Bureaucrat Beat: Of Turkeys, Pigs, and Salvation

With turkey day just down the way, here is some depressing news about the cost of a holiday celebration. According to Bloomberg News, “A Thanksgiving Day turkey dinner with side dishes and dessert will be 11% more expensive this year, the biggest annual increase since 1990, because of depleted frozen-turkey supplies and rising energy prices.”

The article said that diesel fuel prices have gone up 27% this year to a record $3.46 per gallon. Jim Sartwelle, an economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation said, “The cost of energy to produce the food and diesel to move the commodity from the farm to the retail food store is up sharply.” Turkeys are in shorter supply this November, and other commodities cost more due to fuel prices. The article pointed to a 32% surge in the price of a gallon of whole milk and a 25% increase in a group of other items, including onions, eggs, sugar, flour and butter.

This fuel price thing now lays the cost at the door of middle-Americans, hard working families who struggle to get by. Even holidays now take a toll. Of course, it’s not just holidays. We do have to eat everyday and ordinary commodities take more dollars.

The part that hurts – the quarterly profit reports of the major oil companies. Yep – bottom line for them goes up and up while ours goes whirling down. Last figures on Exxon – $10 billion in quarterly profit. Chevron – $3.7 billion with revenue of $55 billion.

Here’s a story about one of the big boys who got caught. Seems a health insurance company named Health Net Inc. allegedly lied about offering bonuses to workers who were able to cancel customers’ policies. Investigators said Health Net misled them. Health net’s cancellation practices remain under investigation by the state. Right now, Health Net faces $1 million in fines for lying about its practices.

Here’s a hopeful note. The state launched investigations earlier this year into how frequently insurers cancel policyholders’ health coverage after they get sick and run up large medical bills. Still under investigation by the state – Blue Cross, Blue shield, Kaiser, PacifiCare and others. The state slapped Blue Cross with a $1 million fine earlier. Others remain under review. One woman was quoted as saying that Health Net canceled her coverage when she was in the midst of chemotherapy. At least the state’s working for us on this one.

On to the California Piglet Book, compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste and The Howard Jarvis Taypayers’ Foundation. The government dirt diggers turned up this about LADWP: LA ratepayers spent $101 each time the city delivered a $12 tree to a ratepayer as part of the Trees for a Green LA program. The goal was to plant 100,000 trees a year at a cost of $40 per tree. DWP planted a reported 36,000 trees over three and a half years, more than doubling the cost.

The Piglet staff took one more shot at DWP. They report that an internal audit this year found that more than $100 million in overtime was paid in one year between 2005 and 2006. The audit found that “about 14% of those charging for overtime took an absence for the same day. 32 people reported overtime on the same date as absences more than 10 times each.” The report says DWP also allowed employees to get time and a half for those who took Friday off and worked Saturday.

Here’s an Aw Arnold! Note from the Piglet book. The Gov’s bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? It didn’t say where the money would come from to pay for this. Legislators have now decided to burden us. Vehicle registration fees will go up, so will boat registration fees and fees for identification plates. The new fees will cost California taxpayers $130 million annually. How about taxing big oil for this? We’re already paying for high energy costs. Remember the start of this Bureaucrat Beat?

And an email comment from a listener. Russ Monroe of the Lone Pine area wrote:

Jerry Gabriel made an all-too-common bureaucratic error, regurgitating statistics in defense of the paper pushers, while missing the point by much more than a mile. The crosswalks were not Caltrans’ personal property. They were part of the community of Bishop. Their existence was something that the community had depended upon, trained its children to use and were integrated into the social fabric of OUR lives. To make such changes without consultation, or even advance warning, robbed OUR citizens of the chance, not only to be heard, but to prepare our children, seniors, blind and other disabled before the change was made. If the “paper pusher” had to live in the community, to deal with the people they robbed every day and even better were PERSONALLY held liable for any injuries, or worse, that occurred from their unilateral actions…I think the community might have been given the opportunity it deserved, to be heard, FIRST.

Thanks for your comment, Russ.

To end on a positive note – the Salvation Army can help those truly in need of food. One of the antidotes for the poisonous side of bureaucracy? Charity.


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