The Freak Show: The Story Behind The Story Hal B. Selzer May 21, 2012 Columns There are a lot of stories in the news that expose things that seem to be obvious targets for investigation, but no one seems to pay attention. They are the stories behind the stories, which get lost because everyone is so busy looking at the primary focus of a particular news item. They don’t see things that should be raising a lot of questions. There are numerous instances of this, but I’ll give you just a few examples. A couple of weeks ago, the mayor of Hamilton Township, NJ, was arrested and charged with accepting bribes. They actually caught him taking money from someone who was recording the conversation, so it seems pretty open and shut. The local papers are filled with stories about what a crook the guy turned out to be, when everyone thought he was such a nice guy, and a decent mayor. In the course of the investigation, it’s come out that the insurance broker for the Hamilton Township school system received something along the lines of $930,000 over the past three years. So it’s no wonder the broker would pay a bribe to help get that kind of business. And the broker also was advising other school systems as well, so they were probably taking in similar amounts from other townships. The commission the broker takes doesn’t get paid by the school district; it gets paid by the insurance company that gets the account. But obviously it gets added into the cost, so essentially it does come from the school system and by extension from the taxpayers. Yet nobody seems to be bringing up why this situation exists. Is this normal in New Jersey? The broker, who is supposed to advise a school district on the best insurance deal, is getting this kind of money? How much work does that take? When you or I buy insurance, we most likely call around and get the best rate and coverage we can, then we buy a policy. I realize it’s a little more complicated when getting it for a school district, but to the tune of almost a million dollars over three years? The township could hire someone for a generous salary, say, $80,000 a year, to be the insurance advisor, and save themselves and us as taxpayers a lot of money, and get the same advice. Why is nobody saying anything about this part of the story? That just seems like such an inefficient way to do business, but it gets ignored when buried behind the story of the mayor taking bribes. Another instance of a story behind the story getting ignored was the recent cancellation of the building of a new commuter tunnel from New Jersey to New York City. Governor Christie cancelled it based on projections that the cost overruns would amount from anywhere from $1.1 billion to $5.3 billion, leaving the taxpayers of New Jersey on the hook. People have argued on both sides of the issue and whether it makes sense to build the tunnel or not. But nobody seems to question the problem of cost overruns, or why there would be such high overruns to begin with. Think about it; if you are a musician and book a gig for six months from now for $1,000, and then the price of gas goes up, can you then go back to the party that hired you, halfway through the gig, and say, “sorry, the cost is now $2,000, because I had some cost overruns.” No, you can’t. So when a project is put out for bid, whatever bid price was accepted should be adhered to. There’s no reason the cost should double because of “overruns.” In fact, since everyone seems to accept that as part of the construction business, the real cost is actually not the budgeted cost anyway, since it is assumed there will be overruns. It makes no sense, yet no one brings up why there would be such drastic changes in the cost of the tunnel to begin with. Another example goes back to the days of the Clinton presidency, when everyone was up in arms that President Clinton had a dalliance with an intern, and the Republicans wanted to nail him for possibly lying under oath. One of the major players in the whole charade was Linda Tripp, often described as a clerk or secretary, with a salary of $88,000 a year. No one ever questioned why a government secretary, or clerk, was making $88,000 a year. And this was back in the ‘90s. Today, adjusted for inflation, that would be much more. And of course add on the generous government health care and pension, and you see that a government clerk, or secretary, is being paid a pretty gaudy salary. With all the worry about deficits and wasteful spending, just what exactly are government employees being paid? And on top of that, Tripp apparently had hundreds and hundreds of emails with Monica Lewinski. And if she was spending so much time on Monica, odds are she was doing that with others as well. So here we were paying this person a high government salary, and she’s spending half her day sending emails to friends. So why didn’t anyone see this story behind the story and question what the heck the government is doing in hiring people, and paying them generous salaries, and letting them spend their time on frivolous activities? Why didn’t anyone look into that? Just another example of things coming to light and being ignored. I’m sure that’s still going on, and our hard earned tax dollars are being wasted on clerks and secretaries with high salaries and nothing to do but correspond with their friends. It’s time to investigate stories as they happen, in detail, and see what our government is doing. It would be a good first step in trying to fix a broken system. Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.