There are few calamities greater than losing your job. Losing a job may cause your life to begin to crumble, and start you down the road to losing your confidence and, even though it's undeserved, losing the respect of others.
When I was mayor, one of my favorite sayings was, “If you give someone a job, you solve 90 percent of their problems. The other 10 percent, they can solve themselves.”
That's why the recent report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is extremely troubling. The Bureau announced that the overall unemployment rate for August was 6.1 percent. Broken down demographically, 5.4 percent of whites were unemployed; 10.6 percent of blacks; 8 percent of Hispanics, and 4.4 percent of Asians.
The government is now engaged in bailing out companies like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and a number of banks. In my view, the government should direct its primary energies to creating programs that will put people back to work. And by work I mean real work, not make work.
For example, we need to upgrade our crumbling infrastructure. Some bridges across the nation are literally falling down or are in danger of collapse. Cities like New Orleans are crying out for more federal assistance to aid their rebuilding efforts. States such as Mississippi, Texas and Florida that have been pummeled by the latest hurricanes need immediate help.
FEMA this time around has apparently done a good job in alerting and saving people from death and providing for their immediate needs. Perhaps now, the federal government should take on the job of creating institutions like the old WPA and PWA of the Great Depression to commence the rebuilding of the devastated areas and at the same time addressing the problem of unemployment.
For the northeast, why not build the tracks and trains comparable to the French and Japanese bullet trains to go from Boston to Washington, D.C. in half the current time?
To our credit, we pour billions of dollars into governments overseas to help them when they suffer calamities as a result of natural catastrophes, shouldn't we consider the rising unemployment rate a catastrophe requiring the assistance of the federal government? I think we should.
How about a Marshall Plan, this time for the U.S.?
Why is it OK for the government to bail out companies and investors to the tune of billions of dollars, but unacceptable to create work opportunities for those who, because of a faltering economy, are without work? We need to reconsider our principles.
Federal Agency Corruption Reigns
One of the biggest examples in years of federal agency corruption was revealed in three reports provided to the Congress last week by the inspector general of the Minerals Management Service which The New York Times described as the agency "which collects about $10 billion in royalties annually and is one of the government's largest sources of revenue other than taxes."
The Times further reported, "The investigation also concluded that several of the officials 'frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.' The investigation separately found that the program's manager mixed official and personal business. In sometimes lurid detail, the report also accuses him of having intimate relations with two subordinates, one of whom regularly sold him cocaine."
The Times article went on, "The inspector general also urged the administration to take action against several of the officials in the royalty-in-kind program who accepted gifts from the oil companies, by firing them or banning them for life from certain positions.
"Several have already been transferred out of the program but remain on the government payroll, the report said. But two of the highest-ranking officials who were subjects of the investigations will apparently escape penalty. Both retired during the investigation, rendering them safe from any administrative punishment, and the Justice Department has declined to prosecute them on the charges suggested by the inspector general.
"One of them is Ms. Denett, who oversaw the Denver-based royalty-in-kind program from Washington. The report contends that she manipulated the contracting process to steer the consulting work to Mr. Mayberry, her friend and former special assistant."
The Congress should ask Attorney General Mukasey, a person of absolute integrity, why his office has decided not to prosecute. If the Congress determines his answer is not persuasive, it should appoint a special prosecutor with authority to prosecute.
The Department of Justice, reports The Times, "declined to explain why prosecutors chose not to bring charges against Ms. Denett . . . citing departmental policy."
We send, using Leona Helmsley's words, "the little people" to jail for far more modest infractions. Let's demonstrate "the big people" are subject to the same laws that govern the rest of us.
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