Cover-ups 101

Monday - 6/9/2014, 2:00am EDT

The look-who's-got-it-made divide between federal and private-sector workers is never greater than when a "scandal" emerges. Scandals are one thing in government, quite another in the corporate world, which is better at handling them. Possibly because of experience?

Advocates can (and regularly do) produce statistics "proving" that the other side is paid better, works less, has a fatter pension program or more vacation time. And bigger bonuses too. The grass, as they say, is always greener on the other side.

The drill in Washington — with good PR firms, think tanks and advocacy groups — is often this: Tell us the result you want. We'll supply the backup data to prove your case. Either way!

When it comes to scandals and cover-ups, however, government agencies often take a bigger, more extended public beating than private firms that do the same. Or worse.

Battle-scarred workers at the VA, GSA and other agencies have undergone extended public walks-of-shame. Often for good reason. But those who did nothing (which is most of the workers) must wonder about the relatively mild spanking auto companies have received from the press and politicians. General Motors, after finally fessing up to a years-long cover-up about potentially fatal flaws in some of its cars' ignition systems, did suffer. It finally issued a recall (the defective part in question was 57 cents), did a couple of days penance on Capitol Hill and was fined the equivalent of one day's corporate income. About 15 workers, it said last week, were no longer with the company.

(Full Disclosure: I drive one of the recalled cars. It was purchased, new by me, a couple of years after the company knew about the ignition problem. Part of that problem is that the car could simply shut off and then, to add true insult to injury, the air bags might not deploy when needed. The company is setting up a fund to compensate people who died in accidents related to the defect. The good news for me is that they fixed it. For free. The downside: Now the air conditioning doesn't work! It's always something, right?)

Some auto companies handled their recalls better — and much more promptly — than others. But all are doing well. American motorists are a forgiving lot. Heck, I may buy again from the same company because I love the car, flaws notwithstanding. My rationale/hope/prayer: That they've learned a good lesson. That it will never happen again. After what we've been through, what could possibly go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go...

The lesson for feds is that often they're presumed guilty until proved innocent. Even then, the guilt label remains and innocent part may be forgotten if not ignored.

At least 11 heads rolled after the GSA party-in-the-desert affair. While it was stupid and over the top, nobody (that we know of) died. Two of those heads, by the way, have been reattached pending a review.

For the auto companies, one of which was "owned" for a time by the taxpayers (thanks to a bailout loan), the jury is still out.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

The Soviet Union sought to ban the Village People in the 1980s because the Soviets believed the group promoted violence through their music.

(Source: Spin)


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