The Futility of “Colorblindness”: GOP Representative Robert Pittenger’s Comments On BBC Program Expressed True Belief of Republicans Against Black People and the Vulnerable Members of U.S. Society

The Republican party (GOP) has an authoritarian backbone: The party worships the rich, like GOP nominee for U.S. President, Donald J. Trump (who received $885 million in real estate-related tax breaks), and disparages the vulnerable (otherwise known as the 99%).

The focus of GOP action is the removal of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s programs to assist the vulnerable (and give all support to the 1% (who provide “campaign contributions”). In addition, the government bailed out the financial industry after the 2008 financial crisis. One result of that is that the Federal Reserve Board has a balance sheet of $4.5 trillion (as of the date of this post).

Representative Paul Ryan delivered his belief in blaming the poor. Given his Irish ancestry, a New York Times columnist, Timothy Egan, reminded Ryan that the English had the same idea toward his ancestors in Ireland.

In North Carolina, there has been another police-involved shooting, which has left a citizen dead. While the officer is black, the situation is the same all previous police-involved shootings where the officer involved claims his life was in danger and the authorities sanction the resultant killing as justified (under Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor).

With this situation as background, a North Carolina GOP member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Robert Pittenger (under investigation by the FBI and the IRS), had an interview of BBC’s Newsnight program, with the BBC’s James O’Brien. During the interview, Mr. Pittenger saw fit to disparage the protestors as

  • not following the example of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King (who was assassinated) and
  • haters of white people because of their presumed success.

His critique was framed by the GOP’s continued disparagement of the vulnerable members of society, just like Ryan and the rest of the GOP. Mr. Pittenger simply ignored all of the history and ill effects of policies based on “colorblind” white hegemony.

His subsequent explanations do not alter his (or the GOP’s) beliefs that he expressed openly during the BBC interview.

Unsurprisingly, also in the BBC interview, Mr. Pittenger refused to apply the example of Rev. King’s actions (which he applied to protestors) to the present-day campaign of Donald J. Trump who has insulted many groups in his statements.

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Federal Reserve Board: Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress, June 2016

Monetary Policy Report, June 2016

The Monetary Policy Report hearings were held on June 21 and 22, 2016.

Monetary Policy Report (June 2016):  http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/files/20160621_mprfullreport.pdf.

U.S. House of Representatives U.S. Senate
June 22, 2016, 10:00 a.m., House Financial Services Committee June 21, 2016, 10:00 a.m., Senate Banking Committee
Press release: http://financialservices.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=400784 Press release: http://www.banking.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?ID=AE3F42A6-5EDC-4B23-ABE1-0A182114B3B4
Testimony: http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/testimony/yellen20160621a.htm

Federal Reserve Board: Andrew Levin and FED UP Propose Recommendations to Ensure that the Board Consider the Views of All People in the United States

Andrew Levin and the group, the National Campaign for a Strong Economy (or FED UP) published separate proposals for reforming for reforming the governance and accountability of the Federal Reserve System.

These proposals would have to go to Congress, as the Board may not be institutionally able to adopt any changes that affect the Federal Reserve Act (FRA). (See, for example, the Board’s response to Congress that it is exempt from civil rights laws because of FRA, 12 U.S.C. sec. 244. (Note: This blog takes a dim view of such a broad exemption for an unelected federal agency, for example, the Chair of the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System (Board).))

2014-03-04-auerbach
Sheila Clark’s letter to the EEOC (printed in the Auerbach book, page 123).

In addition, reform proposals were presented by Professor Robert D. Auerbach in his 2008 book “Deception and Abuse at the Fed: Henry B. Gonzalez Battles Alan Greenspan’s Bank,” chapter 12 (and also chapter 8, pp. 124-28). Despite the Board’s resistance, these proposals should be fairly considered and implemented in order to ensure that the Board’s policymaking process includes the views of regular citizens who are also affected by the Board’s actions.

