Morning Links

Thursday, September 1st, 2011
  • This looks like a case we’ll be hearing more about. From the article, it isn’t clear why a 20-man SWAT team (allegedly) would have been necessary.
  • Woman punches bear in the face, saves dog.
  • I’ll be giving a “webinar” for the Students for Liberty on Wednesday, September 14th.
  • Will Saletan wants to know how anyone could possibly oppose Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I don’t even know where to begin.
  • Good piece on Jon Huntsman, who I’m starting to think would be someone worth rooting for should the GOP nominate him to run against Obama. Which of course is a good sign that the GOP will never nominate him.
  • Feds tell trucking company they aren’t allowed to fire an alcoholic driver. But they’re still liable if he drives drunk and kills someone.
Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

72 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Bob | 

    Alcoholism is classified as a disability?

    No one will be able to think of a way to abuse that, No Sir!

  2. #2 |  Andrew | 

    The Huntsman article leaves out another important fact in his favor: he likes Captain Beefheart.

  3. #3 |  Marty | 

    2nd shooting in Long Island in 2 days- an officer was killed by friendly fire when they gunned down another kid. in both instances, the victims were alleged to be armed with KNIVES. To me, if true, this is a perfect time to consider tasers. In the 2nd shooting, they had him outnumbered 20 to 1 and shot him twice in the back as he ran away.
    good work, boys. damn.

  4. #4 |  MattJ | 

    Wil Saletan’s article makes me want to give money to Rick Berman.

  5. #5 |  Andrew | 

    Of course, this paragraph shows why Huntsman is probably a distant third for most libertarians behind Paul and Johnson:

    “Huntsman may be the pro-life cause’s most accomplished executive. He signed bills banning second-trimester abortions, reclassifying third-trimester abortions as a third-degree felony, and requiring abortion providers to explain the pain unborn children can experience during abortion. He signed a trigger law that would ban abortion outright if Roe is overturned. He opposes embryonic stem-cell research. And by establishing a state legal fund to defend these laws, he showed willingness to uphold state prerogatives.”

  6. #6 |  SamK | 

    Not sure the federal suit is all bad:

    >the driver at the Fort Smith location had worked for the company for five years without incident. In late June 2009, the employee reported to the company that he believed he had an alcohol problem. Under U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, the employer suspended the employee from his driving position and referred him for substance abuse counseling. However, the employer also informed the driver that the employer would never return him to a driving position, even upon the successful completion of a counseling program.

    If he’s a good employee who is self-regulating and removed from service during rehab I’m interested in hearing more. There are certainly reasons and signs one could bring up to show the belief that he had been drinking on the job etc, but if it’s accurate to say he’d been driving for five years without incident (depending on how you define incident) and self-reported *without* an impending report he was skirting by self-reporting then I’d say the system is working as intended. I’m a big fan of preventing employers from taking action against employees based on their personal life where it does not *directly* affect their work. Yes, I know I’m a commie pig for it. I don’t like employers firing workers for smoking at home or having otherwise legal firearms either. The question of whether alcoholism should be an EEOC protected class?…that’s a bit odd to me and I don’t think it’s appropriate.

  7. #7 |  Mike | 

    Bob #1. Doesn’t the government want to make being ugly a disability?

  8. #8 |  Bob | 

    Marty:

    Yeah, I remember that one where the Nassau cop got smoked. Another cop was just cruising around, looking for kicks and showed up at the scene of a police shooting AFTER the civilian was already dead. So he shot the first civilian -looking guy he saw who had a weapon.

    Too bad it was a plain clothed officer. Who probably didn’t need to be there either… Who the fuck is training these morons in Nassau? What, do they just cruise around on their time off looking for people to shoot?

  9. #9 |  namowal | 

    Ugh – I read that Slate article yesterday and about vomited on myself. The good news is that a majority of the comments over there are anti-MADD.

  10. #10 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “Good piece on Jon Huntsman, who I’m starting to think would be someone worth rooting for should the GOP nominate him to run against Obama.”

    How can this guy possibly be associated with the GOP?
    He doesn’t wear a flagpin, believes in Evolution, doesn’t like war, and doesn’t
    say ‘Nu-kyoo-lar.’

  11. #11 |  Aaron | 

    I’m with SamK. Yes, fire people for drinking on the job. Firing a guy who has not apparently been drinking on the jobs for saying “I think I might have some problems with drinking” is a few steps beyond that. Alcoholism isn’t drinking a lot. It’s closer to being unable to drink moderately. The smart ones choose not to drink at all.

  12. #12 |  Curt | 

    As far as firing the alcoholic is concerned, I think the reality is it’s really hard to fault the company. If that guy got treatment, came back to work, and then killed someone while drunk driving a year later, the company would’ve been strung up by the balls. When that case went in front of a jury and they were told that the company was aware that the driver had a history of alcoholism, the jury would vote for a massive judgement against the company.

