A lesson in bureaucracy
Sometimes little stories can teach us big lessons. Leslee Orndorff’s little story – she won a small victory against the forces of an entrenched bureaucracy – teaches us what we should expect from government and, furthermore, what we should demand of it.
The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles charged her with being a habitual traffic violator, which requires a 10-year suspension of her driving privileges. It happens that the BMV was right on the merits – she accumulated three convictions for driving without a license along with 14 non-moving violations in a two-year period.
But the BMV charged her eight years late. She got the HTV designation in 2004, and it wasn’t until this year that she was notified her driving privileges were being suspended for 10 years. In the meantime, the BMV had issued her a valid driver’s license.
Want change? Then go for it
When George Santayana observed that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it, he was talking about big things and large arcs of time.
If we don’t study the conditions that led to, say, the downfall of the Roman Empire, then we risk losing our own nation.
But lessons can also be learned from less momentous things and smaller arcs of time. As we say goodbye to 2012, for example, we might call it the Year of the Status Quo.
The lesson learned might be that recognizing a wrong path is only the first part of the job – we must then take active steps to change paths. But American voters last year, after complaining loudly about the lousy state of affairs, then cast their ballots in precisely the way guaranteed to keep the state of affairs exactly as is.
From cliff to the avalanche
Forget “fiscal cliffs” – this one and the other ones sure to come. Yes, the arbitrary tax increases and spending cuts created by Congress as a self-imposed deadline will cause hardships, even a likely return to recession. But that pain is relatively minor compared with the avalanche of “trillions of dollars of debt that’s headed our way, gathering speed and mass.” From the end of World War II to now, we went from being the world’s largest creditor nation to being the largest debtor, “with roughly half our public debt held by foreign leaders.”
That warning is from Mort Zuckerman in U.S. News & World Report, who says our day of reckoning cannot be avoided. “The liabilities are so huge, and multiplying so fast, that there will be one unavoidable demand as the various bills come to their due date. Show us the money!”
Take a shot for the team
Something some people do endangers their co-workers and even members of the public. There’s a big fight about where the line between individual freedom and responsibility to the group should be and what government should do to define and enforce it.
No, not people who puff on cigarettes, pipes and cigars, treating those around them to potentially deadly secondhand smoke. We’re talking about people who refuse to get their flu shots, risking contracting the potentially deadly virus and spreading it to those they come in contact with. IU Health Goshen Hospital told its staff in September that flu shots would no longer be optional for staff, affiliated physicians, volunteers and vendors. Eight employees refused to get their shots, and the hospital fired them.
The flu and smoking issues raise exactly the same kind of arguments.
Justice and mental illness
There is still a long way to go, but Fort Wayne and Allen County have made great strides in dealing with the problems that arise when mental health issues and the criminal justice system intersect.
It is still probably true, as someone once remarked, that the Allen County Jail is the largest mental institution we have, but at least there is an attempt to understand that criminals with mental illness often behave badly because of faulty brain chemistry, not evil intent.
Not so the state, which pays lip service to giving mentally ill inmates treatment but too often just locks them up and forgets about them. Now things may start to change with a ruling against the state by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana. She accused the state of “deliberate indifference.”