Wednesday, June 10, 2009

American Tsars

We tax all the others and pass the revenue on to you

Why do we have American tsars? We call 'em czars for some reason but you know what I'm talking about. Rateitall identifies 18 of the odd political creatures. 18! What do they do and why do we need them? A couple of things for sure: They're not working alone (18 new staffs, offices, equipment, supplies, cars, expense accounts etc.) and they're not working for free (18 new staffs' pay and perks). For what?

We've had czars before. Are they redundant to their respective cabinet members? HHS v. Health Czar, that sort of thing. Can they make decisions without cabinet input or Congressional oversight? Do they? Yeah, likely they do.

William Manchester wrote American Caesar, the story of Douglas MacArthur and his usurpation of power from an uncooperative civilian American government. Is that something like what we have now, or is this a group of neo-governmental ministers who are taking power away from an uncooperative American populous and a timid Congress? Seven Days in May with Ivy League educations? I'm not warning of a neo-lib conspiracy, but I am beginning to wonder about it. Aren't you? Aren't our overblown cabinet departments enough for the prez? Why aren't they?

Who vets the czars? TommyD was the prez' Health Czar while he was waiting to be confirmed as SecHHS. Using him as an example, no one does very well and now we've got 18 of em.

Of what significance are a czar's decisions? To whom does the prez turn for critical advice and direction, his cabinet member or his czar, and why? Stay with HHS for a moment. It is a HUGE agency. Are they so short of talent that they have to sluff off decisions and recommendations to a czar and his staff? How is that possible?

Czars don't have Congressional oversight and they aren't subject to Congress' advise and consent role. They don't have to tell the public anything, file out more than pro forma reports or in any way justify their existence. They exist by executive fiat (no pun intended). Ask why.

* * * * *

Talk about fine print. Bailed-out banks are trying to pay back the bailouts so that they can start paying out big bonuses to their top people. That's what the bailouts did, preserved the earning capacity of mega-bankers at your expense. Don't be expecting your share any time soon. Or a thank-you.

Here's the thing: TimmyG tells Congress that even after they pay back the bailout money those banks will still have to follow government pay guidelines. Think about it. A publicly-owned private company will have to follow gummint pay rules because they took bailout money.

I'm no fan of big-money bankers. Far from it. But where/when did TimmyG and his Pay Czar Ken Feinberg get the expertise or the right to do this? Where did this self-annointed oversight come from? Want to know why? So that the successful banks won't be able to recruit talent from the unsuccessful banks by offering... bigger salaries.

Don't worry. The pay czar will fix things. After all, he's 31 and has no experience. He'll fit right in.

* * * * *

Need another reason to stay away from GM cars? How about this statement from the new CEO of GM, Ed Whitacre, Jr. (but from now on Mr. Ed here):

“I don’t know anything about cars,” Whitacre, 67, said yesterday in an interview after his appointment. “A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I’m not that old, and I think the business principles are the same.”

Well no WONDER the prez picked him. He's not too old to learn about cars. I'm hearing the words to Mr. Ed right now (thanks to

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed.
Go right to the source and ask the horse
He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse.
He's always on a steady course.
Talk to Mister Ed. 

People yakkity yak a streak and waste your time of day
But Mr. Ed will never speak unless he has something to say 

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And this one'll talk 'til his voice is hoarse.
You never heard of a talking horse?
Well listen to this: "I'm Mister Ed." 

I normally wouldn't care all that much but this Mr. Ed is running a business that we've just spent $50 bil on and it happens to be failing and taking our money with it. Is this the time for learn by doing? 

Interchangable managers regardless of experience is a government experiment that has failed over and over. I remember the "Blue Ribbon Plan" under which thousands of new inexperienced managers were hired in the 1970s. It was a predictable failure because... are you ready?... no one knew what they were supposed to be doing!!!

Mr. Ed is running GM. Roger Penske has raced and sold cars at the very pinnacle of his industry for decades, made scads of money and is looking for new challenges. He's had a lot of other automotive success. You see his yellow Penske Trucking vans and long-haulers everywhere on the highways and there is lots more. Penske is buying Saturn.

Penske and Saturn or Mr. Ed and GM: Which do you pick for long-term success and which to be continually bailed out with taxpayer money until we run out?

Penske. Mr. Ed. Who's going to get your business?

What was that, Mr. Ed?

“I don’t know anything about cars”

Follow up with

"Go right to the source and ask the horse"

Are you feeling stimulated yet?

* * * * *

Stop gabbin' and get me some oats. -- Mr. Ed
(Thank you,

1 comment:

  1. Ok, I have to go with Roger on this one. Not that you gave Mr. Ed much of a break. After all, anyone with a theme song must have something going for them. Oh, right, different Mr. Ed. Hey, I'm only 68. Maybe I can learn about cars too. I've driven cars, even bought a few. And I was a manager once. Would I get to be a Tzarina? Is that anything like a Queen? I think it must be. I'll get back to you.