Over Half of our Civil Servants in Congress are Millionaires

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 12th, 2014

 Week in Review

People who work in government were once called civil servants.  Because they worked for us.  Or, in today’s parlance, they were our bitch.  But over time our government workers no longer wanted to be called civil servants.  As they grew to feel to be our superiors.  Part of a privileged class.  Or, in today’s parlance, we became their bitch.  And if you don’t believe it just compare our earnings to theirs (see Now, most members of Congress are millionaires by Emily Heil posted 1/9/2014 on The Washington Post).

It’s official — Congress is a millionaires’ club. For the first time ever, most members of Congress are worth at least a cool million…

Also worth noting: the analysis shows Rep. Darrell Issa (with a $464 million fortune) is triumphantly back at the top of the list of wealthiest members, a spot the California Republican and car-alarm mogul had enjoyed for years, before being bumped by Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas).

So most members of Congress (i.e., our civil servants) are millionaires.  But note how they make it sound like all of these fat-cat politicians are Republicans.  Building on the stereotype that Republicans are for rich people.  While Democrats are for the working man.  However if you follow the link in this Washington Post (a paper that leans left) article you’ll come to this chart.

Median Net Worth of Current Congress Members R2

My, how about that?  Democrats have a higher median net worth than Republicans.  And Democrats got even richer than Republicans in 2012.  And yet they say the Republicans are the party of the rich?  Clearly that isn’t the case.  The Democrats are the party of the rich.  For they are richer than Republicans in Congress.  Despite the richest guy in Congress being a Republican.  Who, it should be noted, made his money in the private sector.  Not like so many others who go to Congress poor.  And leave millionaires.

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Kings, Court and Civil Servants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 7th, 2014

History 101

(Originally published June 4th, 2013)

King Louis XVI became the Face of the Ancien Régime during a Period of Great Debt from Decades of War

“It’s good to be the king.”  For you can pretty much do anything you want.  Right up to the point your subjects go French Revolution all over your ass.

“It’s good to be the king” was a constant refrain in the classic Mel Brooks movie History of the World: Part I.  During the French Revolution the people arrested King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.  And sent them both to the guillotine.  Even though Louis was not really that bad of a king.  Certainly not like Mel Brooks portrayed him in his movie.  He even tried to modernize France with Enlightenment ideals.  And made America’s independence from Great Britain possible.

Louis had some faults.  But it was more bad timing.  Being the face of the Ancien Régime during a period of great debt from decades of war.  High taxes.  And the occasional famine.  The people had suffered for a long time.  In large part thanks to Louis’ predecessor.  Who fought a lot of wars.  And ran up a lot of debt.  While losing most of New France to Great Britain.  Losing a source of wealth and income just as the bill for all those wars were coming due.

Court was where all the Movers and Shakers Gathered

King Louis XIV (aka, Louis the Great; aka, the Sun King) ruled for 72 years and 110 days.  One of the longest reigns in European history.  He believed in the divine right of kings.  Which stated kings answered to no one but God.  Louis XIV created one of the most powerful absolute monarchies in Europe.  He transformed the Palace of Versailles into one of the largest and most lavish palaces in the world.  And moved his court there.  Where it remained
until the French Revolution.

The king’s court was an extended household.  Where the king’s blood family lived.  And all the bureaucrats that helped him run his personal life.  And his kingdom.  For not only is it good to be the king it can be very exhausting to be the king.  Officials took care of business at court.  World leaders sent their ambassadors to court to handle their international business.  And officials from around the country went to court to settle domestic business.  Court was where all the movers and shakers gathered.  And the Palace of Versailles was home to a lot of treaty writing.

This required a large palace to accommodate these people.  And a lavish one to impress them.  To make their image abroad more glorious.  These people needed spaces to live in.  And food to eat.  As did the king.  Who had the finest quarters.  And when he got up in the morning he did not make his own bed.  One of the thousands of his servants attended to that.  For running one of the world’s largest palaces took a lot of servants.  And a lot of organization.

It is Good for your Career to be Close to, and Loyal to, the Person who holds the most Power in the Land

As households grew larger nobles and royals established household offices.  And a big part of these larger households and courts was feeding the people.  Kitchens had a pantry for foods and a buttery for beverages.  A pantler ran the office of the pantry.  And a butler ran the office of the buttery.  Beneath these were other offices.  At the top in charge of managing the household was the chamberlain.  Some of these were positions with a lot of responsibility.  But, surprisingly, some other positions people probably wouldn’t want today were even more powerful.

