Right Thinking From The Left Coast
The Government is merely a servant -- merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. - Mark Twain

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Girls of the SEC

I’m sorry.  I’m having a hard time getting choked up like a chicken about this:

The Securities and Exchange Commission is the sheriff of the financial industry, looking for crimes such as Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, but a new government report obtained by ABC News has concluded that some senior employees spent hours on the agency’s computers looking at sites such as naughty.com, skankwire and youporn as the financial crisis was unfolding.

The basic thrust of the story is that a bunch of guys (and at least one woman) had to do quite a keyboard cleaning before leaving work each day. It’s not that I think this is a good use of taxpayer money.  And anyone who watches porn at work is stupid.  But the turgid rhetoric from the critics is a bit overblown, especially given the size of the problem.  You’d think these guys had been out flogging dolphins or something.

The investigation, which was conducted by the SEC’s internal watchdog at the request of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, found 31 serious offenders during the past two and a half years. That’s less than 1 percent of the agency’s 3,500 employees but 17 of the alleged offenders were senior SEC officers whose salaries ranged from $100,000 to $222,000 per year

OK.  Fire their 31 ass-lookin’-at asses (if the SEIU will allow it.  I’m sure it will tell them to take the fifth).  I’m sure the SEC can hold its own without these guys playing the other kind of solitaire. But the idea that the financial crisis occurred because these guys were spending all day giving themselves a low five is absurd. In the case of Bernie Madoff, the SEC was warned, repeatedly, that there was something suspicious about the way Bernie Madoff was doing his homework.  They ignored the warnings.  Not because they were too busy taking a load off but because they refused to listen and take matters into their own hands.

(Aside: I have to love the heavy breathing from the media over how many websites these guys visited and how many images they had. Anyone familiar with porn knows how quickly that particularly link-heavy part of the internet can fill up histories and hard drives.  If I heard some guy had 600 porno images on his computer, I would assume it was only because he was using dial-up.)

To be honest, I’m surprised at how few of the SEC’s employees were playing five on one during work hours.  I had assumed, based on their record, that everyone down there was playing in the Onan olympics. And, to be really honest, I’d almost prefer that most government employees did spend their time getting to know themselves.  OK, maybe not cops and firemen.  And I’m sure there’s at least one SEC employee with more iniative than a three-days-dead hamster.  But maybe if they spent more time doing to themselves what they usually do to the taxpayer, we’d all be better off.

Post Scriptum: In all seriousness, I actually am stunned that the problem is so small.  Federal work rules are so strict that most federal bureaucrats have very narrow ranges of duties and thus a lot of time to do nothing.  Phillip Howard has a great chapter on this in Collapse of the Common Good. In that environment, having less than 1% of your employees looking at porn (or at least 1% unable to cover their tracks) is an accomplishment, not an indictment.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 04/24/10 at 02:00 PM in Politics Law, & Economics • Permalink


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