Nice to know what U.S. taxpayers are really paying for. A full dozen Secret Service agents were relieved of their duties after it was revealed that they were canoodling with Colombian prostitutes in Cartegena, Colombia, on the night before the Summit of the Americas international event. Apparently one of them refused to pay for the services of the prostitute, who then complained to the Colombian police.
It may sound like breaking news, but it is not. The sad reality is that governmental employees, starting from the bottom-rung and up, consistently engage in bad behavior. Last month, it was revealed that state governmental offices were prodding into employees’ Facebook accounts by asking for their usernames and passwords, to see first-hand what kind of potentially objectionable” content could be found on their personal and private accounts. Quite ironic given the long history of fraudulent, offensive, or illegal behavior on the part of high-ranking governmental figures at the top of the totem pole.
Consider these examples:
- General Services Administration Martha Johnson, who fired two GSA officers and quit herself after over $800,000 was spent in Las Vegas on a 4-day training conference for GSA employees;
- Ultra-religious conservative John Ensign (R-NV), who quit last year before the Senate Ethics Committee began examining fiscal violations in connection with his extramarital affairs;
- Tom DeLay (R-TX), convicted in 2010 of money laundering;
- Rick Renzi (R-AZ), prosecuted for 35 charges of fraud, conspiracy and money-laundering.
- Spencer Backus (R-AL), accused of insider-trading to avoid financial losses after being given a Congressional report on the impending melt-down of the American economy;
- David Rivera (R-FL), under investigation by the FBI, IRS, and other state organizations for money-laundering, public-corruption, and tax-evasion
Although these are just a couple of examples from recent years, the larger list of scandals involving governmental leaders and employees is stunning (as well as the two presidencies under which the greatest number were apparently reported.) The state/local list is longer and just as lurid.
Secret Service agents are certaintly entitled to blow off steam, just like every other employee. But this isn’t the first time they or other federal security agents have misbehaved. In November of 2011, a federal agent providing security shot an unarmed man in a Honolulu McDonald’s and was charged with second degree murder. In August, a Secret Secret Service agent was apparently driving drunk in Iowa and arrested. Three newsworthy reports in the past six months. The Secret Service (organized under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) requested $1.9 million in appropriations from the federal budget for 2012, nearly $1.7 million of which is intended to pay for salaries. If the majority of Secret Service funds end up as employee wages, the agents themselves are the agency’s most important asset, and must perform accordingly.
The good news is that the Obama administration, upon becoming aware of the misconduct, relieved the agents of their duties immediately instead of covering up the story or brushing it away under the guise of a long drawn-out “investigation” ultimately leading to nowhere. But where there is smoke, there is usually fire. A deeper clean-up may be in order.
Blagojevich, Muppets, and Goldman Sachs: How Rod’s Incarceration Magnifies The Deep Flaws in America’s Justice System
A few days ago, Rod Blagovich was taken into custody for incarceration in the Englewood, Colorado federal correctional institution for a 14-year sentence, closing the chapter on the ongoing saga involving the former Illinois governor. The crimes for which he was convicted? Bribery and political corruption. Taking advantage of his political office, for self-aggrandizement and for profit, at the expense of his constituents. Around the same time, an open letter was published by Goldman Sachs departee Greg Smith in the New York Times, accusing Goldman Sachs of corruption and “losing its moral compass,” which made ripples throughout Wall Street. According to Smith, over the course of his career, Goldman Sachs changed from being a respectable institution into one he could no longer bear to be affiliated with. Smith accused Goldman Sachs nurturing a culture that promoted greed and gleefully ripping off clients. The path to success at Goldman Sachs, said Smith, usually involved persuading gullible clients to buy worthless securities, making financial decisions based on how much money it would make Goldman Sachs (not the clients), and selling cooked-up financial products to clients that did not align with their financial goals. Perhaps the most telling portion of the letter was Smith’s admission that behind closed doors, Goldman Sachs associates (and managing directors) called their clients “muppets” - wood-headed inanimate playthings whose every moves would be controlled by the puppeteers, Goldman Sachs. Continue reading