Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Coffee Strong, where I volunteer as a veterans benefits counselor, has a book in its library called something like 2/15/03: The Day the World Said No to War. The book is filled with pictures of the mass demonstrations around the world objecting to US plans to invade Iraq.

19 March 2003 was the day that the world learned that saying "No" didn't matter.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Just What America Needs

The revolving door between government and private interest is a staple of public administration in our national government. In the past, the practice has typically been cabinet secretaries, regulators and the higher level positions moving from private sector to government to lobbying. But now the door is open to legislative staff. And the K street crowd is moving to Capitol Hill. As about 100 newly elected Republican members of Congress and newly empowered committee chairs hire staff, they are hiring former lobbyists to fill positions that strongly influence public policy. (I would call this cutting out the middleman but I am sure that vacant lobbying function will be quickly filled.)
“The bottom line is that many of the most powerful congressional staffers, who are now responsible for working on behalf of the public’s interest, used to make a living convincing the government to benefit a client’s special interest,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which this month released a list of former lobbyists who are working on lawmakers’ personal staffs.

All parties, including Speaker Nancy Peolosi, assure us that the former lobbyist will recuse in matters involving a former employer. But how you you recuse yourself from an entire industry that has definite interests in public policy? You can't, because that industry is your mindset, your norm, your security. You will no doubt view policy from that perspective.

And you will be doing it as a sacrifice, certainly not personal gain. Congressional staff pay tops out at $172,000, far less that you made on K street. Not to worry, though, the revolving door goes both ways. In a few years, you can move on to another comfortable sinecure.

The public interest will be at some considerable risk in the next few years.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Real Courage

Josh Stieber found his conscience while deployed in Iraq. I did not have that kind of courage when faced with the same dilemma.

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