Iain Murray strikes the heart of liberal thinking yet again in his newest book, “Stealing You Blind: How Government Fat Cats are Getting Rich Off of You.” As a former British public employee, Murray saw the ineffectiveness of government bureaucracy, and he takes on the American government bureaucracy with skill, wit, and substantial research to back his findings and conclusions.
Murray opens his book by demonstrating the far-reaching influence of government or semi-government agencies. He notes that the richest congressional district is actually Virginia’s 11th district. The reason? These agencies and the companies with whom they have contracts are the primary employers of that district, ranging from Freddie Mac to contractors like Booz Allen. Even during the recession, D.C. metropolitan housing prices had grown while the national average decreased. Conversely, the unemployment rate was half the national average. He points out that the old “robber barons” of the Industrial Revolution have been replaced with the so-called “public servants,” whose primary goal is self-preservation.
A stark comparison made by Murray is that current government bureaucrats are modern-day equivalents of the Old World aristocrats whot fed off of the poor’s hard work, in this case the modern taxpayer. Government bureaucrats are rewarded for enlarging and expanding staff and budgets, while cost-cutting innovators are over looked for promotions. In short, the government is “stealing you blind” in the name of the common good.
Also, Murray’s dissection of the IRS would make any concerned taxpayer’s blood boil, or at least leave the reader slightly outraged at the abuse of powers by the IRS. Along with abuse of constitutional rights, which Murray explains in detail, the IRS tax code costs Americans $265 billion per year in compliance-related fees, a worrisome trend.
The next chapter is almost entirely devoted to the EPA as the epitome of government over-regulation and waste of taxpayer dollars in the name of improving the healthiness of children’s meals, encouraging book reading, and environmental protection. Murray also reveals that the government threatens private industries with penalties unless they comply with regulations, which was partially to blame for the infamous BP oil spill where the government agency worked “hand in glove” with BP yet lacked accountability.
A quote that jumped out at this reviewer is attributed to Sir Humphrey Appleby, who said this about government employees: “the public doesn’t know anything about wasting government money, we’re the experts.” Murray elaborates on this point and details the failed efforts of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), or as he calls it, “Thousands Standing Around,”and rightly so.
Following his section on the TSA, his explanation of the Wisconsin union battle and the union-forced bankruptcy of one city in California highlights the problems with government employee unions. Resistant to change, even forcing an Indiana plant to close though options to save jobs were available, unions are more interested in squeezing money out of their members and spending it to “re-elect Barack Obama…and we’re proud of it,” as union chief Andrew Stern boldly declared. Both chapters regarding unions give insights as to their political mindset.
Aptly titled, “The Education Bubble,” the book’s section on public education and higher education in universities creates quite a stir. I grew up in a heavily liberal public school system, where certain teachers often complained of low salaries and long hours. Murray slams this false notion, pointing out that mandatory unpaid overtime is more prevalent in the private sector, and that teachers on average earn more than some engineers. Murray found that the problem comes from schoolteacher’s contracts, which place seniority over competence, allowing “burned-out senior teachers coasting to retirement” rather than keeping the “keen, high-performing” young teachers who have revitalized school districts across the nation. It also makes it difficult for teachers to get fired, and more often than not, suspended teachers end up sitting in a “rubber room.”