Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, March 04, 2011

Amen and Thank Goodness

Finally, we have some defense in the mainline media for Federal workers.

From Thomas A. Kochan , professor of management at MIT's Sloan School of Management:

But let's be clear about the stakes: Wisconsin's governor is attacking a fundamental human right, the freedom of association and the right to have an independent voice at work. This is not only unacceptable; I hope we will have the courage to call it un-American.

In case anyone is interested, most public employees don't have the right to strike. So all they can do is collectively bargain or protest in their free time.

The problem is scandals like that in Bell, California confuse people. Scandals like that are NOT because of unions and they are NOT typical of public employees. Scandals like that are simply corrupted officials.

In interviews with people in Egypt, many cited corruption among their public officials. They had to pay bribes for everything from getting birth certificates to passports. This is what happens when governments fail to pay their civil servants living wages. I work with people from all over the world, many of them from very corrupt places. They marvel at the trust and honesty of most Americans. We do not know what it is in this country to pay a bribe to get a birth certificate, building permit, or stamps at the post office. We pay our public servants a living wage, and for professionals a competitive wage because the American people deserve the very best service and quality from its public servants. If that argument can be used to defend the over-sized salaries of bankers, why is it not legitimate for use when talking about public servants?

According to Transparency International the United States ranks 22 out of 178 countries for corruption. This, by the way, is the first year since the index started that the United States has fallen out of the top 20. Why? Was it because of unions and the public sector? NO! It was because of the financial collapse and the various banking scandals caused by Wall Street as well as by weakened government oversight.

Why is government oversight weak? One word: Deregulation. There aren't enough civil servants to do the hard work of monitoring food quality, building and environmental safety, tax compliance, banking rule compliance, etc. And that has been a Republican tactic: Bleed the system dry through cuts to everything and everyone EXCEPT the very wealthy and their supporters.

Nancy Boswell, president of Transparency International U.S.A, refers to an "Integrity Deficit."
We're not talking about corruption in the sense of breaking the law. We're talking about a sense that the system is corrupted by these practices. There's an integrity deficit.

"These practices" refers to loose lending in the subprime crisis, the disclosure of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, rows over political funding,various financial scandals at state and city level, etc.

And when I made arguments about Democracy or the lack thereof, my co-bloggers were correct to say that we do have a Democracy. My problem is that the type of sophisticated, white collar corruption that we have witnessed in this country for too long undermines faith in the system. And so much of our success as a nation has been because of the faith we've placed in it. Without faith, you end up in revolution.


Raised By Republicans said...

Of course the policies proposed by Walker and other Republican governors are a transparent attempt by them to use the financial crises of their states as an excuse to settle old political scores with organized labor and to rig future competitions with organized labor in favor of the Republicans.

US West is also absolutely correct that failure to properly compensate civil servants is probably a significant factor in the decision of individual civil servants to solicit or accept bribes.

And US West is absolutely correct to point out that corruption of both the outright criminal sort and the "lack of basic integrity" sort is far more common in the private sector than in the democratically accountable (and more closely overseen and regulated) public sector.

However, long before we get to the point were financial necessity encourages public sector employees to engage in corruption here in the US, slipping pay and benefits for public employees will lead to such an erosion of the quality of public services that most Americans would find it intolerable. Hopefully, long before that happens, right thinking citizens like ourselves will convince majorities of our neighbors to get back on the right track.

To put the change in perception of corruption in the US perspective, we need to see where they were before and which countries they are similar to. In the previous ranking the US was 19th. Now it is 22nd. The shift was from 7.5 to 7.1 on a scale of 0-10 (with 10 meaning least corrupt). Certainly worth mentioning but not a huge difference. 7.1 makes the US seem less corrupt on the index than France (6.8), Spain (6.1), Italy (3.9) and most other EU member states. 7.1 is the same score Belgium received (hardly a country with a reputation for a serious corruption problem). The least corrupt EU member state is Denmark with a score of 9.3. The most corrupt EU member state is Greece 3.5 (but Romania and Bulgaria give them a serious challenge). The US is solidly in the range of scores seen in our peer countries (other established democracies). And we're a lot closer to the good end of that range than we are to the bad end.

Other interesting comparisons:

Russia = 2.1
China = 3.5
Venezuela = 2
Mexico = 3.1

Germany = 7.9
UK = 7.6
Japan = 7.8

Again, at 7.1, the US is a lot more like Germany, the UK and Japan than it is like really messed up countries like Greece, Mexico or Russia.

USwest said...

True that!

But I would like to see the US in the eights!

I have high standards. It doesn't happen over night!

Raised By Republicans said...

"(corruption) Index at 8 before it's too late!"

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