The Role of Government

by lizard

The role of government. A fun topic. Some people want to destroy it. Some people want a realignment of priorities. And a small, very wealthy percentage want to continue using it to enrich and protect their investments.

Ravalli County is offering a stark example of the destroy it end of the spectrum. The beginning of the Missoulian article is generous:

Help is on the way for Ravalli County towns and facilities facing immediate financial challenges due to a months-long tax disbursement backlog in the county treasurer’s office.

On Tuesday, the county’s finance department bypassed the treasurer to cut checks for 17 towns, libraries, fire districts and other entities to ensure their doors remain open.

“We want to be able to get them some cash so they can pay their bills,” said Ravalli County’s chief financial officer, Klarryse Murphy. “I’ll have them done by 5 p.m. today.”

One role of government: cut checks. I know that must be difficult for some of the more exuberant anti-government folks running the show down there, but firemen don’t work for free. Cowgirl has a bit more on this malfeasance worth reading.

Another role of government is being highlighted right now in West Virginia: regulating dangerous chemicals like 4-methylcyclohexane methanol. This piece is a must read. The part under the subheading “Under the Radar” is particularly disturbing:

Freedom Industries — which was actually a conglomerate of smaller companies owned and operated by at least one convicted felon — had managed to escape the oversight of not only West Virginia’s DEP, but also the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The reason? Various juries are still out. But consensus has grown around the idea that Freedom Industries’ chemicals were not considered “a hazardous material,” a DEP cabinet secretary told the Associated Press, so “it flew under the radar.”

The impact of these multiple regulatory failures is the sudden exposure of 300,000 people to some mystery chemical used to lube coal. The human interest part of the article is compelling. We should all give much more thought to water as the anti-government pawns facilitate atrophy.

But not all parts of government are decaying. In our brave, new, post-Snowden world we get to find out all kinds of cool things the NSA can do, like devise radio pathways into computers:

The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target.

The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.

The N.S.A. calls its efforts more an act of “active defense” against foreign cyberattacks than a tool to go on the offensive. But when Chinese attackers place similar software on the computer systems of American companies or government agencies, American officials have protested, often at the presidential level.

I think active defense is my new favorite term, unseating disposition matrix.

On second thought, I don’t know, that’s a tough call. I think the language they use may be too astounding for me to fully appreciate.

  1. Did you see the president of Freedom Industries, Gary Summers or whatever his name is, when he gave that press conference imploring reporters to leave him along, it’d been such a long day and he was tired?

    Boy, I sure hope those good folks in West Virginia chip in and get him the swankiest hotel room downtown Charleston has to offer. You know, the one with the jacuzzi in the room and the wet bar?

  2. lizard19

    don’t worry everyone, Obama is going to place “some” restraints on surveillance:

    The emerging approach, described by current and former government officials who insisted on anonymity in advance of Mr. Obama’s widely anticipated speech, suggested a president trying to straddle a difficult line in hopes of placating foreign leaders and advocates of civil liberties without a backlash from national security agencies. The result seems to be a speech that leaves in place many current programs, but embraces the spirit of reform and keeps the door open to changes later.

    yeah, the “spirit” of reform.

  3. Craig Moore

    It’s time to transcend binary thinking and focus on what makes things possible. Read what the AT&T CEO has to say. Go through and search “A Business Short List for Growth” Read the WSJ article.

    Randall Stephenson
    Jan. 14, 2014 7:10 p.m. ET

    No matter the topic, the debate in Washington often comes down to whether we need more government funding for social programs or less spending to reduce the debt we leave our children. But this win-lose framing completely misses the one thing required to achieve both objectives: robust economic growth.

    The simple fact is that if we want to control the deficit, preserve key entitlement programs, educate our children, grow jobs, and offer upward economic mobility for everyone, we have to get our economy growing faster.

    To that end, the Business Roundtable, whose member companies generate annual revenues of more than $7 trillion while employing 16 million workers, is embracing an agenda for 2014 centered on one thing—encouraging public policies that will return the U.S. to its full growth potential.

    And make no mistake, economic growth doesn’t happen absent private investment. This isn’t complex economic theory; it’s something we all know from our personal experience. Where there is investment—a new factory or distribution facility being built, a new store about to open, new software being installed—that is where new jobs are created. It is no coincidence that during this period of subpar growth, private capital investment as a percentage of our economy is at post-World-War II lows.

    • JC

      If you want to transcend binary thinking, then we need to get rid of the idea that all of our economic woes will be magically fixed given enough economic growth.

      Population growth, and the traditional form of consumer-driven “economic growth” to accompany it will eventually lead to ecosystem collapse, and with it population collapse. Carrying Capacity 101.

      You want to transcend Wall Street 500 binary thinking (economic growth good, economic stagnation bad) in order to develop new concepts of economy, you might want to look at Steady State economic theory for one example.

      As to Stephenson’s statement that “It is no coincidence that during this period of subpar growth, private capital investment as a percentage of our economy is at post-World-War II lows,” one needs to beg the question “why is private capital investment so low?”

      That one has many answers, but sometimes Occam’s Razor leads us to the simplest: that’s what the accumulators want. We live in a time where the rich are getting richer, and wealth is not trickling down — nor is it going to trickle down. Inequity is at a huge level because that is what the accumulators want.

      We are heading into the dark ages of neo-feudalism because people like you think that accumulators like Randall Stephenson don’t want anything more than to advance up the list of wealthy people. He offers nothing to counteract (instead he reinforces it) the “binary thinking” that is pushing economic growth as a panacea for what ails our economy.

      • Craig Moore

        JC, you make some valid points but pointing the finger at me with your ” people like you” nonsense misses the point. It’s a matter of priorities based on basic necessities like a full belly and a place to live. Other issues pale in comparison.

        • JC

          A little redistribution would find all with homes and food. sorry to point the finger, but it seemed that you were buying into stephenson’s line…

    • Alright, so stop sending our money to Iraq and Afghanistan so we can build those things here.

      Let Al-qaeda have the cities – after more than 10 years I just don’t care anymore.

    • larry kurtz

      what part of providing for the general welfare escapes you, craig?

  4. Big Swede

    Maybe those Ravalli county clerks headed down to CA to become lifeguards.

    “Newport Beach, California, where four ranking lifeguards earned more than the town’s $109,677 median household income in 2012, may partially disband its municipal ocean rescue to deal with rising pension costs.”

  5. Big Swede

    Oh, the votes are in.

    Government still problemo numero uno.

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