FauxPolitik

Friday, January 07, 2005

Oh Yeah? I may not post a lot, but . . . well. I'm sexy as the day is long. Anyway, without getting too Lileksian on you, the boy has been out of school for two weeks (an alarmingly long Xmas vacation, if you ask me -- which you didn't) and the wife has been busy like you read about, now commuting two hours plus into Boston once or twice a week, on top of the hour-plus to go see her main client in Worcester most other days. If I've had a spare moment, it has been spent catching my breath, trying to think of something new to make for dinner, or setting up/taking down seasonally appropriate decorations. (You can't say Christmas in this town.)

But still, not much to write about, is there? Yet another comment about the tsunami disaster? Redundancy squared. A friend of mine was in Sri Lanka when it hit, so I'm well aware of how awful it all is. Enough, though.

There was this piece in the Weekly Standard recently that looked at how a federal ruling may put an end to minority set-asides in government spending.

Masked by evasive terminology and justified by tendentious studies, minority business set-asides persist. Politicians know that lawsuits against such programs are costly and time-consuming, and they are not above retaliating against firms with the temerity to sue. And if the government loses after years of litigation, the taxpayers cover the legal fees.

Now that calculus may change, because a federal judge in Miami has just given the victims of preferences an important new tool. On November 10, the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District ($792 million budget) recommended ending its two-decade-old contracting preference program, even though there was no pending litigation. Board members had become worried about being held personally liable for implementing the program.

I'm of mixed feelings on the matter. I'd like to see preferences and set-asides (read: quotas -- those things that we officially don't use in America) demolished and repudiated as unconstitutional (which they are, prima facie -- right, Razor?), but I think this method lets the country off the hook. It begins the process of bringing down the color code, clearly a step in the direction of MLK's "dream." But it skips the difficult debate on the merits of a government that ceases to care what color its citizens are, for any reason. Not to get all touchy-feely, but there is something to be said for closure. This is one of the reasons that the "reparations" movement, as repugnant as it is philosophically, has not been categorically rejected in Washington. There is a real attraction to the idea of making a single payout -- as long as it clears the books of any supposed debt owed to today's black Americans. I don't much like that logic, and I'd rather see reparations (and, in the same way, preferences) fall on the merits; but I do understand the attraction.

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