Federal Reserve Board: Needs to Improve Communication with Congress; Former Fed Vice Chair Donald Kohn Offers Suggestions in Op-Ed

Bloomberg published an article about a simmering disagreements between the Federal Reserve Board (Board) and Congress (members of the House Financial Services Committee)

Issues in brief–

  • Federal Open Market Committee leak, involving Medley Global Advisors. The Board has not responded to Congressional requests for information, citing a Department of Justice investigation. However, the Board conducted a previous investigation (in 2012), which was closed without finding any wrongdoing.
  • Reform of the Federal Reserve Act. Chair Janet Yellen feels the current structure of the Board is acceptable, according to the Bloomberg article.

In a Bloomberg View opinion piece, former Board Vice Chair Donald Kohn (with his book’s co-author David Wessel) offered suggestions for better Board communication with Congress. One of the suggestions is for the Board to provide Congress with copies of the Monetary Policy Report several days in advance of the hearings (the document is typically sent to Congress less than 24 hours before the first hearing).

The eight suggestions from Kohn and Wessel follow.

  1. The Fed should volunteer — and Congress should agree — to have monetary policy hearings quarterly, rather than twice a year. If the Fed believes that the economy evolves quickly enough to warrant issuing new projections and taking questions from the media every quarter, then the same reasoning should apply to informing the people’s representatives.
  2. In connection with the hearings, the now semi-annual Monetary Policy Report — or a streamlined version of it — should become quarterly. Among other things, the Fed should share the monetary policy rules that it already consults in its deliberations.
  3. The Fed should publicly release the Monetary Policy Report three days before the relevant hearing, so members of Congress and staff have adequate time to digest it.
  4. The Monetary Policy Report should continue to include the Fed’s assessment of financial stability risks. The intersection of these risks and monetary policy should be one focus of the quarterly hearings.
  5. Fed staff should continue to brief and field questions from the congressional staff who prepare members for the hearings. The chair should meet with the leaders of the relevant committees in the week before the hearing.
  6. Congress should establish a process for obtaining and publishing the views of outside experts about key policy issues before each set of hearings.
  7. To make them more informative and allow for more give-and-take, each quarterly hearing in the House should allow only half the committee members to question the chair, and each member should be allotted 10 minutes (instead of the current five).
  8. The Fed should hire outside experts to periodically evaluate the procedures used to generate the economic projections that the Federal Open Market Committee receives from its staff and how the committee presents its own projections to the public. These projections — both the staff inputs and the committee outputs — play a critical role in policy making and should be as sound and well-understood as possible. Other central banks have successfully employed such external peer review, which would help Congress and the public better evaluate the quality of monetary policy.

Federal Financial Regulatory Agencies: Financial Services Democrats Receive Responses from Agencies; Seek Further Action and Commitment for Measurable Results

In a previous post, I discussed the publication of a report by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Democrats (Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Representative Al Green (D-Tx.), and members of the Tri-Caucus) on the diversity and inclusion issues within the federal financial agencies.

Agency Date submitted Link Comment
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau December 7, 2015 http://democrats.financialservices.house.gov/uploadedfiles/2015.18.25_diversity_report_and_reforms_agency_responses_final.pdf
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation December 7, 2015
Federal Housing Finance Agency December 7, 2015
Federal Reserve Board November 25, 2015 and February 8, 2016 Detailed letter (Feb. 8, 2016) submitted 2 days before the Monetary Policy Report hearing (Feb. 10, 2016).
National Credit Union Administration December 7, 2015
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency December 8, 2015
Securities and Exchange Commission December 9, 2015

According to a press release issued on January 8, 2016, the Democrats received responses from the federal financial regulatory agencies. Waters and members of the Tri-Caucus appreciated the responses but seek further action to ensure demonstrated commitment and action on the part of these agencies.