    That said, I still think it was a pretty shitty thing for the company to do. It seems that the guy took responsibility for his issues and looked for treatment before it became a problem. The unintended consequence is that now the next guy with a drinking problem won’t self-report and seek treatment because he knows he’ll get fired. Then, when he kills someone while drunk driving, it’ll come out in court that he didn’t self-report because he knew he’d get fired.

  13. #13 |  Griffin3 | 

    Cops confiscate 13 guns from lady in Lakewood (Cleveland, OH suburb) from condo, using manager’s key while she is away, no warrant or motive given, one year ago. Police refuse to return weapons or divulge any information w/o court order.

    –> http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2011/08/30/cops-confiscate-lakewood-ladys-arsenal-motive-pending

    By way of Old NFO –> http://oldnfo.blogspot.com/2011/08/confiscation-because-we-can.html

  14. #14 |  Mattocracy | 

    MADD needs to just change their name to MAD: Mothers Against Drinking.

  15. #15 |  Muddy | 

    @Marty-

    If someone is threatening your life with deadly physical force (a knife), why should you defend yourself with anything less?

    NYS Penal Law allows ANYONE, not just a cop, to use DPF when defending himself or someone else from the threat of DPF.

    @Bob-

    You have no idea what you’re talking about regarding the friendly fire shooting in Massapequa Park.

    The Nassau County Police responded to a call for a man w/ a knife. He had menaced an elderly woman with it. They found the subject at home. The kid apparently or allegedly charged one of the Nassau cops with the knife. The police officer shot him.

    There were both uniformed and plain clothes cops from the NCPD on scene. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Police , who were nearby at the Massapequa Park Long Island Rail Road station, heard the call and also responded to the house after the initial shooting. (They are a completely separate agency from the county police but still have jurisdiction in the area.)

    A busy body retired NYPD sergeant who lives in the area, who had absolutely no business at the scene whatsoever, was nosing around the scene.

    A plain clothes Nassau cop was coming out of the house. The retired NYPD sergeant yelled “gun” or something to that effect when he saw the Nassau cop. The MTA PD cop responded to the busy body retired NYPD cop, and shot the plain clothes NCPD cop, thinking the Nassau cop was a threat.

    So to answer your question: They do not just cruise around on their time off looking for people to shoot.

  16. #16 |  CK | 

    It seems to me that the trucking company has a perfect out if the driver has a fatal accident while driving drunk. The force of federal law prevented them from removing the driver from his driving job. It would be fun to watch the ensuing courtroom drama, who will prevail federal protection of the disabled or civil protection of the dead motorist. Federal Mandates do override state civil laws or what’s a federalized nation for?

  17. #17 |  Robert | 

    While he has several good things about him, unfortunately Jon Huntsman just wants to fellatiate the chicoms like most other politicians.

  18. #18 |  Mark | 

    While you may disagree that alcoholism is a disability — there are some valid arguments IMO for both sides of the debate — certainly, given that it is classified as a disability, this SUIT should be far less grating. And lets just be clear here: We are reading an EEOC filing, not a judicial opinion. So the Courts have yet to rule on the case — this is the EEOC doing its job. The EEOC is charged to enforce employment and anti-discrimination laws, and, whether you agree with this or not, I would think that an objective, rational individual can see how this case is at least worthy of debate.

    At face value, this case seems absolutely outrageous. But if you take the time to read what is actually being claimed, it makes a lot more sense. So they preclude this guy from ever acting as a driver again because he has a history of alcohol abuse. I’ll let other people come up with their own analogy using more commonly accepted disabilities. And keep in mind, again, that this is an EEOC filing — they are making the best case for their client. We have yet to here whether the additional risk of relapse constitutes a bona fide occupational qualification and gives the company a pass to discriminate against this guy (just like they wouldn’t be expected to accommodate a blind person).

    ““The ADA mandates that persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to achieve in the workplace. Old Dominion’s policy and practice of never returning an employee who self-reports an alcohol problem to a driving position violates that law,” said Katharine Kores, director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, whose jurisdiction includes Arkansas. “While the EEOC agrees that an employer’s concern regarding safety on our highways is a legitimate issue, an employer can both ensure safety and comply with the ADA.””

  19. #19 |  Goober | 

    Chicken shit coward cops. As I’ve said before, if you are too scared of the citizenry to take the time to make sure that the guy you’re shooting isn’t holding a hose nozzle or a notebook instead of a gun or a knife, then you shouldn’t be a cop. All this bragging about the “thin blue line” of men willing to risk their lives to protect us all, and when the shit really goes down, the cowards kill a man because they think, maybe, he might have a knife and he is RUNNING AWAY. Must have been terrifyingly scary. I can see how a man decked out in full body armor and tactical gear would have feared for his life when he saw a 140 pound man runnign away with something – can’t say what, but maybe a knife – in his hands.

