81 and still turning tricks

You may remember the David Broder speaking fee mini-scandal from a few years back (I helped write a short summary of this on his wiki). The Post ombudsman of the time, Deborah Howell, did a pretty good job of whacking Broder and Post management over it:

Broder should have followed his own and The Post’s rules. Woodward’s case is somewhat different, but [then executive editor Len] Downie would like to know and should know what groups Woodward is speaking to in case he wants to object. Woodward’s name and The Post’s are synonymous, and whatever Woodward does is associated with the paper, even if he’s rarely there.

Most of all, The Post needs an unambiguous, transparent well-known policy on speaking fees and expenses. It should deal with charities and those on contract. Approvals for speeches that involve fees should be sought and given in writing by a high-ranking editor. Fees should be accepted only from educational, professional or other nonprofit groups for which lobbying and politics are not a major focus — with no exceptions.

Nothing has changed:

Last May, Broder was the keynote speaker at a May 19 to 21 conference sponsored by GenSpring Family Offices, “a leading wealth management firm for ultra-high net worth families. With over $20 billion in assets under advisement, GenSpring…is trusted by more than 700 of the world’s wealthiest families to oversee or manage important aspects of their financial lives.” GenSpring is an affiliate of SunTrust Banks, which lobbies congress.

I guess one thing has changed, though: the Post now has an ombudsman who won’t write about this unless we can get Andrew Breitbart to start covering it. My guess is that Andy Alexander never touches this, now matter now many emails he gets about it. I just sent him an email about it — no reply so far.

Update. Just got an out-of-office reply from the ombudsman. This of course makes it that much more likely that he will never cover it.

Open Thread: Title of the Day

From Tom Scocca at Slate: “Larry Summers Is Resigning to Spend More Time With His Money“.

Damn fine post, as well. If Summers were being judged by his actual “financial acumen” (which seems to consist of an imperious willingness to lose other peoples’ money) as opposed to his monumental talent for giving rich powerful people new & creative excuses to screw up other peoples’ lives…

“Great (Egg) Men Change History”

Take a bow, Austin “Jack” DeCoster! The Galtian Genius responsible for the recent recall of half a billion salmonella-tainted eggs may have been responsible for introducing salmonella to America’s egg supply:

… Mr. DeCoster’s frequent run-ins with regulators over labor, environmental and immigration violations have been well cataloged. But the close connections between Mr. DeCoster’s egg empire and the spread of salmonella in the United States have received far less scrutiny….
Farms tied to Mr. DeCoster were a primary source of Salmonella enteritidis in the United States in the 1980s, when some of the first major outbreaks of human illness from the bacteria in eggs occurred, according to health officials and public records. At one point, New York and Maryland regulators believed DeCoster eggs were such a threat that they banned sales of the eggs in their states.
Records released by Congressional investigators last week suggest that tougher oversight of Mr. DeCoster’s Iowa operations might have prevented the outbreak, which federal officials say is the largest of its type in the nation’s history, with more than 1,600 reported illnesses and probably tens of thousands more that have gone unreported.
Fifty years ago, Salmonella enteritidis (pronounced enter-IT-idis) was a minor cause of illness. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the number of cases began to grow worldwide. In this country, the Salmonella enteritidis epidemic appeared first in New England, where Mr. DeCoster was the largest egg producer. The first spike of illness there showed up in epidemiological records in 1979. That same year, Mr. DeCoster sold his Maine operation, although it kept the name DeCoster Egg Farms. He provided financing to the new owner, the Acton Corporation, and some of his managers stayed to help run it, according to former employees of the company. Mr. DeCoster began building new egg farms in Maryland.
The first enteritidis outbreak recognized by public health officials came in July 1982, when about three dozen people fell ill and one person died at the Edgewood Manor nursing home in Portsmouth, N.H. Investigators concluded that runny scrambled eggs served at a Saturday breakfast were to blame. They traced the eggs to what the Centers for Disease Control reports referred to as a large producer in Maine; interviews with investigators confirmed that it was Mr. DeCoster’s former operation…

Another triumph for St. Ronnie’s blessed deconstruction of nanny-state frills like ‘food safety’! Most of the people who’ve died from eating tainted eggs over the past 30 years have been old, chronically ill, or too young to work for their own living anyway — mere parasites draining valuable resources from society’s Real Producers, fine Christianist men like Jack DeCoster.

