Public Employees and the Entitlement Mentality

Every major newspaper in America is carrying front page stories about the lavish spending by the United States General Services Administration employees and the partying with prostitutes by Secret Service agents during President Barack Obama’s recent trip to the otherwise uneventful Organization of American States gathering in Cartagena, Columbia. Those who view these stories as sensational events are missing the bigger picture.

The culture of corruption represented by these events are simply additional evidence of the pervasive entitlement mentality by those who are the recipients of government payments – whether those payments are in the form of welfare, salaries or contract payments. The sum and substance of this sense of entitlement is found in a New York Post article by Gerry Shields regarding Jeffery Neely, a high ranking administrator in the Government Service Administration:

“The committee released e-mails in which the brazen [Jeffery] Neely, who earns $179,000 a year and is still being paid on administrative leave, flaunted his position as a regional commissioner and even invited friends to share in the taxpayer extravagance at the M Resort Spa and Casino, where the hot-tub photos — which first emerged on ABC News — were taken in 2009 while he took an advance trip there with his wife to check it out.

“’If you come, we typically host a nice happy hour in my suite one night (with u and the boys as part of it). I know. I am bad. But as deb and I say often, why not enjoy it while we have it and while we can. Aint going to last forever,’ Neely wrote, referring to his wife.” [Bracketed words supplied]

And the growing Secret Service scandal adds to that culture by treating trips with the President (or other ranking public officials to whom they have been assigned) as Party Central. A recent Washington Post article:

“The accusations are triggering scrutiny of the culture of the Secret Service — where married agents have been heard to joke during aircraft takeoff that their motto is “wheels up, rings off” — and raising new questions at both the agency and the Pentagon about institutional oversight at the highest levels of the president’s security apparatus.”

This sense of entitlement pervades virtually everything occurring in state and federal governments. There are the expectations of salary and benefit increases by public employees during recessions and massive private sector unemployment. There is the culture that demands that administrators spend all they have been budgeted for a cycle so as to justify an increase for the next cycle. There is the countless travel both nationally and internationally for bogus conferences. There is the abuse of administration by PERS to artificially inflate benefit payments to retirees by refusing to update mortality tables. And there is the endless supply of campaign and political funds from the public employee unions all gathered and remitted at government expense to the unions. And they exist primarily because there is no effective oversight. And that is particularly true when agencies like the Government Services Administration and the Department of Administration charged with policing such practices engage in the same practices themselves. I mean, come on folks, who cares? It’s not their money.

The recipients of welfare payments – in all of their forms – possess the same entitlement mentality. They range from the adult children who continue to cash their deceased relatives Social Security checks, to the recipients of unemployment payments who operate a cash business on the side. They include the people you see in the grocery stores who use their cash for cigarettes, alcohol, and digital televisions while using their food stamps for groceries. They include the student who appeared before Congress recently demanding that the government pay for her contraceptives to the tune of $1,000 per year. And they include the fertile women who seemingly annually produce another child in order to profit from the multitudes of welfare payments available for children – particularly children without fathers. And to make matters worse there are literally tens of thousand of state and federal workers whose jobs are to encourage such behavior and counsel such people as to ways to maximize their abuse of the system.

But they are not alone. The abuse by corporations of government welfare continues to grow. There are the routine abuses found in military procurement – $4.99 wrenches costing $8,000, thousand dollar toilet seats, and weapons programs that double, triple and quadruple in cost through unending change orders. There are the federal grants to companies such as Solyndra where tax dollars are wasted on a bogus business plan but whose executives who provided campaign contributions are rewarded handsomely through salaries, retention bonuses and severance contracts. And there are the wink-wink-nod-nod arrangements between purchasers of government property and the politicians who make the decisions. These are not isolated or infrequent incidents but rather routine to the point of expectation.

And all of this exists because of a lack of oversight – not some bureaucratic organization that is subsequently corrupted itself, but rather a constant vigilance by the very people we elect to administer the government. There is an interesting vignette making the rounds of the internet these days ascribed to an article in the Czech Republic’s Prager Zeitung:

The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president.

“The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America . Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince.

“The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president.”

It is irrelevant as to whether it was actually published or whether it is about Mr. Obama. It is more a commentary on the nature of the electorate than on the people who inhabit government. In a time when half the people pay no taxes but are free to vote on whether taxes should be increased; in a time in which more than one-half of the households in Oregon are dependent in whole or in part on government payments (welfare, unemployment, PERS and public employment) and in a time when election campaigns are substantially dependent on money from public employee unions funded by compulsory dues collected and remitted by government, the impetus for oversight is lacking. In fact, one might suggest that between the inattention of voters and the self-preservation of those who benefit from government, the impetus of corruption is king.

A democracy exists solely on the vigilance of its citizens. Lacking that corruption and tyranny reign.