Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Rogue Federal Agency Makes Up Own Rules to Harass Tech Companies

In the past, when federal contractors complained about the treatment they received from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, agency officials would dare them to take it to the judge because “he works for us.”

But Google took the dare – it took a complaint about harassment by the agency over alleged employee discrimination to an administrative law judge who works for the agency. And the judge agreed Google was right.

Google said it turned over 740,000 pages of documents, at a cost of 2,300 man hours and $500,000, to address an inquiry by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs into Google’s compensation practices. When the office came back and added to its demands the names of all Google employees, the company said enough.

Google sued, and an administrative judge from the Department of Labor ruled the agency had been “overbroad, intrusive on employee privacy, unduly burdensome, and insufficiently focused on obtaining the requested information.”

Of course, it took a company with the clout and wherewithal of Google to press the case. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has the power to debar federal contractors, which prevents them from doing future business with the federal government. This can be a death sentence to many businesses, which means those of lesser means than Google – which is well north of 99 percent of every company on the planet – have no choice but to accept mistreatment and move on.

And there has been plenty of such mistreatment – an agency focus on high-dollar settlements with top companies to secure splashy headlines, frequent and systemic antagonistic behavior toward the firms it regulates, given to making extraordinary and overly broad demands for information then insisting near-impossible deadlines be met to produce it.

That the Department of Labor ruled in favor of Google is a sign the agency finally may be getting the message that its conduct is not proper or productive. Its mission is to ensure federal contractors follow federal employment law – that they do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity, nor differentiate in pay by gender or in any other discriminatory manner.

But in the final years of the Obama administration, the agency had focused on high-dollar verdicts and headlines. It fined Goldman Sachs and Dell Technologies $10 million and $7 million respectively and fined Bank of America $4.2 million. These verdicts struck such fear into American businesses that many were reluctant to talk even anonymously to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for a white paper it produced on the agency’s problems.

In the deregulatory age of President Trump, American companies ought not fear their regulators.

Perhaps sensing the climate would change when President Trump took office, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs decided to go big-time with its harassment efforts in the waning days of the Obama administration. The agency filed suits against Google, Oracle and Palantir, which provides software and data analysis to the federal government.

The suit against Oracle seeks not $1 million or $10 million but $400 million that the agency alleges the firm owes to female, Asian and African-American employees. It alleges the company systemically paid Caucasian male workers more than their counterparts in the same job title and favored Asian-Americans in hiring for some technical positions.

In none of those had employees at these firms complained of discrimination. The agency is attempting to prove these firms have discriminated through statistical analysis only.



The Leftist Media Thrives on Emotions – Not Facts

If you have not noticed, Democrats and the left-wing media have seized on an opportunity – the COVID19 virus. The last three to four weeks have been filled with panic, confusion, fear, and dread with breathless reporting from mainstream media outlets. Leftist media and social media have played on citizens’ emotions solely for political profit – it is time to calm down.

Anchors and reporters have worked the public into a lather, making them believe that the government will instill a mandatory quarantine. Their reporting has led to a hand sanitizer, soap, and toilet paper shortage across the country– with fights breaking out at retailers. American citizens have bought into the idea that Trump is some authoritarian that is going to enforce martial law to keep citizens inside their homes.

Fear is a driver. It causes humans to do things they never thought possible such as taking the life of another through any means necessary in the protection of their own life, family member, or a friend. Being scared can make us physically more durable than ever thought possible. It can also make us mentally tougher than one could ever imagine.

Fear can also turn a human into an animal.

It is normal to get worried when talks of a flu epidemic begin in your community, and there should be a concern when we start to learn about pandemics such as the Swine Flu, or the Corona Virus. However, when the establishment media has caused many in America to act like caged beasts at Costco or Sam’s or any store that sells toilet paper, they have become irresponsible reporters. Some could argue that today’s legacy news outlets are dangerous at times. 

However, in a time where certain news outlets have such a vitriolic hatred for the president, what can you expect? American’s trust the news to bring the facts. Though, when a news media outlet hates President Trump as much as they do, they manipulate the emotions of those who trust them. The leftist news does not need many people to believe them. They only need a small percentage so they can run a loop of the panic to whip up more distress. It is a disingenuous and immoral game plan.

Facts are the enemy of emotions. The mainstream media relies more on reporting emotion than factual evidence. If a Democratic politician is speaking on a left-wing news outlet, emotions are a focal point. However, a republican with facts are dismissed on the same network many times. When Joe Biden said, at a campaign rally, “truth over facts,” he meant “emotions over facts.”

The Democratic Party is more concerned with whipping up emotions using a virus, societal class, skin color, or ethnicity than they are with improving the lives of those who support them.

The left cannot win with facts, and they know it. In the world of politics, reality matters. Voters want the entire truth. Democrats have become masters of cloaking emotional topics with untruths. They present their causes as factual, but when they are broken down with critical thinking and logic, the argument often falls apart. Unfortunately, their voters are sheep and believe them.

We must be able to mitigate emotions in certain situations. When a person becomes emotional around the wrong people with bad intentions, they are much easier to manipulate. We see this now with the COVID-19 panic. 24-hour news network anchors speak with “experts” and “pundits” talking about the dangers, which are real, but they ignore the recovery rate.