    The Pastor Creach case here in Spokane is a perfect example. Cop is sitting, unmarked and plain clothes, on Paster Creach’s property. Creach goes out to see who is on his place at 2:00 in the morning, with a gun. Cop gets out, gun drawn, and tells Creach to put the gun down. Creach puts it in his rear waistband. Don’t know what happened next, but Creach gets billy-clubbed, goes down to the ground, and the cop claims his hand went behind his back where the gun was, so the cop kills him.

    If the cop really believed all that bullshit that he spews about protecting the public, don’t you think that he could have waited one more split second to see if Creach was actually going to grab the gun before killing a 70 plus year old man that he’d just billy-clubbed? As a man is falling to the ground after being billy-clubbed, could there have been any other explanation for his hand going behind his back? i would certainly think so.

    Don’t listen to cops when they tell you that they risk their lives for you. They think that their lives are more valuable than yours, and so does the State. Otherwise, why do you get a longer sentence if you assault a cop than you do if you assault your neighbor who is not a cop? They will kill anyone on any premise to defend their lives from even the most vanishing of threats.

  20. #20 |  Highway | 

    CK, it works as an excuse, but it doesn’t work as a shield from a civil lawsuit. The argument will still be “The company did not do enough to ensure that the driver did not operate the vehicle while impaired.” It doesn’t matter to the civil suit that their preferred (and safest from a liability standpoint) remedy to the exposure they would face is shut down by a federal agency. There were other ways that the person *could* be employed, or other safeguards they *could* have made. That they didn’t is the company’s fault, not the EEOC.

    I loathe the EEOC and the anti-freedom-of-association laws like this. But it’s a completely separate thing from the possible liability of continuing to employ an alcoholic truck driver.

  21. #21 |  Mike Laursen | 

    One thing I vividly remember from a trip to Alaska is the number of obituaries giving violent causes of death, by drowning and such.

  22. #22 |  Pablo | 

    The Slate article is a good example of the left’s abandonment of civil liberties. Saletan seems unaware of the “DUI exception to the Constitution” and how it has eroded the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendment protections in DUI cases. He seems to think that DUI roadblock checkpoints are just fine, for example.

  23. #23 |  Mario | 

    Regarding the truck driver with the self-admitted alcohol abuse problem, I think this the main problem here is that the ADA represents another example of what is called an unfunded mandate. The problem is that the employer is in a double bind. Fire the guy, and he violates the ADA; keep the guy, and his liability goes through the roof.

    In a free market, the employer would have the absolute legal right to let the guy go. But, I think that if the federal government wants to mandate the that driver has a protected status under the ADA, then the federal government ought to pay any costs for liability insurance above what they otherwise would be, and should the guy get into an accident because of his “disability,” the government should be on the hook for what insurance doesn’t cover.

    Note to drivers: seek help, but keep your employer out of the loop.

  24. #24 |  Robert | 

    So, if trucking company ABC decides to go out of business and subsequently all of it’s empyees are out of a job, then the next day a new company “XYZ Trucking” is formed and hires all (but one) of the former trucking compays employees, how would that play out in court?

  25. #25 |  Robert | 

    Gad, I should proofread more…

  26. #26 |  Toonhead | 

    A LEO actually gets arrested: http://www.kbtx.com/home/headlines/Precinct_2_Deputy_Constable_Arrested_for_Kidnapping_128863788.html

  27. #27 |  Highway | 

    Robert, that’s almost certainly not economically feasible. Closing out the accounts of a current business is a real pain, starting up new accounts is as bad or worse. They’ve certainly got lines of credit, unpaid bills, unpaid invoices, taxes in, taxes owed, etc. etc. Plus, Old Dominion Trucking is well known, has a customer base, that the new company wouldn’t.

    If it was done, it’s likely that a civil suit could be brought on behalf of the employee. I don’t know if it would work or if he’d win, but it could still harm a new business.

  28. #28 |  SamK | 

    Personally I think there should be a liability exclusion for following legal mandates and continuing as normal. All civil suits noting liability for an action would need to be targeted at the federal government since its orders make it the responsible party. When the govt interjects itself into business practices (yes, I argue there are times it should) it becomes responsible for the effects of that interjection. Yes, our taxes pay for it if they screw up.

  29. #29 |  celticdragon | 

    The unintended consequence is that now the next guy with a drinking problem won’t self-report and seek treatment because he knows he’ll get fired. Then, when he kills someone while drunk driving, it’ll come out in court that he didn’t self-report because he knew he’d get fired.

