Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Projection and Corruption

If we are to believe the Fart of the Nation, the Australian taxpayer has been ripped off by unscrupulous builders making hay from the federal government's BER scheme.
If we believe Tony Abbott and others, dodgy installers have created havoc and house fires through the home insulation programme, another initiative of the same government.

American shock jocks and others have blamed the recent financial meltdown on worthless mortgages forced on banks by organizations such as ACORN.

There is a bizarre pattern emerging in this commentary. Its logic runs something like this -
A scheme is set up which assumes that the usual commercial convention holds. By this I mean the convention that it doesn't matter who is paying - you get what you pay for.
In other words, if you (or the taxpayer) pay for safe and professionally fitted home insulation, that is precisely what you get. If you (or the taxpayer) purchase a school building you expect to get value for money. If you live in the USA and buy a loan (which is precisely what happens - unless you're paying no interest) you expect that your capacity to pay has been professionally sussed out by those who know what they're doing.
But wait - I'm showing my naïveté. There is a different school of thought which argues that if the money comes from the taxpayer, normal commercial ethics don't count. In the case of the mortgage, so long as the commissions and bonuses roll in, ethics can also take a holiday.
I've seen a minor but very clear example of this recently. In my work I use vehicles from the state government fleet. I'm also a bit over-cautious before I take a car on a long journey, so I check tire pressures, fluid levels etc. A few weeks ago the vehicle I was to use was due for a service, so to help the fleet manager out I offered to pick it up direct from the dealer after the 30000km service and take it out next day at first light.
Checking the oil revealed that it was filthy and hadn't been changed. The service manager was initially cooperative, but when I showed him the dipstick, he became quite hostile -
"It's none of your bloody business - I only talk to the fleet manager" was his defence. I had of course, stumbled on an old scam. If the taxpayer's footing the bill, normal rules don't apply.
Once he'd understood that I was quite prepared to use my mobile to phone his head office unless I had actually witnessed the old oil drained and 4.5 litres of Mr Castrol's best poured into the motor, he settled down. I have no doubt that this wasn't the first time, and probably won't be the last that the taxpayer is ripped off in this way.
It happens for two reasons. The obvious one is that busy drivers or fleet managers have neither the time nor the inclination to check these things in the same way as a private owner does. There is a hidden (and invidious) understanding that it's OK to rip off a government agency embedded in our corporate culture. In Vietnam it's called corruption. Here it's called free enterprise.
This culture, obviously embraced by the above-mentioned commentators, assumes that if rip-offs occur, it's the government's fault. Funny that…
It's much the same mythology that believes that the poor in the USA benefiting from the dodgy mortgages are to blame for the GFC. The fact that they did not securitise the loans, and sell them for profit is neither here nor there.
Other aspects of this mythology hold that the Masters of the Universe speculating in the derivatives market are completely innocent, as are those who generated a plethora of incentives for executives to oversee sub-prime loans in the first place.
There is a name for this phenomenon. It's called "projection".
From Wikipaedia -
Psychological projection or projection bias (including Freudian Projection) is the unconscious act of denial of a person's own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, the government, a tool, or to other people. Thus, it involves imagining or projecting that others have those feelings.
Note the reference to "government".
So if greed takes over, and the taxpayer is ripped off, or the financial system collapses to the point where it has to be rescued by (guess who) the taxpayer, it's the government's fault. Ain't free enterprise wonderful…..
My parents were obviously misguided when they taught me to deal honestly with my fellow human being. Must have been the government's fault…..


cav said...

I was about to write that the rich can get away with things, but on reflection I believe it is about power. And it is that power that corrupts people.

Most of our information via the media is corrupted in some way, so it is impossible sometimes to get an accurate analysis on any topic or sequence of events - most media reports are split into political camps left or right and blame is attributed according to ideology.

It is all about spin and rhetoric now. When we get a politician who doesn't speak this way, he is ridiculed (Barnaby comes to mind).

But I am amazed at the simple questions that the media do not ask. OK maybe it is because I am a dumb grunt and fail to grasp the key issues here.

The GFC came about because of greed.
The insulation problem came about because of greed.
The BER is also suffering from the same fate.

What I want to know is, why are not the people responsible for the mess being called to account? Why does taxpayer money have to be used to fix the problem rather then be used to chase these crooks through the courts?

On the problem with the fleet 'arrangement' this is simple corruption that many would see as 'normal'.

I was an auditor for over 15 years and lemme tell you that auditors can only look at process. An audit cannot make comment on 'value for money' unless he has the expertise. If he did have this expertise, he wouldn't be an auditor with an accounting background, but rather a 'consultant' earning a squillion dollars - in the end his 'power' would corrupt him.

Part of my duties for a couple of years meant that I looked after a fleet of 28 vehicles.

On most days I could have driven a car to and from work. Many would not regard this as corruption.
I could easily have gotten a discount on the purchase of a car for myself if I had certain dealings with a car company.
I could go on about other things, and the paperwork would be OK for the auditor to justify an action.

17 you would be the only guy in Australia who realises that work cars need oil and water and their tyres pumped up.

All we can do is what we believe is the right thing to do.

Ripping off the government is not right.

1735099 said...

Thoughtful comment. You're right about power. Personally, I believe that if someone is caught ripping off the government, which is the same as ripping off the taxpayer, they should have the book thrown at them. Generally, however they get away with it.

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