The cup bearer was very intimate with the king.  And was someone the king trusted with his life.  For the cup bearer served the king drinks at the royal table.  With there always being someone who wanted to kill the king someone had to make sure that didn’t happen through poison in the king’s cup.  Sometimes, just to be sure, he had to drink from the king’s cup before the king did.  To prove it was poison-free.  Making the cup bearer one of the closest confidants of the king.

Then there was the groom of the stool.  The most intimate of the king’s servants.  Who spent time with the king while he was on the toilet.  And de-soiled the king’s bottom after a royal poop.  Only the most trustworthy people could be the groom of the stool.  For no one was closer to the king.  Who knew the king’s secrets.  Because he heard them directly from the king.  And people feared him.  For he could tell the king anything they said or did.  Making this one of the most coveted positions in the king’s court.

When the United States won their independence from Great Britain the king was no longer sovereign.  The people were.  So the king’s court became our civil servants today.  But they don’t physically wipe the president’s bottom these days.  Today they just kiss it.  Figuratively, of course.  Because despite the changes it is still good for your career to be close to, and loyal to, the person who holds the most power in the land.

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Kings, Court and Civil Servants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 27th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published June 4th, 2013)

King Louis XVI became the Face of the Ancien Régime during a Period of Great Debt from Decades of War

“It’s good to be the king.”  For you can pretty much do anything you want.  Right up to the point your subjects go French Revolution all over your ass.

“It’s good to be the king” was a constant refrain in the classic Mel Brooks movie History of the World: Part I.  During the French Revolution the people arrested King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.  And sent them both to the guillotine.  Even though Louis was not really that bad of a king.  Certainly not like Mel Brooks portrayed him in his movie.  He even tried to modernize France with Enlightenment ideals.  And made America’s independence from Great Britain possible.

Louis had some faults.  But it was more bad timing.  Being the face of the Ancien Régime during a period of great debt from decades of war.  High taxes.  And the occasional famine.  The people had suffered for a long time.  In large part thanks to Louis’ predecessor.  Who fought a lot of wars.  And ran up a lot of debt.  While losing most of New France to Great Britain.  Losing a source of wealth and income just as the bill for all those wars were coming due.

Court was where all the Movers and Shakers Gathered

King Louis XIV (aka, Louis the Great; aka, the Sun King) ruled for 72 years and 110 days.  One of the longest reigns in European history.  He believed in the divine right of kings.  Which stated kings answered to no one but God.  Louis XIV created one of the most powerful absolute monarchies in Europe.  He transformed the Palace of Versailles into one of the largest and most lavish palaces in the world.  And moved his court there.  Where it remained until the French Revolution.

The king’s court was an extended household.  Where the king’s blood family lived.  And all the bureaucrats that helped him run his personal life.  And his kingdom.  For not only is it good to be the king it can be very exhausting to be the king.  Officials took care of business at court.  World leaders sent their ambassadors to court to handle their international business.  And officials from around the country went to court to settle domestic business.  Court was where all the movers and shakers gathered.  And the Palace of Versailles was home to a lot of treaty writing.

This required a large palace to accommodate these people.  And a lavish one to impress them.  To make their image abroad more glorious.  These people needed spaces to live in.  And food to eat.  As did the king.  Who had the finest quarters.  And when he got up in the morning he did not make his own bed.  One of the thousands of his servants attended to that.  For running one of the world’s largest palaces took a lot of servants.  And a lot of organization.

It is Good for your Career to be Close to, and Loyal to, the Person who holds the most Power in the Land

As households grew larger nobles and royals established household offices.  And a big part of these larger households and courts was feeding the people.  Kitchens had a pantry for foods and a buttery for beverages.  A pantler ran the office of the pantry.  And a butler ran the office of the buttery.  Beneath these were other offices.  At the top in charge of managing the household was the chamberlain.  Some of these were positions with a lot of responsibility.  But, surprisingly, some other positions people probably wouldn’t want today were even more powerful.

The cup bearer was very intimate with the king.  And was someone the king trusted with his life.  For the cup bearer served the king drinks at the royal table.  With there always being someone who wanted to kill the king someone had to make sure that didn’t happen through poison in the king’s cup.  Sometimes, just to be sure, he had to drink from the king’s cup before the king did.  To prove it was poison-free.  Making the cup bearer one of the closest confidants of the king.