    Exactly. Firing somebody who was trying to do the right thing merely guarantees that nobody will do that in the future. The company is incentivising the wrong behavior.

  30. #30 |  EH | 

    That Nassau story’s reporter is the worst professional writer I’ve read in some time. So. Much. Hedging. Anyway, has it been rewritten several times? When I read it about two hours ago I don’t remember there being any mention of SWAT at all, yet it was in Radley’s snippet above, and now it’s in there again.

  31. #31 |  Brandon | 

    The comments on the Slate story are telling. Those who support MADD quickly resort to ridicule and demagoguery, and not one of them makes a rational point. Is this because MADD has become too extreme to rationally support, or just because it’s never occurred to them that someone could have any objection to Mothers who don’t like Drunk Driving? Or, my theory, that the ones who blindly support MADD are products of our public school system and, having been told that MADD is good, lack the critical thinking skills to parse and respond to the arguments against MADD”s actions of the past two decades? I think it’s the last one, because they seem to consistently fall back on the “you support baby killers!” or “oh, it’s soooo hard to have to blow into a tube to start your own car (following the assumption that every car should have an interlock installed)” themes.

  32. #32 |  albatross | 

    Brandon:

    This provides a useful lesson: if you find that the very thought of saying bad things about some person or group is offensive or hard to imagine, there is a reasonable chance that you’re blinding yourself.

  33. #33 |  Radley Balko | 

    The company is incentivising the wrong behavior.

    So how do you address the problem is that if the guy kills someone because he was drunk behind the wheel, and it comes out that the company was aware of his alcohol problem, the company is pretty much screwed?

  34. #34 |  Highway | 

    Exactly. Firing somebody who was trying to do the right thing merely guarantees that nobody will do that in the future. The company is incentivising the wrong behavior.

    But the company is not acting in a vacuum. They’re not the only ones who are responding to perverse incentives. They are being pushed by the known liability risk that having a known alcoholic as a truck driver exposes them to. They are stuck between a society that blames anyone and everyone for anything bad that happens to an individual and governmental fiat orders that say they cannot do the most economically sound thing. The company isn’t even accused of outright firing the guy. The quote says that they would never return him to a driving position. Now, this might mean that they find another position for him, or they give him another job that doesn’t pay as much (likely). And that might cause the guy to quit. But it’s a wholly reasonable stance on the part of a trucking company in the current climate.

    If you’re an alcoholic, you don’t need to tell your employer. What does that get you? Well, it gets you railroaded into a ‘treatment’ program, pulled off your job, and a black mark. Whether people want to admit it or not, *this guy* and his drinking problem put him, and the company he worked for, in a bad spot. And you might think that he’s doing some good by manning up and admitting he’s got a problem, but if he can’t accept that there are permanent consequences for that, then that’s his fault, not others.

    And this just shows again what a completely crap law the ADA is.

  35. #35 |  Curt | 

    re: Driver with Addiction,

    Based on the fact that it’s an ADA issue, I think the company should be protected from liability associated with knowing he had a drinking problem if they also can show they were providing for his treatment and they had a testing program. Unfortunately, I don’t believe for a second that this would actually shield them from a jury verdict.

    Part of the problem with the employee seeking treatment is the employees have a rational fear that the employer will be notified. Likely through the insurance company.

    I think the only chance the company has is establishing a system where the employees know they can get help without the employer being notified. That way the company can claim they provided for his rehab, but were unaware of the problem. I’ve worked at companies that had this type of system.

    I still think this isn’t a very good answer, but at least it eliminates incentive to hide the problem and avoid treatment.

  36. #36 |  Robert | 

    Highway – Yeah, I’m aware of the economic problems that such an action would entail. I was just thinking more on the lines of if that would be legal or if they would lose in a civil case.

    Frankly, If I was the sole owner of such a company and I had enough to retire on, I’d say that the company would fulfill all existing contracts for service and after they were completed the whole company would be shut down for good.

  37. #37 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    @#15,
    Trigger-happy cop listens to cop and shoots cop. Gonna keep my comments to myself on this one.

  38. #38 |  2nd of 3 | 

    So how do you address the problem is that if the guy kills someone because he was drunk behind the wheel, and it comes out that the company was aware of his alcohol problem, the company is pretty much screwed?

    I’m not underastanding your logic here. I’m not trying to troll, but how is the company less screwed if their policy causes more secret drunks? If one of their drivers hits me, and I find out that their policy was basically one “don’t tell us we don’t want to know” I’m suing them for negligence, and I think a jury would be at least as sympathetic to that argument as the one saying they let a known drunk drive after he came forward. At least they have a defense under the latter scenario. Several in fact: 1) EEOC made us 2) We encouraged and allowed time for treatment 3) He showed good faith by coming forward and had no previous inccidents.

