Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, August 11, 2012

MVNews this week:  Page 18



 Mountain Views News Saturday August 11, 2012 

HOWARD Hays As I See It


“It was unreal. I couldn’t hold myself back – we were jumping up and down, hugging each 
other, tearing up. “

- Gregory Galgana Villar III


 I’d been watching prime-time Olympic coverage, but stayed up (relatively) late 
to watch this event live – a tape-delay wouldn’t do. There was no cockiness among 
participants or media prognosticators about the outcome; it could go either way.

 There I was a few feet from the screen, but felt the blast of emotion and elation from 
those hugs and high-fives as I shouted to myself, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

 I’m not even clear what Greg Villar does. He grew up in Long Beach, attended high 
school in his parents’ home country of the Philippines and, from the time he was a 
junior at Cal Poly Pomona, has worked for NASA.

 For the past year-and-a-half he’s been an engineer at JPL, as he explains it, “part of a team that was 
responsible for coordinating operational readiness tests . . . that involve hundreds of engineers with the 
goal of making sure all of the tools, procedures, process and interactions between the teams function 
correctly, while under a flight-like timeline.”

 Villar says the Curiosity rover is “the size of a Mini Cooper and weighs almost 2,000 pounds . . . 
equipped with 10 scientific payloads, a total of 17 cameras, an arm, a drill, and a battery powered by heat 
from naturally decaying radioactive material.”

 Others have described the mission not as “deep space”, but “deep time” – landing in an ancient crater 
facing a mountain taller than anything in our lower 48 states, with the opportunity to study how things 
were eons ago. In the case of Mars, it’s to explore not just the present evidence of frozen water beneath 
the surface, but past evidence of flowing rivers at a time when life was not just possible, but probable.

 A better description would be offered in Bob Eklund’s “Looking Up” column. For myself, I’m thinking 
of grade school when the teacher would wheel in the black-and-white TV for live coverage of take-offs 
and splashdowns and to share in the pride upon seeing our country’s flag stenciled on the side of the 
Mercury capsule.

 Last May, the SpaceX company became the first private firm to successfully launch a rocket ferrying 
supplies to the International Space Station. That mission, though, brought none of the pride and 
patriotism evoked by our NASA spaceflights – or the impeccable landing of Curiosity last Sunday night 
and the celebrations at JPL in La Canada Flintridge.

 It’s symbolic of the choices we’ll be making in November. The NASA projects demonstrate what we’re 
capable of achieving as a nation; in privatized space launches, the goal is for somebody to make a buck.

 In accepting on our behalf the enormous commitment of the 1944 G.I. Bill, President Franklin Roosevelt 
explained, “It gives emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people 
do not intend to let them down.”

 President Dwight Eisenhower justified another major commitment, to create an interstate highway 
system, by explaining, “Our unity as a nation is sustained by free communication of thought and by easy 
transportation of people and goods.”

 Embarking on a new era of space exploration with a commitment to land on the moon, President John 
Kennedy told the crowd near the emerging Houston Space Center, “We set sail on this new sea because 
there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the 
progress of all people.”

 Roosevelt spoke of commitment to those who served our country, Eisenhower of “our unity as a 
nation”, and Kennedy of “the progress of all people”. Enabling individuals to make more money was not 
a primary goal, yet each of these three endeavors benefited our nation’s economic prosperity in more 
profound and lasting ways than maintaining a low tax rate for hedge fund managers ever could.

 The connection between public initiative and individual prosperity was emphasized by Massachusetts 
Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren; “You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want 
to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the 
rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the 
rest of us paid for.” In return, she says, “. . . part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of 
(those profits) and pay it forward for the next kid who comes along.”

 President Obama elaborated last month as he told a campaign rally, “If you were successful, somebody 
along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped 
to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive . . . The point is, is 
that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things 

 Some argue that decent roads, education, healthcare and even protection of our property and person be 
reserved for individuals able to afford them in the private marketplace. But our greatest accomplishments 
as Americans have been those we’ve achieved together; from the very founding of our republic, through 
programs for veterans, interstate highways, a space program and a Mini Cooper-sized mobile lab sitting 
in a crater some 140 million miles away – there “because there is new knowledge to be gained . . . for the 
progress of all people.”