Federal Financial Agency Report Number Internet Link Comment
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Audit report 2015-MO-C-002 http://oig.federalreserve.gov/reports/cfpb-diversity-inclusion-mar2015.pdf American Banker article about racial disparities of CFPB staff evaluations.
Department of the Treasury, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency OIG-15-017 http://www.treasury.gov/about/organizational-structure/ig/Audit%20Reports%20and%20Testimonies/OIG-15-017.pdf
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Eval-15-001 http://www.fdicoig.gov/reports15/15-001EV.pdf
Federal Housing Finance Agency EVL-2015-003 http://fhfaoig.gov/Content/Files/EVL-2015-003.pdf
Federal Reserve Board Audit report 2015-MO-B-006 http://oig.federalreserve.gov/reports/board-diversity-inclusion-mar2015.pdf What is left out of the report is significant: Artis v. Bernanke (now Yellen). Also 12 U.S.C. 244 needs Congressional attention to ensure that Title 5 of the U.S. Code applies to the Board; the Board’s record-keeping on, and reporting of, its internal management is lax.
National Credit Union Administration OIG-14-09 http://www.ncua.gov/about/Leadership/CO/OIG/Documents/OIG201409EqualOpportunityDiversity.pdf Click for blog post on this report
Securities and Exchange Commission 528 http://www.sec.gov/oig/reportspubs/528.pdf Report is thorough, thoughtful, and well done.

In particular, Chair Janet Yellen stated in the Fed’s letter that the Fed had already begun acting on recommendations from its Inspector General.

[Note: Key issues to monitor PMR monitoring, discussions with OMWI director. Responses to these recommendations were opaque.]

Author’s note: Other posts relating to the Federal Reserve Board on this issue follow.

https://alexwdc.wordpress.com/2015/11/27/federal-reserve-board-h-2-release-for-week-ending-november-21-2015-a-brief-comment-on-diversity-practices-of-the-board/

https://alexwdc.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/federal-reserve-board-h-2-release-for-week-ending-november-7-2015-background-on-the-boards-omwi-program/

https://alexwdc.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/federal-reserve-board-walter-t-charlton-counsel-for-cynthia-artis-artis-v-bernanke-on-c-span-in-2002-a-note-onjohn-roberts-and-antonin-scalia/

https://alexwdc.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/federal-reserve-board-h-2-release-for-week-ending-october-24-2015-boards-ig-identifies-major-management-challenges/

https://alexwdc.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/federal-reserve-board-long-running-employment-discrimination-case-artis-v-bernanke-yellen-dismissed-with-prejudice-length-of-case-offends-conscience/

https://alexwdc.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/federal-reserve-board-legal-cases-against-the-board-2/

WMATA: Search under way for the Next General Manager of DC’s Metro System; Transit Authority Needs Dedicated Revenue Source

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is searching for another General Manager. Finalists from an initial search were released because of a difference of opinion of what type of General Manager (GM) WMATA should have–a “financial turnaround specialist” or a traditional transit executive. A transit executive would be preferable because (1) transit is a public service, not a profit-generating business, and (2) the system is responsible to the welfare of all human beings using or operating the system each day.

I am skeptical of any financial turnaround specialist because the true test for one was in 2008 during the United States financial crisis. None showed up (excepting the Obama Administration), and, thus, I do not expect any candidates for WMATA.

State Amount of Funding
(components are rounded; in millions of dollars)
FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013 FY 2014
Maryland 215.6 228.1 246.4 263.6 279.7
District of Columbia 201.6 214.15 233.3 249.1 271.7
Virginia 129.4 129.7 142.2 156.5 181.0
Subtotal subsidy 546.7 572 622 669.2 732.4
Debt service 27.5 48.7 48.7 37 33.0
Audit adj fy 2011 and 2012 -30.5
Total (budgeted) 574.2 620.7 670.7 706.2 734.9
Actual* [630.7] [722.51] [687.02] [711.10]
(6/30/10) (6/30/11) (6/30/12) (6/30/13)

The difficulty with deciding to take the GM job with WMATA remains the same as specified in a previous post. Primarily, WMATA still does not have a dedicated source of revenue. It is interesting that Maryland supports a financial turnaround specialist for WMATA, yet Maryland provides funds for Baltimore’s subway and light rail system. WMATA’s unique financial and political circumstances make WMATA a challenge, one most incumbents only keep the job for about 3-4 years, excepting Richard White. Even with the challenges, there should be transit executives willing to accept the GM job, well aware of the high stakes (and potentially short-term nature) of the job.

Passenger Fares and Parking Fees
(rounded; in millions of dollars)
FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013
Budgeted 702.7 789.5 767.7 874.0
Actual* 727.8 (6/30/10) 804.5 (6/30/11) 816.7 (6/30/12) 856.8 (6/30/13)
*Actual amount comes from Metro’s statement of revenues, expenses, and changes in net assets. This statement does not identify parking fee revenue; I used the total revenue amount in the table.