    Here’s a pretty good read on the topic of incentivising safe behavior, albeit in the medical and aerospace fields: http://www.slate.com/blogs/thewrongstuff/2010/06/28/risky_business_james_bagian_nasa_astronaut_turned_patient_safety_expert_on_being_wrong.html Pay special attention to the section on how important it is to get people to report.

    Just my 2 cents.

  39. #39 |  2nd of 3 | 

    In case that link doesn’t work, here is the excerpt I think is relevant:

    How do you get people to tell you about their close calls, or for that matter about their actual errors? Getting people to report problems has always been tricky in medicine.

    Yeah, reporting is a huge issue, because obviously you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know about it. Back in 1998, we conducted a huge cultural survey on patient safety, and one of the questions we asked was, “Why don’t you report?” And the major reason — most people think it’s going to be fear of malpractice or punishment, but it wasn’t those. It was embarrassment, humiliation. So the question became, How do you get people to not be afraid of that? We talked about it a lot, and we devised what we called a blameworthy act, which we defined as possessing one of the following three characteristics: it involves assault, rape, or larceny; the caregiver was drunk or on illicit drugs; or he or she did something that was purposefully unsafe. If you commit a blameworthy act, that’s not a safety issue, although it might manifest as one. That’s going to get handled administratively, and probably you should be embarrassed. But we made it clear that blameworthiness was a very narrow case.

    At the time that we conducted this survey, we were already considered to be a good reporting healthcare organization; our people reported more than in most places. But in the ten months after we implemented this definition, our reporting went up 30 fold. That’s 3,000 percent. And it has continued to go up ever since — not as dramatically, but a couple of percentage points every year.

    It’s pretty sobering that the reporting rate can go up so much. I realize that that’s good news, but it also suggests that there was (and to a lesser extent presumably still is) a lot of bad stuff going on out there that we never hear about.

    That’s true. But the only reason to have reporting is to identify vulnerabilities, not to count the number of incidents. Reports are never good for determining incidence or prevalence, because they’re essentially voluntary. Even if you say “You must report,” people will only report when they feel like it’s in their interest to do so.

    Do you punish people for failing to report serious medical issues?

    No. In theory, punishment sounds like a good idea, but in practice, it’s a terrible one. All it does is create a system where it’s not in people’s interest to report a problem.

  40. #40 |  Matt | 

    An employment contract is between an employer and an employee. Third parties have no business involving themselves in that contract. Including the government. Any interference is morally repulsive.

    One of the reasons I questioned my former liberal ways was because of Affirmative Action. I agreed with AA in principle: there are still racists out there and it isn’t very fair of them to discriminate against someone based on the color of their skin. But think of the complexities that go into a hiring decision…an employer can decide to not hire you based on the clothes you wear to the interview, or based on small mistakes in answers you give to their questions. If the government ever came to an employer and said “why didn’t you hire this (insert race here) person and instead hired this (other race) person” the employer could list a million reasons why the individual was unsuitable. The least we could claim about such an action is that it would be ineffective.

    If the government goes farther it makes things even worse. If there is a race-based quota, what happens if a company is forced to hire someone who isn’t qualified? This is kind of bad for the company, and absolutely horrible for the individual they hired. The company itself is going to resent them because they had to pass over better qualified applicants. If they aren’t good at their job they will be resented by their co-workers who will probably have a pretty good idea of how that employee got in that position in the first place.

    Same thing goes for firing someone: who is anyone else to pass judgement on an employer for firing an employee? It is the employer’s money, why can’t they spend it as they wish?

  41. #41 |  Mad Scientist | 

    Old Dominion shouldn’t have to “be shielded” from liability, when they can shield themselves quite easily by simply firing the guy. The injustice is that it’s illegal for them to do so. I can’t think of any reason to keep him behind the wheel of a rig that isn’t trumped by the best interests of Old Dominion, the companies it hauls cargo for, its insurance company, and everyone on the road. If they want to keep him around to drive a forklift in the warehouse, or give him a broom and tell him he’s the new janitor, great, but they’ll be bankrupted by putting him back in a truck if he ever falls off the wagon.

