Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Secret Service As A Service

Because I'm a white guy in America, I'm going to weigh in on something over which I have no control and about which I have strong opinions, because Privilege. In this case, it's about the Secret Service.

A couple of important things to remember right off the bat: first, the Presidential Protection Detail is a very small part of the duties of the Secret Service; mostly, the SS is involved in counterfeiting and other types of currency fraud. Whether they should be or not isn't the question at hand; the truth is that the PPD is just the most public face of the Secret Service, and the one getting kneecapped in the press and in Congress right now. Second, the PPD includes both the guys in sunglasses and cheap suits you see and a bunch of uniformed guards you mostly don't. The Uniformed Division of the PPD is made up mostly of ex-cops, some of whom have served in other parts of the Secret Service, some of whom were hired on special. Thirdly, all of them are on government salary, which generally means they could go damn near literally anywhere elseand make more money for less hours. If they haven't, there's a good chance there's a reason why. For some (arguably, most), the answer is "a chance to serve the President and the Country", but there's a non-zero chance the answer could be "because no one else will hire me". 

So here's the thing: government payroll has been destroyed under the current administration. I'm not blaming President Obama; it's Congress that has the job of determining when and where to spend money, and they've done a fantastically bad job at it over the last six years or so (The 80th Congress, from '47 to '49, was called the 'do nothing' Congress and they passed 906 bills; the current 113th Congress has passed less than 200). Coupled with the fact that the current President has received three times the number of threats as any previous president, Democratic or Republican, it means that you have a staff that is underpaid, overworked, and with no relief in sight. The White House itself has had all sorts of work, including safety and security work, deferred for budgetary reasons since the middle of the Previous Administration, so basically everything there is 15 years out of date (at least) to begin with.

So: an old, unmaintained workplace; an underpaid, overworked, underappreciated, demoralized workforce; and no hope or expectation of improvement for at least two years.

It's a truism with me that any question that begins with "why" can always be answered with "money". If Congress is really unhappy with the performance of the Secret Service PPD in recent history, the answer isn't more hearings, it's more money. And not even a lot; for a couple hundred million a year the PPD could bring staffing levels back up to pre-shutdown levels, at least (which is the absolute bare minimum it should be; arguably the PPD for President Obama should be much, much bigger given the threat assessment load).  The PPD right now isn't lazy; it's exhausted

Oh, and if you're thinking of saying something stupid, like "this isn't about race" or "government is too expensive" I invite you to rethink posting here. Our current tax rate is fantastically low anddepressingly unequal, and complaining about high taxes and too much spending is just going to end up with blocks, uncircles, and hard feelings. Our Federal government isn't spending enough; it's also spending in all the wrong places, but that's a whole 'nother rant.

Anyway, that's one of the things I'm angry about this morning. There are others, trust me.