Then there was the groom of the stool.  The most intimate of the king’s servants.  Who spent time with the king while he was on the toilet.  And de-soiled the king’s bottom after a royal poop.  Only the most trustworthy people could be the groom of the stool.  For no one was closer to the king.  Who knew the king’s secrets.  Because he heard them directly from the king.  And people feared him.  For he could tell the king anything they said or did.  Making this one of the most coveted positions in the king’s court.

When the United States won their independence from Great Britain the king was no longer sovereign.  The people were.  So the king’s court became our civil servants today.  But they don’t physically wipe the president’s bottom these days.  Today they just kiss it.  Figuratively, of course.  Because despite the changes it is still good for your career to be close to, and loyal to, the person who holds the most power in the land.

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Kings, Court and Civil Servants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 4th, 2013

History 101

King Louis XVI became the Face of the Ancien Régime during a Period of Great Debt from Decades of War

“It’s good to be the king.”  For you can pretty much do anything you want.  Right up to the point your subjects go French Revolution all over your ass.

“It’s good to be the king” was a constant refrain in the classic Mel Brooks movie History of the World: Part I.  During the French Revolution the people arrested King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.  And sent them both to the guillotine.  Even though Louis was not really that bad of a king.  Certainly not like Mel Brooks portrayed him in his movie.  He even tried to modernize France with Enlightenment ideals.  And made America’s independence from Great Britain possible.

Louis had some faults.  But it was more bad timing.  Being the face of the Ancien Régime during a period of great debt from decades of war.  High taxes.  And the occasional famine.  The people had suffered for a long time.  In large part thanks to Louis’ predecessor.  Who fought a lot of wars.  And ran up a lot of debt.  While losing most of New France to Great Britain.  Losing a source of wealth and income just as the bill for all those wars were coming due.

Court was where all the Movers and Shakers Gathered

King Louis XIV (aka, Louis the Great; aka, the Sun King) ruled for 72 years and 110 days.  One of the longest reigns in European history.  He believed in the divine right of kings.  Which stated kings answered to no one but God.  Louis XIV created one of the most powerful absolute monarchies in Europe.  He transformed the Palace of Versailles into one of the largest and most lavish palaces in the world.  And moved his court there.  Where it remained until the French Revolution.

The king’s court was an extended household.  Where the king’s blood family lived.  And all the bureaucrats that helped him run his personal life.  And his kingdom.  For not only is it good to be the king it can be very exhausting to be the king.  Officials took care of business at court.  World leaders sent their ambassadors to court to handle their international business.  And officials from around the country went to court to settle domestic business.  Court was where all the movers and shakers gathered.  And the Palace of Versailles was home to a lot of treaty writing.

This required a large palace to accommodate these people.  And a lavish one to impress them.  To make their image abroad more glorious.  These people needed spaces to live in.  And food to eat.  As did the king.  Who had the finest quarters.  And when he got up in the morning he did not make his own bed.  One of the thousands of his servants attended to that.  For running one of the world’s largest palaces took a lot of servants.  And a lot of organization.

It is Good for your Career to be Close to, and Loyal to, the Person who holds the most Power in the Land

As households grew larger nobles and royals established household offices.  And a big part of these larger households and courts was feeding the people.  Kitchens had a pantry for foods and a buttery for beverages.  A pantler ran the office of the pantry.  And a butler ran the office of the buttery.  Beneath these were other offices.  At the top in charge of managing the household was the chamberlain.  Some of these were positions with a lot of responsibility.  But, surprisingly, some other positions people probably wouldn’t want today were even more powerful.

The cup bearer was very intimate with the king.  And was someone the king trusted with his life.  For the cup bearer served the king drinks at the royal table.  With there always being someone who wanted to kill the king someone had to make sure that didn’t happen through poison in the king’s cup.  Sometimes, just to be sure, he had to drink from the king’s cup before the king did.  To prove it was poison-free.  Making the cup bearer one of the closest confidants of the king.

Then there was the groom of the stool.  The most intimate of the king’s servants.  Who spent time with the king while he was on the toilet.  And de-soiled the king’s bottom after a royal poop.  Only the most trustworthy people could be the groom of the stool.  For no one was closer to the king.  Who knew the king’s secrets.  Because he heard them directly from the king.  And people feared him.  For he could tell the king anything they said or did.  Making this one of the most coveted positions in the king’s court.

