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The Original Porkbusters

PJM columnist Max Sawicky pays tribute to the valuable and underappreciated breed of public servant - the whistleblower.

by
Max B. Sawicky

Bio

July 19, 2007 - 12:00 am

This week I decided to deviate from my deviationism and post something the Pajamaheddin might actually agree with.

The crux of the matter is this: there have been people exposing waste, fraud and abuse in government for decades, and they could use your support. The catch is that they worked for the government themselves; they are the whistleblowers. Can I get a witness?

This story caught my attention as our debates about pork and public employees raged. Another invaluable public servant — an expert on the slightly important matter of our friends, the Pakistanis,’ nuclear activities — gets screwed by political appointees.

In the public sector, you see, there are professionals who dedicate their careers to service rather than money, and there are political characters who come and go, some seeking to profit by their sojourn. The former identify with their work and the mission of their agencies, the latter not so much.

Now the case above is not a story of rooting out wasteful spending, but the more important question of whether the U.S. ought to transfer technology to the flaky-shaky, radical-Islamacist-infected government of Pakistan..

You might not approve of the wisdom of the rules whose violations he exposed, but he didn’t make the rules. He was doing his job. Does anybody want bureaucrats to make up their own rules? I doubt it.

Exposing absurd earmarks is fine, and I am a long-time supporter of sunlight in government, like my liberal compatriots at the ACLU and OMB Watch. But people with expertise in this field inside the government can contribute much to this cause as well.

Google “whistle blowers” in the Washington Post and you get a bouquet of tales of waste, fraud, and abuse. Unsafe air traffic control practices, inspectors-general mooching off their expense accounts, fuzzy math from defense contractors.

The National Whistleblowers Center is a clearinghouse on this issue. Here’s another activist group. There is a petition to strengthen protection for whistleblowers. Why not give ‘em some love? One of the good guys on this in the Congress, incidentally, is Republican Senator Charles Grassley. It’s a bipartisan campaign.

Say amen, somebody.


Max B. Sawicky is an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. He has worked in the Office of State and Local Finance of the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. He is a member of the National Board of Americans for Democratic Action and serves on the editorial advisory board of Working USA. He is a frequent contributor to TPM Cafe. Sawicky’s page can be found at Max Speak, You Listen!

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