People, you just can#039;t make this up

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2003

There's a rather frightening disease spreading across America like wildfire. It's called incompetence and it appears to be worsening without a cure in sight.

In his book "The Peter Principle", Dr. Lawrence J. Peter postulates that "a person rises within any given hierarchy until they reach their level of incompetence, at which point they will rise no further." Furthermore he points out that the only work that ever gets done is by people that haven't yet reached their level of incompetency. I personally think that Dr. Peter was an optimist, and that the malady is worse than we imagined. Of course, dear reader, you may think me to be cynical, however

Consider this. I had to check my wife into the hospital last week with a number of ailments, one of which was pneumonia. As she was chilled, she asked the attendants for a blanket. They were out of blankets, so I had to drive home to get her one. Seems to me that at a thousand dollars plus per day, blankets would be furnished.

How many of us have been to a fast food restaurant and received only partial orders, or wrong items. The scary thing about that is those are entry level jobs, and if an employee can't cut it there, where so they go, since there is no down.

The New York Telephone Co. has to test 57,000 people before it can find 2,100 who are qualified enough to become operators and repair technicians. You can't make it up!

What do we mean by incompetence? In it's strictest sense, it refers to a lack of ability, but today, for many American's incompetence has become a catchword for a much larger malaise.

We have lost our purpose, our moral ambition, a sense of social obligation. Incompetence is the failure to do what you ought to do, either because you can't or because you won't. Incompetence is the high school graduate who can't read or write or do simple arithmetic, or the citizen who believes that the Congress is appointed by the President, and the ninety-four million Americans who don't know that their own planet orbits the sun once a year. You can't make this up!!

Incompetence is unsafe automobiles that have to be recalled, houses with warped floors and flimsy walls, furniture made of stapled together particle board, and plastic parts that break before the product's out of the box.

The nation's fleet of B-2 Stealth bombers, expected to cost over $70.2 billion, will need 120 air-conditioned garages costing $1.6 billion because the cockpit windows don't open, and damaging heat can't escape.

Sometimes it's hard to tell where incompetence ends and outright fraud, greed, and corruption begins. The HUD scandal (cost: $4 billion dollars and counting) is all about ineptitude and mismanagement, but it's also about respectable people lining their pockets by subverting housing programs intended to help the poor. The savings and loan scandal is about gross stupidity and shortsightedness, but also about bankers pumping up profits by making reckless, high-risk loans, feeling safe because the American tax payer will ultimately foot the bill (and what a bill it is, according to the General Accounting Office, and the ninety-four million Americans who don't know that their own planet orbits the sun once a year. You can't make this up!!

from $500 billion to $1.4 trillion. That is more than all of World War 11 cost, or put another way, it will cost every family in the United States $30 every month for the next thirty years. You can't make it up!!

America once had a standard of living, defined as real gross domestic product per capita, that was the envy of the world. But it has begun to slide (rapidly I might add) as we farm out our production in everything from the clothes we wear to our automobiles and even lumber we build houses with, to foreign companies. The effects of this are being felt across the nation from our young children to our aging.

The United States has an infant mortality rate that puts us in twenty-first place among developed nations. That means that babies are more likely to die before their first birthday here than in twenty other countries. It looks to me like we are the fastest growing third world country, and that should awake the anger in all of us. You can't make this stuff up. It's all too real.