  42. #42 |  SusanK | 

    Re: Alcoholic truck driver
    The company can’t prevent every risk of harm by its employees. With this guy, there are a million simple solutions to re-hiring him as a driver and maintaining the ability to limit liability:
    1. Random drug/alcohol tests.
    2. Ignition interlock on company vehicle.
    3. Require participation in and completion of treatment.
    4. Require him to report any relapses.
    5. Do not allow him to drive without physically checking in with a manager before each trip.
    These are all off the top of my head. Do some of them cost? Sure. Push the cost off on the alcoholic – you want to work here? Your employment has special conditions until such time as you have proven yourself worthy of the trust we give all of our other employees.
    I think everyone is blowing the potential liability out of proportion. A week after he self-reports, company should be liable. But if he does treatment, then how long is the company on the hook? A year? Two? Ten?
    Plus, any harm he causes while driving exposes the company to liability, even if he wasn’t drinking. Punitive damages are the only thing that could increase that amount. His history of drinking could also make him personally liable.

  43. #43 |  Mario | 

    Muddy @ #15

    A plain clothes Nassau cop was coming out of the house. The retired NYPD sergeant yelled “gun” or something to that effect when he saw the Nassau cop. The MTA PD cop responded to the busy body retired NYPD cop, and shot the plain clothes NCPD cop, thinking the Nassau cop was a threat.

    Well, the MTA PD cop must have rightfully determined that the man with a gun was a bona fide threat and responded appropriately, in accordance with department policy. You’re not saying he was trigger happy and would shoot without first assessing the situation, are you?

  44. #44 |  thefncrow | 

    “How can this guy possibly be associated with the GOP?
    He doesn’t wear a flagpin, believes in Evolution, doesn’t like war, and doesn’t
    say ‘Nu-kyoo-lar.’”

    He’s rabidly pro-life and wants to effectively reduce the tax rates of the wealthy to 0 while raising taxes on the poor. That puts him solidly in the GOP camp.

    The tax thing comes out of a tax plan he released yesterday, in which he proposed that capital gains and dividends be completely untaxed. Basically, he took the Simpson-Bowles income tax changes, a tax increase balanced on the backs of the poor by raising taxes on low and middle-income families while reducing tax rates on the wealthy. Simpson-Bowles used the increased tax revenue for deficit reduction, whereas Huntsman wants to use the increased tax revenue as an offset to completely eliminate capital gains and dividend taxation.

  45. #45 |  2nd of 3 | 

    “Any interference is morally repulsive.”

    No it isn’t.

  46. #46 |  Mattocracy | 

    Huntsman said he was going to raise taxes specifically on poor people?

  47. #47 |  Highway | 

    SusanK

    I think everyone is blowing the potential liability out of proportion. A week after he self-reports, company should be liable. But if he does treatment, then how long is the company on the hook? A year? Two? Ten?

    If he gets into an accident on the job with alcohol in his system, it won’t matter what the time frame is. The company will be on the hook, because they knew that someone with alcohol problems in the past was driving their trucks.

    “Completion of Treatment” for an addiction, especially alcoholism, doesn’t mean you’re cured of it. It’s not like “Oh, I had mono, but now it’s gone and I’m fine.” At best, it’ll drill into the guy’s head that, like everyone else, he shouldn’t be drinking when it could affect his work. But then it’s entirely up to him.

    The other remedies you suggest are possibilities, yes. None are infallible – checks with manager before leaving the yard with the truck, then goes into the bar next door to his first delivery and ties one on, or reports a relapse and goes through the same rigamarole that didn’t work the first time. Or the company puts an ignition interlock on his truck, a very picky piece of gimmickry that is known to have false positives, and then that truck breaks down for a day, or someone else needs to use it on a different shift.

    But if this guy got caught driving his truck while high and the company fired him nobody would say anything. Or he got caught in an allowable drug test with drugs in his system (that can be there for a LONG time, not just when actually high), and got fired, nobody would say anything. People certainly wouldn’t be standing up and saying “Oh, you can’t stop fire him, you *must* give him the same job back when he finishes rehab.” But because it’s ‘alcoholism’, and the government has turned that into a buzzword of protected class status, then that forces the company to not fire him, but be obligated to go to a bunch of lengths to protect themselves from a liability they shouldn’t have to.

  48. #48 |  thefncrow | 

    “Huntsman said he was going to raise taxes specifically on poor people?”

    Huntsman’s proposed plan raises taxes on the poor (as well as the middle-class). I don’t really care if he’s specifically said it or not because he’s campaigning in support of tax policy changes that subsidizes large tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, tax cuts that would put the effective tax rates of the wealthiest Americans as only a hair north of 0%, offsetting that revenue loss in the form of tax increases on the poor and middle class.

  49. #49 |  SusanK | 

    If he gets into an accident while he is on the job, his company is liable anyway, regardless of whether there was alcohol in his system.
    I know treatment isn’t infallible. I do work in juvenile court where parents get their kids back by showing they completed treatment. There is no reason the same sort of principles can’t apply in a corporate setting.
    Companies need to protect themselves from liability involving their employees all the time, even if they don’t KNOW their employee is a raging coke fiend or whatever else.
    Should they be able to fire him? Yes. Should they be able to keep him? Yes. What I’m hearing is that the company should be able to fire him because he should not be working anywhere. That’s not helpful for anyone.

