Just As I Thought

Wednesday Shorts

A few items that have been sitting down there in the dock waiting for commentary.

Big Government Gets Bigger
An article in the Washington Post from a year ago takes a look at the growth of the Federal government — at first, one would assume that Republicans are against bigger government, but then one important statistic catches the eye:

The Republican Party’s oft-stated affinity for smaller government has not applied during the Bush administration. According to a recent study, not only is the number of federal civil servants on the rise, but so are the numbers of employees working for government-funded contractors and for organizations that receive government grants.

Roll all of those together — and mix in the numbers of postal workers and military personnel on the federal payroll — and the “true size” of the federal government stands at 14.6 million employees, said Paul C. Light, the study’s author and a government professor at New York University.

That compares with 12.1 million employees in 2002, said Light, who has tracked the growth of government for years and has data for as far back as 1990. The latest increase is almost entirely due to contractors, whose ranks swelled by 2.5 million since 2002, Light wrote in his 10-page research brief.

In 1990, there were 5.06 million contractors, 2.24 million civil servants, and 2.11 million military. This was the first Bush era.
In 2005, under Bush II, there were a whopping 7.63 million contractors, a smaller 1.87 million civil servants, and — surprisingly in the middle of a war — only 1.44 million military.
In other words, true to what we expected, George W. Bush has sold out the government to big corporations who have taken over those jobs and are bleeding us dry. Blackwater, anyone?
[The Washington Post]

As Campaigns Chafe at Limits, Donors Might Be in Diapers
Here we go again, finding creative ways around campaign finance laws. The Republicans pioneered (pun intended) the art of “bundling,” where personal donation limits are given the end run by an Amway-style pyramid scheme; it looks like the Democrats are giving birth (pun intended) to the newest craze: donations from babies.

Elrick Williams’s toddler niece Carlyn may be one of the youngest contributors to this year’s presidential campaign. The 2-year-old gave $2,300 to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

So did her sister and brother, Imara, 13, and Ishmael, 9, and her cousins Chan and Alexis, both 13. Altogether, according to newly released campaign finance reports, the extended family of Williams, a wealthy Chicago financier, handed over nearly a dozen checks in March for the maximum allowed under federal law to Obama.

Such campaign donations from young children would almost certainly run afoul of campaign finance regulations, several campaign lawyers said. But as bundlers seek to raise higher and higher sums for presidential contenders this year, the number who are turning to checks from underage givers appears to be on the rise.

“It’s not difficult for a banker or a trial lawyer or a hedge fund manager to come up with $2,300, and they’re often left wanting to do more,” said Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. “That’s when they look across the dinner table at their children and see an opportunity.”

Asked about the Williams family giving, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, “As a policy, we don’t take donations from anyone under the age of 15.” After being asked by The Post about the matter, he said the children’s donations will be returned.

Although campaign finance laws set a limit of $2,300 per donor per year, they do not explicitly bar donors based on age. And young donors abound in the fundraising reports filed by presidential contenders this year.

A supporter of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R), Susan Henken of Dover, Mass., wrote her own $2,300 check, and her 13-year-old son, Samuel, and 15-year-old daughter, Julia, each wrote $2,300 checks, for example. Samuel used money from his bar mitzvah and money he earned “dog sitting,” and Julia used babysitting money to make the contributions, their mother said. “My children like to donate to a lot of causes. That’s just how it is in my house,” Henken said.

[The Washington Post]

Let Them Have Massages
There have been a lot of stories in the last few days about evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. It’s only natural, since it is a similar situation to New Orleans, and makes a good news story. But the stories about San Diego have been unfailingly positive, with people gushing about how nice everyone is and the amenities being provided. I have to think that these stories will start to deteriorate as people come to the realization that they are sleeping in a stadium and their homes may be a pile of smoking rubble.
It’s this coming realization that makes me think that Arnold Schwarzenegger should have kept his mouth shut. He made this statement Monday, which could very easily come back to bite him, ala Barbara Bush:

“The people are happy. They have everything here,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared Monday night after his second Qualcomm tour.

Still, the situation in San Diego is not anything close to as dire as New Orleans, as this article points out.

The New Orleans evacuees had dragged themselves through floodwaters to get to the Louisiana Superdome in 2005, and once there endured horrific conditions without food, sanitation or law enforcement.
But these evacuees drove to the expansive parking lots in the San Diego suburbs. The worst that most endured in their exodus was heavy traffic and smoky haze.
But like those who fled in New Orleans, some will have lost their homes.
Several said they had narrowly escaped devastating fires in 2003 and shrugged off the inconveniences of sleeping at a stadium.
“You have to deal with it, right?” said Ashwani Kernie, who, along with six family members, had been evacuated from his Rancho Bernardo home.
“You can deal with it, or you can whine about it,” he said while erecting a tent in Qualcomm’s parking lot, as temperatures hovered comfortably in the low 70s.

Most people seemed happy for the free food and drink. A Hyatt hotel catered one buffet, offering chicken with artichoke hearts and capers in cream sauce, jambalaya and shredded-beef empanadas.
Ester Francis, 90, clutched her cane as her son set up a pair of cots next to a large trash bin.
She does not know what she’ll return to when the smoke clears, but said she was grateful for the generosity of strangers. Qualcomm did feel something like a party, she said.

[SF Gate]

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