According to Wikipedia, the â€œPeter Principleâ€ states that in a hierarchal organization, such as a company, agency, or government, people tend to rise to their level of incompetence.
Many of us have quoted this principle in our professional lives to explain how someone totally undeserving has risen in the ranks to a high level of authority. We all know, for instance, someone who became a supervisor or manager within a company or agency where we worked, based upon questionable qualifications at best, and then proceeded to dismantle a previously installed good working system within the organization that promoted him or her.
Of course, the higher a position of authority and power the incompetent rises to, the more damage the incompetent can and inevitably will do. And nowhere is this more evident that the within the present executive branch of the government of the United States.
Consider the following facts: The executive branch includes and encompasses the president, vice-president, cabinet, all of the government agencies, and the military. Those agencies, which include CIA, FBI, Departments of State, Defense, Transportation, Homeland Security, Justice, Health and Human Services, FDA, EPA, Treasury, just to name a few, are all headed by folks whom are politically appointed by the president.
We have all witnessed (and cringed at) the incompetence of Bush-appointee Michael Brown as Director of FEMA after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans.
We have all witnessed (and cringed at) the incompetence of the various agencies, including Homeland Security, to ascertain the location of Osama Bin Laden, the tallest Arab in the world, traveling with a dialysis machine strapped to his backâ€¦.on foot.
We have all witnessed (and cringed at) the debacle of Bush-appointee US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez at the Justice Department
We have all witnessed (and cringed) as one by one, the nations of the world turned their backs on our policies, while the State Department repeatedly demonstrated an total inability to negotiate any agreement of substance with anyone, anywhere, over anything.
And then thereâ€™s a government agency whose sole reason for existence is insuring that the entirety of the aviation industry in the US is safe, orderly, expeditious, healthy, and economically viable. That is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an federal agency under the Department of Transportation (DOT).
The FAA, as much as any other agency and perhaps even more so, has now demonstrated the utter damage that can be done when â€œdecidersâ€ rise to the ultimate level of their incompetence, and then assign other incompetents to positions of authority, making incompetent practices the order of the day.
On January 20, 2001, when the Bush administration came into office, there were 15,505 air traffic controllers in the FAA, working 24/7/365 to ensure that each commercial flight in the US and surrounding oceanic airspace was kept safe from collision with other airplanes, as well as from terrestrial features such as mountains and other obstacles. The FAA administrator at the time, Jane Garvey, understood that employees were the linchpin of any organization, and treated the controllers, whom hold the lives of perhaps a million people in their hands every day, with respect.
In 2002, when Garveyâ€™s five-year term was up, Bush appointed Marion Blakey as FAA administrator and the horror show began. Marionâ€™s marching orders were simple: Run the FAA like a profit-oriented business (as opposed to the safety-oriented non-profit agency it was), and make sure that the bottom line ($$) is the primary concern. In the course of doing that, render the air traffic control workforce totally subservient to that almighty dollar profit. After all, the money saved at the expense of safety is needed for Iraq.
Blakeyâ€™s five-year term was up last month (thank goodness) after decimating the air traffic system. She imposed working conditions so heinous that almost every veteran controller reaching retirement age now leaves immediately, as opposed to staying on for perhaps six or more additional years, as was the case under Administrator Garvey. Blakey reduced salaries for new hires by thirty percent, which resulted in salaries so low that qualified young folks either donâ€™t accept job offers from the FAA, or, having given it a shot, resign within the first year for better-paying jobs and better treatment from their employers. Those remaining controllers trapped in the system endure draconian, jailhouse-like work rules and pay reduction imposed by Marion and her thugs at the direction of the Bush Syndicate.
The net result is that the controller workforce has been reduced by ten percent while the volume of air traffic has increased back above pre-911 levels. This means fewer controllers to work more airplanes, with less absolutely-necessary mind-resting breaks. How safe do you feel knowing that a fatigued controller who can no long think straight because of an excessively long, exhausting session at the radar scope is working the jet youâ€™re flying in?
Furthermore, the FAA, in another burst of utter incompetence, has adopted an insane policy of “fix upon failure, eliminating the previously successful planned periodic maintenance of the electronic equipment that provides the tools for controllers and pilots to do their jobs! So, knowing that, if you are on a jet in bad weather near mountains and all the radar and/or radios on the ground fail as they did last week in the thousands of square miles of airspace controlled by the Memphis Air Route Traffic Control Center, how safe do you feel as the lightening is flashing and crackling all around you?
The immediate visible result of this FAA mismanaged, Bush-directed incompetence is the record flight delays that America has experienced this summer. The delays arenâ€™t over yet, either. Last week during Congressional hearings called by the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Aviation to find the truth behind these monstrous delays, Rep. Mike Capuano (D) Massachusetts, had a very heated exchange with Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell which I urge you to listen to at this link.
Rep. Capuano demanded explanations and relief. That demand has evidently fallen on deaf ears, because the decimation of what had been the safest air traffic system in the world isnâ€™t showing any signs of stopping. And remember, FAA is under DOT, which is directly under the White House and the president.
But then, why should we have expected anything different? After all, as President Ronald Reagan has been (falsely) purported to have written in his now-published diaries on May 17, 1986:
“A moment I’ve been dreading: George [Bush Sr.] brought his ne’er-do -well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I’ll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they’ll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work.”
Reagan didnâ€™t actually write this in his diary. But he could have. The Peter Principle at work. Great, huh?