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Social Security Administration Continues With Its Tradition of Punishing Whistleblowers

in First Amendment, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Comments are off

Social Security Administration Continues With Its Tradition of Punishing Whistleblowers

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Recently, Watchdog.org published a report claiming that Ronald Klym, a long-time federal employee is paying a hefty price for blowing the whistle on the waste and abuse taking place in the Social Security Administration.

SSAAfter blowing the whistle to the media, Klym was put on administrative leave as he was forced out of the Milwaukee building he worked for years.

Klym who had been with the SSA for 16 years, was accused of violating the public trust by discussing issues within the administration with the press. But during the years he has been working for administrative judges who decide Social Security disability benefits cases, he started paying attention to what Daily Caller calls serious management problems within SSA. Among some of the issues raised by Klym, Daily Caller highlights some of the problems with the Milwaukee SSA office regularly transferring claims for disability benefits from its original offices to other SSA addresses around the country in order to make it look like the local administration was reducing the backlog. This move, Klym contends, made Milwaukee’s SSA office appear to be making major progress. While Klym tried to discuss some of these problems with his legislators for years, nothing was done to put an end to the abuse, forcing him to go to the media.

As Klym waits to learn more about his future with the government agency, others who, like Klym, have spent years in SSA’s bureaucratic hell attempting to make waste and abuse within government agencies public share their personal stories of censorship and persecution.

Sarah Carver, a former senior case technician at the Huntington, West Virginia Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, claims she now suffers the consequences of her actions by having to deal with the ostracism and trauma related to how the agency penalized her for reporting on waste and fraud within the system.

Along with whistleblower and colleague Jennifer Griffith, Carver stood up to the SSA’s pressure.

After reporting on corruption problems within the federal agency that later led to the indictment of an administrative law judge, a psychologist, and an attorney over their participation in a scheme to defraud taxpayers of $600 million, Griffith paid the price for speaking out.

During an entire year after attempting to get attention to her reports, Griffith claims to have been placed in “solitary confinement” within her own office. Instead of being allowed to do her job, Griffith was put in “a room that had no windows, and there were no other coworkers.” According to the whistleblower, she wasn’t able to even take part in staff meetings.

What Watchdog.org claims is that the SSA has a history of punishing whistleblowers who see abuse, fraud, and corruption and speak out.

As another governmental agency encourages individuals to step up and alert potential security problems to the authority, government workers who put the concerns of taxpayers first are punished.

As NSA whistleblower famously pointed out: If the whisteblower is a traitor, who are they betraying? Not the American people.

The Solution to Detroit’s Corruption Scheme is Less Government

in Issues, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, News You Can Use by Comments are off

The Solution to Detroit’s Corruption Scheme is Less Government

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Certain municipalities in the United States look a lot like South America these days.

According to a CBS affiliate, the public school system in Detroit is facing bribery and fraud charges associated with some of its current and former principals.

DetroitTwo months ago, ex-principal Kenyetta Wilbourn Snapp—also from Detroit—pleaded guilty after being accused of pocketing a $58,050 bribe from a local vendor. She was sentenced to 46 months in prison. Paulette Horton, a 60-year-old consultant, also admitted to being part of the scheme. She allegedly played the part of the middleman between Snapp and other contractors and vendors seeking to seal deals with Detroit’s public schools.

The most recent corruption case involves 12 principals, a school district vendor, and an administrator. They are all being accused of participating in corruption schemes involving payments in exchange for exclusive contracts between businesses and public schools.

The legal charges were brought against the educators by the federal government. US Attorney Barbara McQuade, along with other FBI and IRS officials, made a public statement about the case on Tuesday. During the press conference, she claimed that the corruption case is a “punch in the gut.”

If the legal charges tied to the latest corruption case stick, suspects would be implicated in a nearly $1 million bribery and kickback scheme.

Detroit Free Press explains that the legal ordeal revolves around Norman Shy, a 74-year-old businessman who’s being accused of paying $908,500 in kickbacks and bribes to 12 Detroit Public School principals. These same schools used Shy as their school supply vendor for the last 13 years. The exclusivity deals with Shy helped him milk $2.7 million from Detroit’s public schools over the years. According to prosecutors, Shy kept the contracts going thanks to his personal transactions with school principals.

Recently, Michigan legislators passed a bill securing $48.7 million to the Detroit Public School (DPS) system, ensuring local schools wouldn’t run out of cash. To Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, a Republican from Mt. Pleasant, the state should pass “strong financial and academic reforms” as “a part of any long-term solution to decades of DPS failures.” But unless the root of corruption is unmasked, and legislators finally admit that the very existence of government regulations is why corruption continues to take place, any reform will only lead to a momentary—and feeble—solution.

In a piece for Mises.org, David R. Henderson explains that “the reason so much corruption occurs in government is that government officials hand out so much in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, permits and regulatory exceptions.” Having power to make decisions for others while nobody’s watching makes corruption more likely to occur. To Henderson, this is the main reason why “private corruption often occurs in corporate purchasing departments.”

If federal prosecutors and Michigan legislators are serious about tackling this issue and putting an end to corruption, they must first focus on putting an end to favoritism. And the only day of accomplishing that is by reducing government grant giving.

Fixing Detroit’s corruption disease will involve a great deal of courage, especially when you consider that the government would have to relinquish control over the economy and education so the incentives are removed from the equation. As Henderson explained, the “sure cure for corruption is to reduce or even eliminate official power over the economy.”