  50. #50 |  Matt | 

    @44

    You are getting armed lunatics involved in a private agreement between individuals. This is not morally repulsive how….

  51. #51 |  Highway | 

    The company has liability for an accident while he’s on the job, but normally that liability is shifted to the driver if the guy is drunk. But then if it comes back that the company *knew* that he was a higher risk for driving drunk, then even more liability is on them.

    And we don’t know that the company was actually going to fire him. They *were* going to make sure he wasn’t a driver. If the guy wouldn’t accept another task, that’s an issue, but what the EEOC is doing is stepping in and saying “NO, you have to treat him the same as anyone else, no matter that his circumstances would seem to increase your exposure.”

  52. #52 |  awp | 

    Re: alcoholic driver

    An even better example of govt. regulation damned if you do and damned if you don’t is the Ricci case from 2009.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricci_v._DeStefano

    Where New Haven’s fire fighters test opened them up to a law suit because for whatever reason no black fire fighters were eligible for a promotion. Since racial statistical disparities are treated as evidence of discrimination they would have lost that suit.
    So New Haven decides to ignore the test. This opened them up for a law suit from 19 white and 1 hispanic fire fighters who passed, since the adverse effecets of ignoring the test were distributed unevenly across races(again with the racial statistical disparities).

    The only way to address racial disparities is with methods that have racial disparities in their effects. Therefore, almost by definition, in order to comply with the law one must break the law.

  53. #53 |  Matt | 

    @50

    There was a story on H&R a while ago of a guy who got drunk at a restaurant on a lunch break and injured someone in his personal car while driving back to work. The company was found liable and had to pay.

  54. #54 |  Steamed McQueen | 

    Oh yes, Alcoholism is a disability. I know of several people collecting disability payments for it.

    Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong all these years. I drink a lot, maybe I should have some doctor classify me as an alky that way I can get on the gravy train too!

    Why not? 40 years of working and paying taxes didn’t do anything for me.

  55. #55 |  Mattocracy | 

    Seeing as how the estimates are that about 45% of Americans don’t pay any federal income tax, I don’t mind getting more contributors. I am always skeptical of claims by either side when they start talking raising or lowering taxes on whatever demographic makes the sound bite sound best. I’d like a link that outlines how someone is going to actually do the things claimed.

  56. #56 |  supercat | 

    //#54 | Mattocracy | “Seeing as how the estimates are that about 45% of Americans don’t pay any federal income tax, I don’t mind getting more contributors.”

    IMHO, what’s far more important than the absolute quantity of money that flows between a person and the government is the marginal amount by which each dollar earned will increase a person’s wealth (which I’ll call the marginal income wealth ratio/MIWR). If a person who sees a $100 product knows that he’ll be able to buy it if he earns an extra $125, that person would be more likely to try to earn the extra $125 than if earning $125 would only leave him $50 richer (not enough to buy the $100 product). Unfortunately, the way many of today’s government-dependency programs are set up, the MIWR ratio is very low toward the bottom end of the income scale (sometimes even negative), and even in places where it’s fairly high, it’s not tied to the income tax rate paid by the so-called “rich”. If the MIWR were uniform for everyone, a lot of people would recognize that it’s better to receive a smaller subsidy from the government, but be able to keep more of what one receives, than vice versa, and a lot more people would recognize how much a low MIWR discourages work at all income levels.

  57. #57 |  croaker | 

    @13 The victim is going to be bending the management company, its employee, the City of Lakewood, the Lakewood PD, and the individual cops over the desk. I doubt they’ll get kissed either.

    And they’re going to find that replacing the toilet plunger with a Louisville Slugger has the same effect as 3 weeks of eating MREs. Specifically, Four Fingers of Death (Franks&Beans).

  58. #58 |  thefncrow | 

    “Seeing as how the estimates are that about 45% of Americans don’t pay any federal income tax, I don’t mind getting more contributors. I am always skeptical of claims by either side when they start talking raising or lowering taxes on whatever demographic makes the sound bite sound best.”

    You know what’s a lot better for getting more contributors? Fixing the vast income inequality issue. 45% of Americans have no federal income tax liability not because the rules for taxing the poor are unfairly slanted in their favor but because that 45% barely enough makes enough money to subsist. If you want more contributors, fix the income inequality problem, and the problem will solve itself.

    Meanwhile, you have Warren Buffet and his fellow billionaires paying a 16% effective rate while their office managers and secretaries are making 1/1000th of what Buffet & co. make while paying an effective rate between 2 and 2.5 times higher. You can debate and discuss various solutions to that problem, but making those secretaries and office managers pay more so that Buffet and the billionaire set can pay nothing isn’t a solution to correcting that inequality.

