General Shinseki’s ouster is not justified based on the performance of a system beyond his control, unless he is a cheerleader for the status quo. There is little Shinseki or anyone else could or will be able to do about the agency’s dysfunction until Congress, with the support of the American people, asserts its authority over the agency’s business and revokes all privileges that create the moral hazard of giving the interests of unionized employees preference over those of the veterans they obstensibly serve.
But that’s just an extremist, right-wing Republican view, right? Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s just a measure of how far we have come, or fallen, since before the current hostage crisis became business as usual. Consider these icons of right-wing extremism and what they had to say yesteryear:
New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia: “The right to strike against the government is not and cannot be recognized.”
AFL-CIO president George Meany: “It is impossible to collectively bargain with the government.”
A.F.L.-C.I.O. Executive Council’s 1959 advice: “In terms of accepted collective bargaining procedures, government workers have no right beyond the authority to petition Congress — a right available to every citizen.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government. The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”
FDR again: “a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.”
Colby Buzzell, an Iraq war veteran writing in the New York Times, reminds us that the VA motto, taken from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, reads: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
How we accomplish that requires respect for economic principles, with a bias toward the free market that is no small part of what our veterans were defending when they served.
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