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Friday, May 29, 2015

On the Nature of Entrenched Power: FIFA’s President Ensconced in Corruption

In May 2015, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch was “shocking FIFA like an earthquake,” according to the European newspaper, Das Bild.[1] She was leading “an American-led takedown of corruption in FIFA,” the Federation Internationale de Football Association, which oversees the sport of football, or soccer as it is known in the U.S., globally.[2] With great power comes resounding responsibility. When the head of an organization goes after the corruption-fighters rather than admitting to error at the very least in having presided over allegedly corrupt officials near the top—and in fact repeatedly dismisses calls to resign and not stand for re-election—the question becomes one of the intractability of squalid power, as if it were defying gravity—at least that of the ethical variety.
Sepp Blatter of FIFA, as if holding in all the bad news.

The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business: A Malignant Mentality of Mendacity, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.

[1] Josh Gerstein, “For Loretta Lynch, A Stunning Debut on the World Stage,” Politico, May 28, 2015.
[2] Ibid.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

European Council’s Budget Deal: Does the Parliament Have a Choice?

“Deal done!” Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, wrote after the heads of the E.U.’s state governments agreed during a Council meeting to a ceiling of €960 for the E.U.’s budget from 2014 to 2020. This represents a 3 percent cut compared to the previous seven-year budget. Van Rompuy had proposed a €1.03 billion budget, but the governors felt that austerity should reach the federal level too. In other words, if the states had to cut their budgets, the E.U. should not be exempt. Put another way, the fact that the European Council represents the state governments is relevant to the outcome from the Council.
Van Rompuy (right) is tasked with facilitating agreement between the state officials at the European Council.  State interests dominate.   Source: timesofoman.com
The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The U.S. Senate in Disarray: Founding Principles or Mismanagement?

Herding cats. This expression typically is used to describe two arcane artifacts of human organization: academic faculties and the U.S. Senate. In the latter case, the operational difficulty stems at least in part from the principles on which the legislative chamber is based. More particularly, the senators represent semi-sovereign polities rather than individuals, and governmental autonomy, however slight that may be, translates into senate mechanisms such as the filibuster as well as the related super-majority needed to end such a “debate,” and the power that a single senator has to object to a unanimous-consent request made on the Senate floor. In May 2015, Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, found himself mired in both mechanisms as he sought to end debate on whether to give the Pacific trade deal (TPP) fast-track (i.e., no amendments) treatment, and then to extend the Patriot Act. Whereas The New York Times points to McConnell’s failure to live up to his promise to take the Senate back to its committee process and away from passing legislation by senate leaders making deals such as by horse-trading, I contend that more utility lies in examining how the Senate’s basic principles contribute to the dysfunction.[1]

[1] Jennifer Steinhauer and Jonathan Weisman, “N.S.A. and Other Matters Leave McConnell’s Senate in Disarray,” The New York Times, May 23, 2015.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wasteful Agency-Spending: Employee Bonuses as a Solution

Use it or lose it. I am referring to “the habit of [U.S. Government] agencies spending all surplus funding at the end of the fiscal year in order to avoid budget reductions the following year.”[1] By spending the entire amount allotted for the budgetary year, a federal agency can avoid a lower base-line for the following year’s allotment from Congress. The incentive in this system is to spend every dollar in the budget, whether efficiently or profligately. The challenge is how to replace that incentive with another—one that results in efficient public budgeting. Unfortunately, relying on an incentive presupposes discretion, and one person can never be sure what lies behind another person’s use of it.

The full essay is at “Wasteful Agency-Spending.”

[1] Andy Medici, “New Bill: Point Out Surplus Funds, Get a $10,000 Bonus,” Federal Times, May 21, 2015.