The financial statements are not yet available for 2014, and the ridership numbers are estimated for 2013. However, I have updated information for WMATA as it was available at the time of this post.

Ridership
(in number of trips)
2010 2011 2012 2013
Rail Bus Rail Bus Rail Bus Rail Bus
217,219,146 123,670,000 217,052,000 124,173,000 212,188,640 131,780,990 209,000,000* 136,000,000*
* Estimated
Source: Metro Facts.

Interesting Background Facts (source: Metro Facts 2014)

Metrorail system age: 39

Organizational Structure of Metro (Metro Compact Article III)

[Four legislative bodies–Congress (federal government), D.C. City Council, Md. state legislature (Montgomery and Prince George’s), Va. state legislature (Arlington, Fairfax, and Alexandria) (subsidy funding)]

Board of Directors (8 members selected from each jurisdiction [federal government, District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia]) [Note:  There are 8 alternates.]

Officers (General Manager, Secretary, Treasurer, Comptroller and General Counsel and such other officers as the Board may provide.)

Metrobus

328 routes (breakdown by jurisdiction not available)

Metrorail stations (by state)

Total: 91

District of Columbia: 40 (38.3 miles of track)

Maryland: 26 (Prince George’s County (15) and Montgomery County (11)) (38.31 miles) [Note: The state of Maryland operates its own subway in Baltimore, Md.]

Virginia: 25 (Arlington County (11), Fairfax County (11), and the City of Alexandria (3)) (41.47 miles)

 

Performance Management, Civil Service, & Merit Principles: Discussions Must Be Guided with Sober, Detailed Research and Commitment to Fair & Equitable Treatment; Management Abuse of Authority Must Also Be Addressed

All discussions of performance management within the federal government’s civil service must be done with in-depth, sober, and detailed research and analysis in order to ensure that any system proposed

  • is faithful with the merit principles and all laws of the United States of America,
  • fair and equitable to all those who are subject to the system, and
  • addresses management abuse of authority toward subordinates.

Moreover, vague mentions of “poor performers” must be avoided and replaced with substantiated and detailed examples.

The focus of the Government Executive article, “Wielding the Ax,” seems to be based on the “trials” of the manager trying to fire an undefined “poor performer.” Yet, the article merely passes over a tremendous problem identified by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB): The managers cannot identify proper standards. (Emphasis, added, mine.)

In a 2009 report (quote is from the press release), MSPB said that complexities involved in performance management—not the law—present the greatest challenge to handling poor performers. “The agency is required to articulate a performance expectation, measure it and document the extent to which the employee has failed to meet expectations,” said the report. “According to an MSPB survey of proposing and deciding officials, this is where the actions become difficult. Our survey respondents told us that supervisors have difficulty creating standards for performance and documenting how well employees are meeting those standards.”

If management cannot identify standards, how can they rate performance? Lacking standards, it seems that managers are rating on whim, a situation that is unfair to employees.

The managers cited in the Government Executive article seemed to be focused on removal rather than coaching proper performance. Moreover, both managers cited are no longer with their government agencies. [John Palguta, vice president of policy at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Palguta also has worked at the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board, the agency that adjudicates appeals from employees related to their job status. Henry Romero, who was associate director for workforce compensation and performance at OPM during the Clinton administration and was reported to be a senior adviser at Virginia-based consulting firm Federal Management Partners.]

In addition, and in fairness, the issue of managerial abuse of power toward subordinates must also be considered in any discussion of performance management. There are very few avenues for redress for suffering employees (especially if the avenues of redress–human relations, EEO, upper-level agency management–agree with or do not care about the employee’s suffering of abuse). Strengthening managerial power to discipline or remove–with severe financial consequences to the affected employee–without considering the plight of these affected persons would be a tremendous injustice.

Moreover, the discussion of performance management flies off in a tangent upon mention of “poor performers.” Yet, this mention of poor performer is not substantiated with clear, specific definitions or examples. The discussion will be best served with serious and detailed research and analysis identifying all of the issues from all viewpoints and with pinpointed, transparent, fair, and equitable solutions.