When the United States won their independence from Great Britain the king was no longer sovereign.  The people were.  So the king’s court became our civil servants today.  But they don’t physically wipe the president’s bottom these days.  Today they just kiss it.  Figuratively, of course.  Because despite the changes it is still good for your career to be close to, and loyal to, the person who holds the most power in the land.

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Coin Debasement, Currency Inflation and the Loss of Purchasing Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 16th, 2013

History 101

The Roman Citizens welcomed the Barbarian Invaders as Liberators from the Oppressive Roman Regime

The Roman Empire pushed its borders out for centuries.  And when they did their legions conquered new territories.  And other civilizations.  Allowing them to send a lot of spoils back to Rome.  Providing the necessary funds for the empire.  With this lucrative stream of wealth flowing back to Rome they could leave the economy alone.  And did.  Economic activity was pretty much laissez-faire.  Then something happened.  The Romans had conquered pretty much all of the known civilized world.  And they stopped pushing their borders out.  Putting an end to that lucrative stream of wealth flowing back to Rome.

This created a problem.  For the empire was never larger.  With a greater border to protect than ever before.  And more territory to administer.  Which meant more soldiers.  And more civil servants.  Neither of which worked for free.  Which changed how the Romans handled the private sector economy.  They began to tax and regulate the hell out of it.  To raise the funds to pay the costs of empire.

Things got so bad that some people just started disappearing.  So the Romans introduced something that would evolve into European feudalism.  They forbade people from leaving their jobs.  Ever.  They even forbade the children from leaving their father’s profession.  While they were doing this they were debasing their coins.  The gold a little.  As it paid the soldiers and the civil servants.  And the silver a lot.  The money of the common people.  Who weren’t as important as the soldiers and the civil servants.  Until their silver was nothing but worthless slugs.  Causing prices to soar.  And the economy to collapse back into the barter system.  Hastening the fall of the Roman Empire.  As the Roman citizens welcomed the barbarian invaders as liberators from the oppressive Roman regime.

The Spanish brought back so much Gold and Silver from the New World that it actually Depreciated the Money Supply

Europe met Asia on the Bosporus.  The straits that connected the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.  And it was where the Silk Road brought the exotic goods of the Far East into Europe.  Which the Europeans just couldn’t get enough of.  Making the Mediterranean powers the dominant powers.  For they controlled this lucrative trade.  Until, that is, the European nations made better ships.  Ships that could cross oceans.  And were bigger than the ships that plied the Mediterranean.  So they could bypass the Mediterranean powers.  And sail directly to the Far East.  Fill their large holds with those goods the Europeans couldn’t get enough of.  Getting rich and powerful.  And shifting the balance of power to these European nations.

But the Europeans just didn’t go east.  They also went west.  And bumped into the New World.  The Dutch, the French, the British, the Portuguese and the Spanish all had colonies in the New World.  It was the age of mercantilism.  Colonies sent raw materials to their mother country.  Who manufactured these raw materials into finished goods.  And shipped them from the mother country on the mother country’s ships through the mother country’s ports.  For the name of the game was balance of trade.  Which meant you imported lower-valued raw materials and you exported higher-valued finished goods.  And because the value of their exports was greater than the value of their imports there was also a net in-flow of gold and silver.  Which was what mercantilism was all about.  Trying to accumulate more gold and silver than your trading partners.

And the Spanish hit mercantile pay-dirt in the New World.  Gold and silver.  Lots of it.  So they loaded it up on their ships.  And sent it back to Spain.  Where it entered the European money supply.  And none too soon as the Europeans were cash-starved.  Because of all those exotic goods the Europeans couldn’t get enough of.  While those in the Far East had no interest whatsoever in European goods.  Which meant that European gold and silver went to the Far East to pay for those exotic goods.  Leaving the Europeans starving for gold and silver.  But thanks to the New World, they were able to reverse that net outflow of gold and silver.  In fact, so much gold and silver arrived from the New World that it actually inflated the money supply.  Which actually devalued the currency.  And because the currency lost purchasing power prices rose.  Making food more costly.  And life more difficult.

President Andrew Jackson joined the Hard-Money People and refused to renew the Charter of the BUS

Responsible nations have chosen gold and silver as their currency as it is difficult to increase the money supply and cause inflation.  Because mining these precious metals, refining them and minting coins is very costly.  Unless you discovered a New World with gold and silver paving the streets.  But that didn’t happen every day.  The irresponsible government, though, figured out a way to make that happen every day.  By just getting rid of the responsible gold and silver.  And replacing it with paper notes.  Fiat money.