December 5 is Repeal Day

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In 1929, Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas — author of the Eighteenth Amendment that created alcohol Prohibition, known as “the father of national Prohibition,” and the leading supporter of Prohibition in Congress — boasted:

“There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.”

Just three years later, alcohol Prohibition was… repealed.

I love that quote. Those of us fighting to end the War on Drugs can take heart from it.

When Sen. Morris made his declaration, Prohibition had been a part of U.S. law for nearly a decade. It must have seemed to many to be a permanent fixture of American life.

Certainly no one could have guessed that the country was just a few years away from ending the disaster of Prohibition.

That makes me wonder. Are we perhaps closer today to ending today’s Prohibition — the War on Drugs — than we realize? Might an extra push from the growing liberty movement be all that is needed to accomplish this?

Prohibition - H. L. MenckenFriday, December 5 is a great time to ponder such thoughts. It’s the 81st anniversary of Repeal Day, the glorious day America ridded itself of the disastrous failure of alcohol Prohibition. Repeal Day should be publicized and celebrated by libertarians and other friends of freedom every year.

Like the War on Drugs, alcohol Prohibition was supported by many people for the highest motives and with great confidence in the government’s ability to successfully shape and mold society and individuals. The abuse of alcohol was (and remains today) a serious problem. Banning alcohol seemed, to millions, a reasonable way to handle this problem.

Prohibition began on January 16, 1920. America’s most famous evangelist, Dr. Billy Sunday, boldly proclaimed:

“The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.”

Some communities even shut down their jails, confident that they would no longer be needed.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way.

In a Cato Institute study (highly recommended) entitled “Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure” economist Mark Thornton sums up the bitter fruit of this disastrous policy:

“Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became ‘organized’; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.”

And what about crime? “According to a study of 30 major U.S. cities, the number of crimes increased 24 percent between 1920 and 1921. …thefts and burglaries increased 9 percent, while homicides and incidents of assault and battery increased 13 percent. … violent crimes against persons and property continued to increase throughout Prohibition.”

Prohibition also created a massive prison state. “By 1932 the number of federal convicts had increased 561 percent, to 26,589, and the federal prison population had increased 366 percent. … Two-thirds of all prisoners received in 1930 had been convicted of alcohol and drug offenses, and that figure rises to 75 percent of violators if other commercial prohibitions are included.”

Sound familiar? Alcohol Prohibition offers a powerful, profound and easily understood example of the dangers of government social engineering. It’s a lesson Americans need to hear.

Celebrate and publicize Repeal Day this week. Some day — perhaps sooner than we dare think — we’ll have another Repeal to add to the celebration.

Best Libertarian Science Fiction/Fantasy of the Year Announced

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Cory Doctorow's Homeland

Want some great libertarian-oriented reading? The Libertarian Futurist Society has some new recommendations for you.

For more than three decades, the Libertarian Futurist Society has given its coveted annual Prometheus Awards, which celebrate outstanding current and classic works of science fiction and fantasy that stress the importance of liberty as the foundation for civilization, peace, prosperity, progress and justice.

This year’s Best Novel Award was a tie: Homeland by Cory Doctorow and Nexus by Ramez Naam.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Cory Doctorow has generously allowed readers to download Homeland — and some of his other works — for free here.

Homeland, the sequel to Doctorow’s 2009 Prometheus winner Little Brother, follows the continuing adventures of a government-brutalized young leader of a movement of tech-savvy hackers — who must decide whether to release an incendiary Wikileaks-style exposé of massive government abuse and corruption as part of a struggle against the invasive national-security state.

This is Doctorow’s third Prometheus Award for Best Novel. He won last year for his Pirate Cinema. All three are young-adult novels with strong libertarian themes.

Nexus by Ramez Naam is described as “a gripping exploration of politics and new extremes of both freedom and tyranny in a near future where emerging technology opens up unprecedented possibilities for mind control or personal liberation and interpersonal connection.”

The other finalists:

* A Few Good Men by Sarah Hoyt
* Crux by Ramez Naam (sequel to his Best Novel-winning Nexus)
* Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

The Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) winner is Falling Free, a 1988 novel by Lois McMaster Bujold that explores free will and self-ownership by considering the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.

The other 2014 Hall of Fame finalists: “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a 1912 short story by Rudyard Kipling; “Sam Hall,” a 1953 short story by Poul Anderson; “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” a 1965 short story by Harlan Ellison; and Courtship Rite, a 1982 novel by Donald M. Kingsbury.

In a separate awards ceremony, four-time-Prometheus Award-winning author Vernor Vinge will receive a Special Prometheus Lifetime Achievement Award.

Author-filksinger Leslie Fish — according to Prometheus “perhaps the most popular filk song writer of the past three decades and one who often includes pro-freedom themes in her songs” — will receive a Special Prometheus Award in 2014 for the combination of her 2013 libertarian-themed novella “Tower of Horses” and her related filk song, “The Horsetamer’s Daughter.” (No, that’s not a misspelling. Filk songs are songs created from within science fiction and fantasy fandom, usually dealing with related subject matter.)

The Prometheus Award will be presented in a ceremony during the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in London, England August 14-18, 2014.

For further great libertarian fiction reading recommendations, see the list of past Prometheus Award winners and nominees.