

To be sure, volunteer firefighters often exist in small communities, but McChesney points out that medium-sized cities also can be very successful (and frugal) by using volunteer fire departments.

Protecting a sizable city with a volunteer force is possible. Since 1930, the city of Pasadena, Tex., has used 200 active and 50 semi-active volunteer firefighters to protect its now more than 150,000 residents. If all towns up to that size moved to all-volunteer forces, the national payroll of career firefighters would be reduced by more than half. Using the median firefighter salary, municipalities would save more than $8.8 billion a year in base pay.

Another option, of course, is to contract with private companies, which is another approach that is very successful.

But no reform will be possible without ending special union privileges.

And to understand why union bosses will fight reform, just keep in mind that they want to protect a system that gives them wages and benefits far above what they would receive in the absence of government coercion.

To cite one example of above-average compensation, here are some excerpts from a report in a California newspaper.

When Peter Nowicki retired in 2009, the then-50-year-old chief of the tiny Moraga Orinda Fire District made national news by trading his $194,000 salary for a starting pension of $241,000 a year.

I suppose taxpayers should count themselves as being lucky since Nowicki’s salary was a mere pittance compared to the $516,000-per-year deputy police chief in San Francisco. Or the $800,000-plus received by a state-employed psychiatrist.

That being said, what enabled this guy to get a pension that was almost $50,000 higher than his salary?

The answer is that he manipulated the system, perhaps in an illegal fashion.

Nowicki, aided by fire district directors, grossly spiked his pension. …The fire board approved two Nowicki contract amendments in that last year, increasing his salary and benefits without proper public transparency, in violation of the state’s open-meeting laws, and retroactively, in apparent violation of the state Constitution… Three days after the second contract amendment, and after 26 years of work, Nowicki announced to his staff that he was retiring because his pension would exceed his paycheck.

Interestingly, he was aware that the system is a scam, and maybe even felt guilty about ravaging taxpayers.

…after 26 years of work, Nowicki announced to his staff that he was retiring because his pension would exceed his paycheck. “I’m very fortunate to be a part of such a lucrative system, yet I philosophically find it to be very troubling at the same time,” he wrote. ” … Nonetheless, I’ve reached the financial plateau and it’s no longer economically feasible to continue in my current capacity.”

But even though he found the system “very troubling,” that didn’t stop him from deliberately screwing over taxpayers.

Then-Director Pete Wilson said that the board deliberately approved the changes to help Nowicki increase his pension and that the chief presented them calculations documenting the effect.

The point isn’t to demonize Mr. Nowicki.

Instead, think about the fact that we have a corrupt system where politicians reward unions with fat contracts and unions reward politicians with campaign cash and election-year support.

As illustrated by this superb cartoon by Michael Ramirez.

That’s a great deal…assuming you’re not a taxpayer.

But for those of us who work, produce, and pay tax, it’s very discouraging that so many bureaucrats have figured out how to become part of the top 1 percent. And it’s doubly discouraging when you consider how excessive pay and benefits are threatening the fiscal viability of state and local governments.

Now let’s get to the bottom line. This issue perfectly captures how government endlessly expands even when the ostensible purpose for a government activity shrinks. And the reason for that endless expansion is that insiders figure out how to rig the system for their advantage.

P.S. To close with some humor, here’s a very snarky video about overpaid firefighters.

And at the bottom of this post, you’ll find an amusing joke about firefighting that pokes fun at libertarians.

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I wrote back in June that I was relieved about a bureaucrat from the National Weather Service getting elected to the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame.

I realize I was being jingoistic, but after selecting bureaucrats from France and India, I had been worried that foreigners were beginning to dominate the award.

But now Americans are on a roll. We have a new honoree, and she hails from one of those bureaucracies that shouldn’t exist – the Commerce Department in Washington.

Here are some remarkable excerpts from a report in the Washington Post.

A high-ranking official at the Commerce Department took at least seven government computers home, an IT smorgasbord from iPads to Dell desktops that she rarely used for work. And if that wasn’t enough, she allowed her kids to download pornography and “racially offensive materials,” an investigation found.

My main reaction is to ask why she was given seven computers. I realize that government bureaucracies waste money and have a callous disregard for taxpayer-provided equipment, but what possible rationale could there be for that many devices?

And my secondary thought is to wonder whether she “allowed” her kids to download inappropriate material or they did it behind her back.

If it’s the latter, then I’m not really sure why it matters. And I’m not even upset that she then tried to erase the info. I can understand why a parent would want to get rid of evidence that their kids were looking at porn.

When investigators started asking questions, they said, she tampered with evidence by erasing the offending material on some of the computers.

Though it’s far less excusable that she tried to penalize lower-level bureaucrats as part of her efforts to hide her misbehavior.

…and in retaliation moved to discipline a woman on her staff who cooperated with the probe.