Fiat money dates back to 11th century China.  To the Song Dynasty.  Which allowed the government to spend more money than their taxes raised.  Especially during war time.  But printing money devalued the currency.  And when you make the currency worth less it takes more of it to buy the things it once did.  Reducing purchasing power.  And unleashing price inflation.  Making food more costly.  And life more difficult.  During the American Revolutionary War there was so little gold and silver available that the Continental Congress turned to printing money.  And they printed so much that they unleashed a punishing inflation.  Causing prices to soar because the money became so worthless.  People wouldn’t accept it for payment.  So the Continental Army had to take the provisions they needed.  Leaving behind IOUs for the Continental Congress to make good on.  Later.

Of course, not everyone suffered during times of inflation.  Speculators did very well.  For their friends in the government’s central bank could print money and loan it to them on very favorable terms.  The speculators then used this cheap money and bought and sold assets.  Pocketing handsome profits in large part because of that inflation.  As the currency depreciation raised prices.  Including the prices of the assets they were selling.  So the rich got richer during periods of inflation.  While the working class just lost purchasing power.  Which is why President Andrew Jackson joined the hard-money people.  Those who favored gold and silver over paper currency.  And refused to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States (BUS).  Being one of the first world leaders not to choose destructive inflationary policies.  Instead choosing policies that favored the people.  Not the state.

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Britain and the US should follow New Zealand’s example of Public Sector Reform

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 12th, 2012

Week in Review

Ruth Richardson was Finance Minister of New Zealand from 1990 until 1993.  During that time New Zealand reformed their public sector.  Something she believes Britain needs to do to help pull it out of its financial troubles.  And it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing for the U.S. to do either (see Want to reform government? Start with the Civil Service by Ruth Richardson posted 8/9/2012 on The Telegraph).

New Zealand underwent a radical reform of the public sector nearly three decades ago, [as] Minister of Finance I knew it was crucial to secure a results-driven and accountable public sector. The NZ public sector performance management system broke sharply with the bureaucratic norm…

The UK Government faces the same urgent imperatives that New Zealand did. A crippling fiscal position; an inefficient and unaccountable public sector; and a bureaucracy incapable of innovation…

I learned that success in government relies on ensuring that the forces of productivity and innovation, so crucial to lift private sector performance, must equally be allowed to make themselves felt in the ranks of the Civil Service.

New Zealand, like the UK, used to be burdened by a typical bureaucracy . The system served its own ends, behaved in a wasteful and unaccountable fashion and there was a complete disconnect between resources and results…

And so the public sector performance management system for which NZ has become renowned was instituted.

We introduced contracts between Ministers and the heads of government departments to focus them on our priorities. And to sharpen accountability we put these heads of departments onto fixed term contracts, rather than providing them with jobs for life. We then let these managers get on and manage their organisations.

We also radically changed the way the way we managed our budgets. We made departments account properly for their assets, so that they would value them better. We made them report their performance in a way that every citizen could understand. These changes were important in allowing us to monitor the performance of services, were central to holding heads of department to account and were crucial in the quest to do more with less in fiscally straightened circumstances…

It is hardly a surprise that the old guard – the unelected government with real staying power – are lining up to oppose reform. But their arguments are discredited by our experience in New Zealand…

The real crux of the matter is – why should civil servants have jobs for life? The real life “slumdog millionaire” from Mumbai, who wants to use his winnings to take India’s tough civil service exam so he can win a secure and prestigious lifetime job”, is so typical of the species and the problem. And why shouldn’t they be accountable for their performance?

Do more with less?  Accountability?  That’s crazy talk.  No wonder the career civil servants are fighting similar reform in Britain.  And in the U.S.  Why would they want that when they can have prestigious lifetime jobs?

In the U.S. they don’t call them civil servants anymore.  Not when they work for the federal government.  No.  Civil servant was too demeaning for their prestigious stations in life.  Now we call them federal workers.  The very sound of it elevates them above us.  The civil society they serve.

It is hard to initiate this type of reform, though.  Because the people who can initiate this reform are served well by these civil servants.  For the more people that work for government the more votes they will get.  As civil servants tend to vote for the people who want to expand government.  Not shrink it.  Because few people will vote themselves out of a job.

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