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July 27, 2010

On the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Back Pain Act

Turn on any channel this week and you will likely stumble upon some obsequious tribute to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), on this, its 20th anniversary. The reliably lefty Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is ubiquitous. Even wizened old Dick Thornburg, former Attorney General, was seen on C-SPAN yesterday soaking in the tributes from assorted groups in yet another weepy paean to the ADA.

It would seem dissonant, if not heretical, amidst this love fest to inject a note of realism, but here goes. Try this test: Ask anyone what they think of the ADA, what they think its purpose was/is, and who and what they think of when they think of its middle name, "disabilities." Almost everyone will imagine a person we consider disabled -- maybe wheelchair-bound, maybe blind, some other debilitating condition. But the reality of the ADA is quite different.

According to these numbers from the EEOC, the undisputed winner by a mile in "charges received" under the ADA (it's the same with "charges settled"), is (drum roll please...), back injuries. In second place we have the curiously-named, "Non-paralytic orthopedic impairment," defined here as "chronic pain, stiffness or weakness in bones or joints...". But fear not - in a close third place we have "depression."

None of this, of course, is to say that back injuries, non-paralytic orthopedic impairments and depression are not serious conditions. But none of that was really the point of the ADA, was it? When President Bush signed this bill, when Tom Harkin introduced the bill, were they accompanied by people with back injuries or who were depressed? Not a chance. The photo ops always include people who are, well, disabled, i.e., the people the Act was intended to benefit.

Lost among all the back injuries and depression, of course, are the interests of the disabled. Every specious claim under ADA cheapens their daily struggles. Here's an idea: While we're busy celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ADA, maybe we should also take time out to remember the people the Act was intended to cover and the many daunting challenges they face.

July 28, 2010

When The Government Runs a Business, Part I

From The Politico:

"A little-noticed section of the Wall Street reform law grants the federal government broad new powers to compel financial firms to hire more women and minorities — an effort at promoting diversity that’s drawing fire from Republicans who say it could lead to de facto hiring quotas."

Financial reform with a side of social engineering.....

When the Government Runs a Business, Part II

WSJ: Chevrolet to Price Volt From $41,000

Way to price price it - wasn't it supposed to be affordable? The only people who can afford it today won't be able to afford it once the tax increases kick in. Brilliant marketing.

July 29, 2010

Ninth Circuit Celebrates ADA's 20th Anniversary with a Howler

With impeccable timing - on the very day that was the Americans with Disabilities Act's (ADA) 20th anniversary, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled "that customers in wheelchairs are denied the 'Chipotle experience' of watching their food being prepared because the restaurants' 45-inch counters are too high." As the AP article points out, "The company now faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages."

Yeah, that's money well spent. Don't wanna ruin that Chipotle experience.

H/T to Walter Olson for his commentary which also points out the foibles of the plaintiff here, an ADA veteran.

Adam Clayton Rangel

Here's the House Ethics Committee report listing 13 ethics violations (and a whole lot more) against former Ways & Means Committee Chairman - and sitting Rep. - Charlie Rangel. In a word, this is a bombshell. Reading it makes one wonder where the press has been on this issue for the past 5 years while this went on right under everyone's noses. Just glance through the 41 pages -- this is not a close call, it reads like a dime-store novel.

How ironic that as a young federal prosecutor, in 1970 Rangel ran against then-embattled Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, who was similarly ethically-challenged. Now Rangel finds himself in the same position.

The longer Rangel plays it out, the worse it is for the Dems. Pelosi's promise to maintain a strict ethical code is looking less credible by the day. No one can read this report and conclude anything other than that Rangel's cronies in the House were more than willing to give him generous earmarks - of your money - to build his academic Taj Mahal. Did Pelosi know? Did she condone it? What of his other fellow Committee Chairs? Aren't they all complicit in this, the Ways & Means Chairman building an academic shrine to himself? None of them blew the whistle?

And what does Obama say about this? Is this the change we can believe in?

[UPDATE] Here's a link to all the relevant documents from the House Ethics Committee, including a remarkable statement from Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), who led the investigation with Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL), which totally calls out Rangel for causing "significant delay" throughout the investigation.

July 30, 2010

Steve Pearlstein Misses the Point (Again)

You can find Steve Pearlstein's latest anti-business diatribe in today's WaPo. The WaPo seems to have a penchant for hiring people with contempt for the people they cover -- Pearlstein seems not to like business, Dave Weigel apparently didn't think much of the conservatives he covered and Jeff Birnbaum at times seemed to have open contempt for the lobbyists he wrote about for his many years on the lobbying beat. The latter two are gone and Pearlstein is sliding into irrelevancy, but he still has the ability to annoy.

Today, Pearlstein's beef is with the fact that businesses are holding on to $1.8 trillion in reserves and are not using the money to create jobs. You can read it yourself and try to follow the pretzel logic of why, but along the way, he totally misses the real reason why businesses are holding on to $1.8 trillion in reserves: Uncertainty. Maybe the WaPo has blocked access to Google from its computers or something, but heck, he only needed to read his own paper to see this piece just a few weeks ago from Fareed Zakaria entitled, "Obama's CEO problem -- and ours." In it, he cites the unprecedented corporate reserves and asks several CEO's why. "They kept talking about politics, about the uncertainty surrounding regulations and taxes," he says.

Only a few days ago, in fact, Pearlstein's thoughtful colleague Bob Samuelson wrote an op-ed entitled, "Why CEOs aren't hiring." There he says,

"But it's unclear whether corporate elites were so traumatized by the crisis that they've adopted a bunker mentality. That, as much as uncertainty over Obama administration policies, could be fearsome." (Emphasis mine)

Don't believe Zakaria or Samuelson? Then how 'bout Richard Fisher, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, who said that uncertainty was "strangling growth." Or Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard who said essentially the same thing?

In fact, just about every business person or analyst will tell you that uncertainty about the economy, about Washington's many plans -- from increased taxes to a health care plan that we can ill-afford - are a brake on the economy and on spending. They need certainty, while Washington provides the opposite. When the sponsor of the financial reform bill, Sen. Dodd, even admits that it'll take years to figure out what's in the bill, it doesn't provide the confidence that businesses need before they invest.

If the WaPo business reporter bothered to introduce himself to any business person and ask them - rather than repeating the left's palaver - that's precisely what he would have found.

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About July 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Pat Cleary.com in July 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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