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A tale of two CEO’s: GM versus the VA

CEOs Mary Barra (GM) and Erik Shinseki testify to Congress.  Each was treated very differently for the same violation of the public trust.
CEOs Mary Barra (GM) and Erik Shinseki testify to Congress. Each was treated very differently for the same violation of the public trust.
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Two major news stories crossed the press wires during the past few weeks – one involved GM’s callous disregard for safety (13 known fatalities); the other addressed the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and its callous disregard for the health and well-being of the veterans for whom it was supposed to care (at least 40 suspected deaths). In both cases, the organizations, respectively, of which Mary Barra and Erik Shinseki (Fig. 1), are CEO’s, covered up known information for their own intended purpose(s).

Yet, the outcomes, to date, were decidedly different. Since the government collects money in the form of massive fines from the private sector and has the right to bash the private sector, GM is slammed. Then, these monies are used to enforce more laws and generate more revenue (from other non-government entities and GM); meanwhile, veterans are left to drift while the government offers limited accountability for its practices and the politically-charged Senate can’t pass a three-page bill (albeit ill-conceived) because they need to read it carefully. That wasn’t the case with the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Nancy Pelosi advised that the bill should pass in order to, “find out what’s in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” If this is the case, then shouldn’t every bill be passed to take it out of political controversy and then we can just find out what’s in it, later?

Still, within the VA controversy, government merely voices how concerned it is. I wonder if it wouldn’t make more to fine the government a similar $35 million amount, immediately.

Then there are the IRS’ Tea Party scandal, Obamacare’s flawed online implementation, the Benghazi cover-up and other scandals. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder decide to only enforce laws that they want to. Yet, the government will fine airlines massive sums, if passengers are left on an airplane for too many hours.

This collection of miscreant activities and blatant hypocrisy brings to mind the writings on the barn wall in George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945). I decided to state the original seven commandments (not the reworded writings as the story unfolded) and then recraft those barnyard words here for use in today’s world:

• Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy
• Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend
• No animal shall wear clothes
• No animal shall sleep in a bed
• No animal shall drink alcohol
• No animal shall kill any other animal
• All animals are equal

• Whatever comes from the other political party is wrong
• Whatever comes from our political party, or its corporate allies, is correct
• No politician shall ever bear responsibility
• No president shall acknowledge awareness of any scandalous activity
• No politician shall act; they must only react when the crisis becomes bad enough or the scandal is discovered
• No politician shall sabotage any other politician or other individual, unless necessary
• All people are equal (except politicians, who are more equal)

One can do the same with the words from Orwell’s 1984, words spoken in classical doublespeak form.

"War is Peace"
"Freedom is Slavery"
"Ignorance is Strength".

Oops, sorry; I can’t. They are as true today as when Orwell wrote them in 1948, some 66 years ago!

But doublespeak reigns as Washington’s “leaders” argue for more support for our veterans (a good thing). Unfortunately, some of the proposals are fraught with unbridled spending (e.g., platinum cards to be used for unlimited medical needs or adding the veterans to the rolls of Congressional health care). Is the latter not the opening volley in advocating that ALL should be given the same Federal care (at someone else’s expense)?

I am sure that we’ll see more of the same in upcoming months as the scandals of the current administration work their way through governmental bureaucracy. Throughout, I’m sure that doublespeak, subterfuge, blame assignment and even the changing of documented history (either the Ministry of Truth or the Presidential Press Secretary) will be among the many tools used to dismiss any governmental blame. Meanwhile, as noted in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1957), any law possible will be used to find blame at the hands of private sector entities (whether justified as in the case of GM, or not).

As Rand noted, “…"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them brokenWe're after power and we mean itThere's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. Now, that's the system…”

Obviously, the same rules don’t apply to those in political power.

© 2014 H. Michael Mogil

NOTE: Classical writings like 1984, Animal Farm and Atlas Shrugged are must reads for the current crop of high school students. These students need a balanced perspective concerning what could happen as government gets, “too big to fail.” Right now, the focus is more on social and environmental justice.

Other books and other movies (e.g., Idiocrasy, Hunger Games) may also offer “dark” perspectives of what the future may bring as organized society crumbles. However, only by understanding the “dark side,” can society work to try and prevent it from happening.

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