Madeline Janis has an argument so herniated and lame somebody was bound to make it: Republicans trying to cut through the Obama Administration's Tule fog of obfuscation in the Solyndra scandal are showing why big government is necessary.
Janis is a crooked-as-the-Kickapoo activist responsible for Los Angeles' "living wage" laws, head honcho of the poverty-pimping L.A. Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), and commissioner at the City of Angels' Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). She's one of about a half-dozen people who most deserve thanks for the fact that L.A.'s gross metropolitan product was in serious secular decline even before the recession hit. Here's her argument:
But really, what the conservative Obama critics are saying is that the federal government and states such as California and Wisconsin that invested millions in the company should have had more bureaucratic red tape. Yes, that most hated of terms, "red tape" is something that could have actually prevented a huge loss of government dollars in an unwise investment.
Extreme right-wing conservative Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan…is arguing that part of the problem is that there was not enough government review and evaluation – i.e., bureaucracy and red tape – of the Solyndra deal to make sure that it was a wise investment of taxpayer dollars.
As someone who's spent nine years as a public official, as a member of the board of commissioners of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), I know a lot about bureaucracy. I have presided over the investment of billions of taxpayer dollars and creation of hundreds of economic development deals. I have seen my share of red tape…
But it's most often conservatives rather than liberals that – in my many years of experience – put the pressure on public officials like me to eliminate the so-called red tape and to move projects faster, sooner (should have been done yesterday!), before all of the appropriate evaluation and vetting have been done.
I believe Janis to be one of the least honest people I have ever encountered, but I think she is being sincere here. She truly doesn't comprehend the difference between a government's duty to exercise caution before spending taxpayer dollars and your being forced into a hell of permitting delays, land seizure and "user" fees for the crime of doing business with another willing adult. She's been stealing money so long she thinks she's earned it.
Nevertheless, I have a soft spot for Janis, who is responsible for one of the few moments of actual pleasure I ever had at the L.A. Times. She and my boss were, for reasons I don't care to explore, tight as ticks. I called her one day for questioning about the CRA's long-stalled Vermont/Manchester Project (soon to celebrate 20 years as a vacant lot!). A few minutes into the conversation it clearly dawned on her that I was not asking friendly questions, and the change in her tone – from breezy and glib to vicious and vituperative – was something to witness. (I have a hunch this was the first hostile interview she'd ever faced from anybody at the L.A. Times.) Shortly after hanging up, I got called into my boss's office for a stern talking-to, but it was worth it.
You can read up on Janis. I was encouraged a few months ago to learn that a Sacramento oppo research firm was finally starting to document her reign of terror, but I don't expect much to change. She's done plenty of favors for the right billionaires. The many, many CRA projects that have turned arable real estate into fallow prairie are clustered in a part of town nobody in power cares about. The Republicans Janis pretends to condemn are in fact quite happy with the CRA's violations of property rights, common sense, and the well-being of working poor people. Gov. Jerry Brown's effort to shut down the state's redevelopment agencies made more progress than I expected and helped to shine a light on these organizations' stunning levels of corruption; but after the smoke has cleared, the CRA is still there, still destroying lives and property all over the county.
I have no doubt that Janis hears from plenty of "conservative" swindlers who want to remove obstacles to their ability to collect public money. But she also hears from a lot of people like Kramer Metals, a viable Slauson Ave. scrap-metal business the CRA recently condemned and removed in order to replace it with more vacant land.
But Kramer Metals wasn't looking for a handout. It was being persecuted by an unaccountable gang of government extortionists and begging (in vain) to be spared. To Janis it all sounds the same.
Hi! Perbole Alert! Several commenters have noted my intemperate or distemperate language, and others have added intemperate language of their own. All factual claims above are accurate. Phrases of broad contumely should be viewed as exaggerations expressive of my minority views: 1. Taxes are taken by force from unwilling parties who vote strongly and consistently against taxation whenever the very limited representation made available by our government allows them to do so; therefore the exchange of money is clearly not consensual and is de facto, though obviously not de jure, illegitimate. 2. The lack of consensuality is even more clear in eminent domain takings. 3. The corruption endemic in spending the wealth extracted through processes 1. and 2. should be considered contributory infringement after the fact. I do not claim any laws as currently interpreted were violated by the subject of this article. And of course, I was referring to the Kickapoo River in Wisconsin, which Cheeseheads are proud to call the crookedest river in the world.