12/31/10 — Bureaucracy threatened: New York City snowfall incident example of government arrogance

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Bureaucracy threatened: New York City snowfall incident example of government arrogance

Want to know what happens when a bureaucracy feels threatened and its members sense that the possibility exists that someone might be looking at efficiency?

All you have to do is follow the story about the New York City workers and the many feet of snow that clogged the streets of the city that never sleeps, but that certainly had to snooze, this week.

Word is that some of the workers who perform city services -- reportedly members of the government employees union -- staged a deliberate slowdown of the snow removal.

They allegedly set their plows high enough that they only skimmed the surface of the snow, while others simply idled their trucks completely.

Those in the know say the workers were angry that their ranks had been reduced because of budget cuts and they were trying to impress on the city the need for more -- not less -- workers.

There are two sides to every story, of course, and not every city employee participated in the alleged "snowdown," but those who did managed to strangle a city for nearly a week.

The lesson to be learned here might not be the one you would, at first, think.

These workers prove that when a bureaucracy of any kind -- especially a government agency -- does not face scrutiny and regular trims, it grows unchecked, and that those who are members of the group rally to protect their own interests.

The members of the bureaucracy believe their own press, too. They rail against any suggestion that their jobs could be done more efficiently or with less money, calling any such suggestion persecution.

So, as you can imagine, the bureaucracy perpetuates itself.

And then, of course, there are the budget tricks.

If an agency has not yet used up its allotted funds, what do you think the chances are that money would be returned to the government coffers?

Fat chance. Money that is returned is removed from the budget, as are, by the way, workers' positions that are not filled, and therefore, assumed not to be necessary.

We have all heard the stories about lazy government workers at all levels. There have been plenty of videos on the Internet and other investigations of workers performing less than efficiently. But it was more than a little surprising that any worker would take his or her incompetence to this extreme.

The New York incident is shocking, not just because of the furor it created, but because of the audacity of such a move.

In an economy where so many are struggling, it is unacceptable that anyone would be trying to cheat the system, let alone wasting taxpayer money.

So as you listen to talk about government-managed anything, remember New York City and its snow.

This is what happens when money flows freely from taxpayers and the laws of good business and budgets that regulate private industry do not apply.

It is just one more example of why more government means more expensive pensions and health care, more mismanaged money and more out of control expenses.

And that, right now, is the last thing we need.

Published in Editorials on December 31, 2010 10:33 AM