By editorial board • 

When government fails, everyone feels the pain

News Item: Yamhill County foster parents allegedly subject toddlers to starvation, degradation, cruelty and sexual and physical abuse for 2 1/2 years, permanently stunting their physical and mental development, while state Department of Human Services child protection caseworkers steadfastly look the other way.

News Item: Workers with the same agency continue to place children with a Portland provider despite an avalanche of abuse and neglect complaints dating back 15 years, including 50 in the 2012-14 biennium alone, raising issues as shocking as anal rape.

News Item: Accorded lead role in one of the highest profile cases in its history — a string of white supremacist murders along the West Coast — Oregon State Police leadership turns to a detective with a lengthy record of suspect behavior and stands idly by as he proceeds to falsify, withhold and misplace evidence, making a mockery of the prosecution.

News Item: Unimpeded for more than a dozen years, Oregon’s Department of Energy repeatedly signs off on a long series of fraudulent, suspect and/or utterly one-sided raids on the Oregon treasury through the scandalous Business Energy Tax Credit program.

News Item: Despite 25 years of complaints about glass-smelting toxics in Portland, it takes a Forest Service moss study to rouse the state Department of Environmental Quality and federal Environmental Protection Agency from their regulatory slumber, and even then they fail for more than a year in their most basic mission of warning the public.

News Item: A member of the FBI’s most elite national crisis-response team fires two perfectly defensible shots at an armed and fleeing Oregon fugitive, inexplicably decides to cover them up and seems to have little trouble enlisting his colleagues in an outrageous subversion of justice. 

What do these items have in common? They feature government guardians of our health and welfare failing miserably and shamefully, with the dereliction appearing to run from the very bottom to the very top.

There are two ways to regard this:

First, we are wasting our money on government bureaucrats. We should strip away all regulation and count on the free market to eventually correct itself whenever greed, incompetence and corruption threaten citizen well-being.

Second, we have every right to demand better from the people representing our interests. We can and should establish a much greater degree of accountability, extending all the way up to the elected officials who created the programs, appointed the overseers and gave us a sacred pledge the intended results would be delivered.

We subscribe to the latter. We feel a major part of the problem is the private sector regulatees using money, influence and lobbying to subvert the public sector regulators, with the resulting corruption permeating the agencies under their control to the point it paralyzes their line workers.

We need state and federal watchdogs. And to be effective, they must maintain a fierce independence from the people, programs and organizations in their charge. A culture of looking the other way when things go wrong, then covering up to the maximum extent possible, is inexcusable.


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