You’d Be Cripplingly Incapacitated, Too…

Even before John posted about Americans over 50 who may never be allowed paid employment again, I had tagged a couple of articles about one all-American non-solution. From the Washington Post, “Jobless are straining Social Security’s disability benefits program“:

The number of former workers seeking Social Security disability benefits has spiked with the nation’s economic problems, heightening concern that the jobless are expanding the program beyond its intended purpose of aiding the disabled.
Applications to the program soared by 21 percent, to 2.8 million, from 2008 to 2009, as the economy was seriously faltering. The growth is the sharpest in the 54-year history of the program. It threatens the program’s fiscal stability and adds to an administrative backlog that is slowing the flow of benefits to those who need them most. Moreover, about 8 million workers were receiving disability benefits in June, an increase of 12.6 percent since the recession began in 2007, according to Social Security Administration statistics.
Though policymakers anticipated the program’s rolls growing with the aging of the baby-boom population, they suspect the current surge has less to do with any worsening in the health of the workforce than with the poor health of the economy. About half of all applicants eventually make it onto the disability rolls – a percentage that has not changed appreciably with the recent spike in applications, Social Security officials say. The average age of new recipients is 49 – and less than 1 percent of them return to work, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
In bad times, the disability rolls are swollen by “a lot of older workers who are very much on the margins. Often, they are the first people laid off,” Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said. “They can’t find any new work and they are desperate. So they have every incentive to try and get in the program.”
“A lot of people come to me when their unemployment benefits run out and they have no where else to turn,” said Paul W. Nolan, a Baltimore lawyer who specializes in Social Security disability cases. “Many of them are on the border. Maybe in their last job, people were willing to work around their disability. But the economy is less forgiving of disabilities during a recession than when times are good.”

James Ledbetter at Slate is appalled by the aging slackers abusing “America’s Hidden Welfare Program“:

Throughout the year, economists and both houses of Congress have debated whether to extend unemployment insurance for another 13 weeks, or 26 weeks, worried that the payments would bloat the deficit or, worse, actually cause people to stay jobless. All along, however, millions of Americans without work have quietly continued to cash a federal check every month. They don’t show up in the unemployment statistics—not even as “discouraged” workers—and their benefits won’t stop after 99 weeks.
They are the recipients of Social Security’s Disability Insurance, a somewhat obscure federal program that nonetheless eats up nearly $200 billion a year… more than 8 million ex-workers, plus another million disabled adult offspring and disabled widows and widowers.
With the annual commitments now at about $180 billion, SSDI represents, as the authors of a 2006 economics journal paper put it, a “fiscal crisis.” Equally distressing, it also represents public policy run amok. Over the last few decades, a program that was designed to help a relatively small group of people who were fatally sick or permanently unable to work has evolved into a backdoor welfare program in which a huge number of people are paid not to get jobs. How huge? Nationwide, we’re talking about well over 4 percent of the adult population. In some states—Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, and West Virginia—the rate exceeds 6 percent. These millions of workers extricated from payrolls represent untold lost billions in tax revenues and all manner of desperately needed economic activity (consumption, home purchases, etc.)…

The NYTimes, on the other hand, blandly reported that “Retiring Later Is Hard Road for Laborers“:

“… A new analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that one in three workers over age 58 does a physically demanding job… — including hammering nails, bending under sinks, lifting baggage — that can be radically different at age 69 than at age 62. Still others work under difficult conditions, like exposure to heat or cold, exposure to contaminants or weather, cramped workplaces or standing for long stretches. In all, the researchers found that 45 percent of older workers, or 8.5 million, held such difficult jobs. For janitors, nurses’ aides, plumbers, cashiers, waiters, cooks, carpenters, maintenance workers and others, raising the retirement age may mean squeezing more out of a declining body…. “

So, let’s drop the mealy-mouthed charades for a minute and get blunt: “We” — the tiny percentage of people at the top of the American income pyramid and the millions of its enablers — are breaking people at an increased and ever-expanding rate. The backdoor programs cobbled together to keep these broken people out of public perception are being strained past the point where Very Serious Economists are comfortable. And therefore “we” need to… further cut back Social Security eligibility, “force” people to stay in the jobs they don’t have, presumably until everyone below boardroom level drops dead 20 minutes before shift-end, so they can be recycled expeditiously with the rest of the day’s garbage.

Since providing even the most minimal raggedy social safety net is un-American socialism, I guess it may come down to a choice between a good murderous pandemic influenza, like the 1918 version that tended to kill previously healthy young adults, or soylent green.


For my money, corporations took our democracy over a long time ago, so this is closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. Still I’m glad to hear Dr. Utopia say this:

They want to take Congress back and return to the days where lobbyists wrote the laws. It is the most insidious power grab since the monopolies of the Gilded Age. That’s happening right now. So there’s a lot of talk about populist anger and grassroots. But that’s not what’s driving a lot of these elections.

We tried to fix this, but the leaders of the other party wouldn’t even allow it to come up for a vote. They want to keep the public in the dark. They want to serve the special interests that served them so well over the last 19 months.

Cue Charles Lane and Megan McArdle whining that Obama hates free speech.