Sleazy chiselers

Well, if this isn’t the damndest piece of small-time larceny: Sarah Palin has been gouging the taxpayers of Alaska out of a per diem allowance for days she’s at home (about ten months worth). She also arranged that they pay to fly her husband and kids around on her junkets. The amounts involved total less than $100,000; I don’t know whether I’m more outraged by the venality of her behavior or the petty sums she’s nabbed; it reminds me of Ted Stevens, on sale for furniture, a dog, and some house remodeling. Honor sure comes cheap on the wild northern frontier.

The patches being slapped on below the waterline are only making things worse:

Gubernatorial spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said Monday that Palin’s expenses are not unusual and that, under state policy, the first family could have claimed per diem expenses for each child taken on official business but has not done so….The state finance director, Kim Garnero, said Alaska law exempts the governor’s office from elaborate travel regulations.

….Leighow said many of the hundreds of invitations Palin receives include requests for her to bring her family, placing the definition of “state business” with the party extending the invitation.

So, exempt from elaborate regulations, she’s making up these rules herself, and we’re supposed to be grateful she didn’t steal more! The change meme is getting harder and harder to credit, if that’s possible: if there’s one unbending moral principle of the Bush years, it’s the despicable idea that the line between right and wrong exactly matches wherever the line between criminal and legal can be pushed, with the most shameless sophistry: if you aren’t indicted for it, you did the right thing. Um, convicted, and lost all your appeals, come to think of it, yeah, that’s the banner for the righteous to repair to.

What a parent, to set such an upstanding example for her kids. What a gonif. What a piker. What a fake. And what a liar.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.