Establishment news outlets are using emotions in an attempt to damage Trump and make this his “Katrina.” They do not care about the violence that has ensued over toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Left-wing news only cares that Trump does not get reelected in November. They are refusing facts and asserting fear.

Yes, the COVID19 virus is a threat. So far, we have seen it is most dangerous to the elderly or those with underlying respiratory problems. However, the news has hit a new low in terms of immoral reporting of fearmongering, helping their friends, the democrats.  Facts matter more than emotions, and that rule applies here. We see violence, food/supply shortages, and stocks plummet. The left does not care about America, only their political aspirations.

Emotions do not change facts, only an individual’s actions.



Please, Not 'Shovel-Ready' Projects Again!

It was just a little over 10 years ago, at the height of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said one of the dumbest things in modern times. The best way to stimulate the economy, she declared, was with "unemployment insurance and food stamps." Right. Paying people not to work will get more people to work.

Now here we go again. In the throes of the COVID-19 financial crisis, Pelosi is still spreading her economic pixie dust. Maybe it is just an inviolable rule of politics that politicians never seem to learn from their past mistakes.

The economy is now partially paralyzed from fear of the virus, so Republicans and Democrats want to do something to juice the economy. President Donald Trump's big idea is to cut taxes.

This may not do much to suspend the fear and gridlock that has gripped the economy, but it can incentivize more work (by allowing every worker to keep more of their own money) and can accelerate spending at a time when demand has fallen off the cliff.

Economists can debate back and forth about how well a tax cut will work to avert an economic calamity, but it can't hurt. What is for sure is that this plan is far more likely to succeed than what Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues want. They favor paid leave for workers who don't come to work (which incentivizes nonwork), unemployment insurance, Medicaid expansion, bailouts for hard-hit industries and so on.

History teaches us that these kinds of so-called stimulus plans always fail. The mother of all government spending plans was the failed $830 billion fiscal stimulus during Barack Obama's first months in office. Obama's first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, explained the rationale in early 2009 by stating: "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."

Time magazine put Obama on its cover with a cigar and a top hat, looking like a dapper Franklin Roosevelt circa 1932. It was fitting because Obama had in mind a supersized New Deal. The promises were alluring. Obama told us that the money would be spent quickly on vital "shovel-ready projects." Soon after it passed, Vice President Joe Biden famously predicted that 2009 would bring "the summer of recovery" -- which never happened because the unemployment rate continued to rise.

The giveaway was always less about resuscitating the economy and more about spreading hundreds of billions of dollars to left-wing interest groups. There would be money for the National Endowment for the Arts (how does that stimulate the economy?), Head Start, unemployment insurance and food stamps for illegal immigrants, renewable energy subsidies, high-speed rail, Cash for Clunkers and Medicaid expansion. The whiz kid economists in the Obama administration predicted a 2009 growth rate north of 4.5%. It barely got to 2%.

By the Obama administration's numbers, every year from 2009 to 2011, unemployment came in much higher than Obama's team predicted it would have if we had done nothing. Many of the shovel-ready projects, such as the $535 million that went to the now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra, turned out to be lemons or scams.

The stimulus didn't work because it ignored the very nature of government activity, which is the feds can only give money to Peter by taking money from Paul. With a tax cut, instead of making money from Peter, it lets Peter keep it.

Harvard economist Robert Barro explained during the Great Recession why the spending spigot didn't grow flowers: "Every time heightened fiscal deficits fail, the policy advice is to choose still larger deficits," he concluded. "The results from following this policy advice are persistently lower growth and an exploding ratio of public debt to GDP."

Obama and his aides are now trying to rewrite history to persuade the public that the Recovery Act of 2009 was a grand success. Obama recently tweeted that his policies set the table for the Trump boom of the last three years. In reality, in the Obama years, the bar on growth and wages was so low that it was easy for Trump to hurdle over it.

The most famous "stimulus" failure was FDR's New Deal of the 1930s. It more than doubled government spending as a share of GDP but never got the unemployment rate down below 10% in the entire decade of the 1930s, as Amity Shlaes documented in her book about the Great Depression, "The Forgotten Man."

Trump understandably wants to act, and quickly. But he would be wise to avoid cutting a deal with Pelosi that forces him to waste taxpayer money or puts additional mandates on employers already getting crunched by the effects of the coronavirus. In this case, the palliatives could delay or impede a big economic snapback. In 2009, at the end of the day, all we got from the Obama stimulus was nearly $1 trillion of added debt and millions more people enrolled in welfare programs. Washington, aka "the swamp," got rich from the largesse, but not so much the rest of the country.

Picking winners and losers among industries such as airlines and energy companies (an idea that both parties appear to like) is inequitable because just about every sector is getting hammered. Who chooses who gets a new lease on life and who doesn't? The best solution to averting bankruptcies in an uncontrollable event like this is for the Federal Reserve to open its discount window for low-interest loans to distressed companies with collateral but little revenue stream thanks to the virus.

There are so many uncertainties about where the coronavirus is taking our economy and for how long, but the one thing we do know for sure is that the government can't spend and regulate our economy or our country back to health.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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