 The day after Curiosity touched down, my son called to tell me of a sign he saw on his way to work. It 
was of a large American flag, unfurled behind a fierce and proud bald eagle, with a caption underneath 
reading something like, “The British landed the Olympic Games. We landed on Mars.”

 U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A.!

 We have spent a fair amount of time debating what government 
overspending is doing to us fiscally. True enough that the lengthy 
string of yearly deficits has put our total national debt at a level where 
people are beginning to seriously consider whether we’ll be able to pay 
it all back. But all the discussion about this macro issue has deflected 
attention from some of the micro issues that really are more serious 
problems. Government spending isn’t just a problem because it creates 
too much debt. It’s a problem because it is inherently inefficient and 
incurably prone to fraud and abuse.

 Problem #1 Success In Government Is Measured By Size, Success In Business Is Measured By 
Service: The bottom line for any private business is profits. There is a tremendous emphasis and 
motivation to increase profits, and this is a good thing. Good, because the only way to consistently 
deliver increasing profits is by servicing customers better than your competitor. Whether it’s 
lowering prices or offering greater benefits, businesses have to service their customers. When 
they do, profits grow. When they stop, profits start to shrink. Many businesses actually go out of 
business if they fail to deliver service. Ever heard about a government agency shutting its doors?

 Government managers and department heads have no profit number by which to guide their 
actions. They have no way of measuring how much service they are delivering per unit of cost. 
Instead, Department Heads and Managers build power by increasing the size of their fiefdoms. 
Consider a few examples.

 Statistics cited by the Wall Street Journal indicate there are 50% fewer fires in the U.S. today 
than there were 30 years ago, primarily because of better building and fire prevention techniques. 
But we have 200% more firefighters. The reason is that hiring more firefighters makes politicians 
look like they’re “doing something”. Our own University of California system has increased the 
number of its senior level administrators 4 times faster than the number of teachers it employs. 
Building a bigger department increases prestige and power in Sacramento, just like it does in 

 Problem #2 When People Spend Someone Else’s Money, They Spend More Freely: It’s only 
human nature that we would be more frugal with our own money than with someone else’s. 
It is not a coincidence that college costs and medical costs have grown faster the more that 
government has involved itself in these two areas. If the government is willing to loan me money 
at below market interest rates for college tuition, I’m probably going to go to spend more on 
college than if I had to come up with the money. If I’m willing to spend more, colleges will oblige 
by charging me more. If the government is paying for my visit to the emergency room (the most 
expensive place to receive medical care), I won’t think twice about going to the emergency room 
if I have the flu. If I had to pay for it, I’d think more than twice. I wouldn’t go.

 This common sense observation also applies to fraud. It’s much easier to rationalize fraud when 
it’s the faceless government than when it’s your neighbor. The New York Times reported that 
its investigation had determined 98% of Long Island railroad workers who retired immediately 
applied for and received extra disability benefits, on top of their retirement benefits. There is no 
job in America that legitimately causes 98% of its workers to be disabled. It’s fraud.

 Problem #3 There Is No Voting Constituency Built When A Politician Saves Taxpayer Money: 
Every government program has a relatively small number of beneficiaries compared to the 
number of taxpayers footing the bill. If a politician writes a law that gives soybean farmers more 
money, most soybean farmers will be very motivated to keep the program alive. They will be a 
very vocal constituency and will probably vote for the politician to keep the pork flowing. If the 
politician shuts down that wasteful soybean program, he certainly ticks off the soybean farmers, 
but he rarely hears a word of thanks from the taxpayers. The reason is simple. The taxpayers 
aren’t focused on soybeans; the soybean farmers are very focused on soybeans. Government 
spending builds a constituency of those who will receive the benefits, and history has shown that 
each constituency becomes very vocal in defense of its benefits. 

 As we approach this election, we would all be well served to keep in the forefront of our minds 
the President’s own observations about the election. In one of his Olympic advertisements, he 
told us that this election is about two very different visions of what this country should be. This 
was not just hyperbole. At the outset of his campaign for the presidency, and now in his attempt 
to win re-election, this president has promised that he will transform the U.S. If he has his way, 
we will move from a system of private business where serving customer needs is king to a system 
of government bureaucracies where serving the politicians’ needs is king. 

About the author: Gregory J. Welborn is a freelance writer and has spoken to several civic and religious organizations on 
cultural and moral issues. He lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 3 children and is active in the community. He 
can be reached at