If the information we’ve looked at was the extent of the matter, this bureaucrat wouldn’t be eligible for the Hall of Fame. However, she also engaged in other behaviors that make her a stellar candidate.

Including lavish trips with taxpayers picking up a big chunk of the cost.

This accumulation of misdeeds described by the Commerce Department watchdog in an investigative report released last week also included a layover in Paris en route to a European conference, partly funded by taxpayers. The official told colleagues her primary reason for going to the conference was to shop, the report said.

And she apparently didn’t think goofing off at her desk was a valuable use of her time, so she played hooky so she could goof off elsewhere.

Investigators said they also found a suspicious pattern of inconsistencies in when the official said she was working and what the swipe records on her security badge showed, including one day when she said she was on the clock for eight hours — but really worked just 20 minutes.

But here’s the clincher, the final piece of evidence that she belongs in the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame.

The statement doesn’t say whether the employee, a GS-15 on the federal pay scale, faces misconduct charges. She now works in another job at Commerce.

Isn’t that wonderful. Based on the GS-15 pay rules, she’s getting paid at least $125,000 per year (and perhaps as much as $158,000) and so far gets to keep her job notwithstanding serial misconduct.

A truly deserving candidate for the Hall of Fame!

P.S. I’ve previously written about America’s very quick and very successful recovery from a deep recession thanks to good fiscal policy in the early 1920s.

Writing for the New York Times, Ronald Radosh and Allis Radosh argue that the President during that time, Warren Harding, is mistreated by history. They start by noting Harding’s low ranking.

From the first poll of historians ranking the presidents, conducted in 1948 by Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr., to the most recent one in 2015, Harding has always come in either at the very bottom of the list, or one above James Buchanan.

They then point out that Harding took office during a grim period.

By the time Harding was inaugurated, in March 1921, the nation was in the doldrums, experiencing a postwar depression. In 1918, four million doughboys came home from the war and many could not find jobs. Unemployment hit African-American soldiers especially hard, and race riots broke out in the Midwest industrial belt. Harding, much like Ronald Reagan in 1980, brought an upbeat message to Americans.

And the part of that upbeat message that gets me juiced is smaller government.

A fiscal conservative, he pledged to right the nation’s finances and resuscitate the economy by lowering taxes, reducing the debt, balancing the budget and making government smaller and more efficient. …By…June 1922, the federal budget had been balanced, revenues exceeded expenditures and the public debt had been reduced. Spending had been $6.3 billion in 1920; by 1922 it had dropped to $3.3 billion.

Harding even had enough principles to reject politically popular spending bills. What a remarkable contrast with a recent Republican who was profligate with other people’s money.

Most telling was Harding’s veto of the popular so-called bonus bill, which would have given veterans an expensive bonus paid over time through deficit spending. The country, he told Congress in a speech, simply did not have the money. He argued it would also set a precedent to use public funds to pay for anything if it was “publicly appealing.”

And there were many other reasons to admire Harding. Unlike his predecessor, the notoriously racist Woodrow Wilson, he supported full equality and protection of the law for all Americans.

Harding immediately stressed his commitment to equal opportunity for all Americans, men and women, “whatever color, blood or creed.” …Harding was a racially enlightened president, especially for the time. During the campaign and his presidency, he supported an anti-lynching bill proposed by Republicans. …In October 1921, Harding traveled to Birmingham, Ala., where, in a powerful speech to a mixed-race (though segregated) audience, he demanded justice for African-Americans. In the first speech in the South by a sitting president on race, he argued for full economic and political rights for all African-Americans.

He also defended the rights of political minorities, again in contrast to Woodrow Wilson’s noxious actions.

Harding also stood out on civil liberties. On his first Christmas in office, Harding commuted the sentence of the Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs, who had been imprisoned under the Sedition Act under Wilson… Later, Harding commuted the sentences of the remaining political prisoners still incarcerated.

Pretty impressive.

I know that Reagan and Coolidge are the two best Presidents of the past 100 years, but I’ve never given much thought about who would be in third place. Seems like Harding might be the obvious choice.

Picking the bottom three would be harder because we’ve had so many bad Presidents. Wilson almost surely belongs on that list, but it would be tough to narrow down the list because FDR, Obama, Hoover, Carter, and Nixon would provide strong competition.

P.P.S. Returning to our original topic, here’s my collection of bureaucracy humor. I’ve targeted particular bureaucracies, such as the Postal Service,IRS, TSA, Department of Energy, and National Park Service.

We also have jokes about an Indian training for a government job, a slide show on how bureaucracies operate, a cartoon strip on bureaucratic incentives, a story on what would happen if Noah tried to build an Ark today, and a top-10 list of ways to tell if you work for the government.

There’s also a good one-liner from Craig Ferguson, along with some political cartoons from Michael Ramirez, Henry Payne, and Sean Delonas.

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