Friday, March 16, 2012

Painful Admission: Brummett Right On McDaniel and More

The reason a guilty pleasure induces guilt is because you know that on some level that its wrong.   Such is the case with my "loving to hate" the past writing of columnist John Brummett.   Oh, I don't say that he didn't have it coming, and I still think that virtue demands that we hate the more objectionable aspects of his past writing.   I'm just saying its wrong to love to hate it, and that's where I was going.

Well, lately even that guilty pleasure has been taken away.   For example his recent column on Attorney General Dustin McDaniel was spot on.    I don't just mean on substance, but even on style.   Nasty personal insult have nearly vanished, replaced by dry wit as he writes that McDaniel is making the case for a "demotion" when moving from Attorney General to Governor.   In a way, it is a demotion, because not even the Governor is all three branches of government all rolled into one as McDaniel is doing when he keeps the winnings from his lawsuits and spends them however he pleases rather than giving the money to the State Treasury for the Legislature to appropriate.

But then for some reason Brummett has always been different when it comes to McDaniel.   If that was as far as our agreement went then at least I had the warning of precedent.  But he takes this problem to its root and logical conclusion......

We have entirely too many independent cash funds throughout state government, meaning money coming into agencies, perhaps through licensing, that the agencies are simply permitted to spend as they wish.
The Legislature could appoint a special study committee to identify and count up all this money and figure out if it might be more efficient and fiscally accountable to the people to bring all of it into the general appropriation process, which, after all, the state constitution designates as a legislative function.

Amen.  Am I writing "Amen" to a policy suggestion from John Brummett?  Look, when they are right they are right, I don't care who they are.   The same as when they are wrong.    On this one, he's right.

The state government is increasingly composed of a bunch of fiefdoms with their own funding mechanisms.  For all practical purposes, they are unaccountable to the people.   Think of the Highway Department and the State Game and Fish Commission.   Those are large examples that have direct access to your pockets through state tax revenues which they control.  More subtly, there are plenty of boards and commissions which have the power to levy professional license fees.   That's a cost of doing business which is indirectly passed onto the consumer.

Our system of government where these boards run things with quasi-autonomy work great as fund-raising mechanisms for politicians.  Board appointment is often given to big-contributing industry insiders that want to capture their regulating body.    This manifests not as government regulation but as insider regulation that has the backing of the government.   Think about Monsanto controlling all farm regulations and making it increasingly harder for their small competitors to stay in business.   Not only is this over-reliance on self-funded boards bad for competition, its bad for consumers and taxpayers.

Fiefdoms are not "separation of powers" in the sense that the three branches of government are.   They are rather a series of petty tyrannies.   The legislature ought to be the strongest branch of government, because it is closest to the people.  Instead, in Arkansas it has become the weakest.    One reason is the rise of fiefdom government.


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

John Brummett, wrong as he as been on so many things, has been right about Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. He's also right about something else that I call "fiefdom government."....

1:04 PM, March 16, 2012  

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