  59. #59 |  elroy | 

    I drive 18 wheelers for a living. i am wondering if the ruling applies in the case of dui convictions. if i get a dui even in my own car i will probably not be able to get a truck driving job for 3 to 5 years. i would likely lose my current job. a dui makes you uninsurable. some companies wont hire you if you have ever had a dui. i dont think the government ruling gives the company any cover. it is all about what a jury might decide not about logic or justice. trucking companies have deep pockets and a sympathetic plaintif is likely to win regardless of what the government forced the company to do.

  60. #60 |  TC | 

    The very day Huntsman ot tagged with heading out to Dhina, the entire state of Utah got into a big azzed party. Hell even the church leaders had one!

    Dis boy was fathered by a real man, handed over to a woman and unfortunatly daddy might as well have been 1000 miles away! She made sure the silver spoon was used and da boy aint grown a pair EVER!!!

    What you hear from him is NOT what you will get. The magic boy playing potus today is just a close second to Huntsman. But don’t believe me! Please don’t.

  61. #61 |  Mattocracy | 

    “Meanwhile, you have Warren Buffet and his fellow billionaires paying a 16% effective rate while their office managers and secretaries are making 1/1000th of what Buffet & co. make while paying an effective rate between 2 and 2.5 times higher. You can debate and discuss various solutions to that problem, but making those secretaries and office managers pay more so that Buffet and the billionaire set can pay nothing isn’t a solution to correcting that inequality.”

    I don’t think anyone wants them to pay more. This is such a hysterical talking point. Anytime anyone talks about tax cuts, they automatically scream about the poor and middle class paying higher rates. No is raising their rates, they’re just reducing the rate for the top brackets.

    I’m a flat tax advocate myself. I don’t care if Buffet only pays 16% so long as everyone is paying 16%. And let’s not blame just conservatives for this. The loop holes and tax breaks for the well connected is a bipartisan effort. I seriously doubt any rich connected liberal is “paying their fair share” any more than rich well connected conservatives.

    The solution isn’t to tax rich people more, it’s to eliminate the deductions and loopholes.

  62. #62 |  celticdragonchick | 

    So how do you address the problem is that if the guy kills someone because he was drunk behind the wheel, and it comes out that the company was aware of his alcohol problem, the company is pretty much screwed?

    The company is compliance with federal laws by requiring him to seek treatment if he voluntarily says he has a problem BEFORE BEING CAUGHT IN A RANDOM DRUG/ALCOLHOL SCREEN!!

    Random tests are required by law for any transportation type employment. I had several of them working in aviation. However, in order to make employees take responsibility and not hide problems, you could opt to admit you have a problem if you indeed had one and then get treatment, therefore keeping your job. This is not controversial in the industry, and the company is covered since they sent the guy for treatment IAW the law.

    Do some homework on this, Radley. This has been around for awhile.

  63. #63 |  thefncrow | 

    “I don’t think anyone wants them to pay more.”

    John Huntsman’s tax reform proposals, which were the reason this whole discussion started, is based on a proposal that raises taxes on anyone who was residing in the lower brackets. The entire purpose of the proposal is that it increases tax revenues at the same time that it cuts the rates of the top brackets significantly. Huntsman acknowledges that this increases government revenue and wants to use that tax increase to offset the end of capital gains and dividend taxes, which are the only mechanisms by which the wealthiest Americans pay any income tax. So, yes, someone is advocating that position. That was the entire reason I brought it up.

    “I’m a flat tax advocate myself.”

    Congratulations on being an advocate for regressive taxation, I guess. Clearly, the loss of $100 to taxes out of a yearly income of $1,000 is truly as painful as the loss of $100,000 out of a yearly income of $1,000,000, right? It’s not like the person with the $1,000 yearly income desperately needs that $100 while the person with the $1,000,000 yearly income will be only slightly inconvenienced, right?

    It’s the wealthy in America that benefit more from government services than the poor and middle class, and to me that speaks to the wealthy having a greater tax burden.

  64. #64 |  albatross | 

    Thefncrow:

    Regressive taxes would be at a higher rate on poor people than on rich people. A flat tax (not actually much of a solution for the problem it tries to address, IMO) is flat, neither regressive nor progressive. Flat taxes with some lower bound on income taxed (like a deduction of $10K per family member) is actually progressive, because someone making lots of money pays a much higher rate than someone making just above the deduction. An example of regressive taxation is the social security tax, which has a ceiling on taxed income. If you’re a dockworker somewhere, you’re paying a higher rate on SS taxes than I am. This sucks, FWIW.

    The tax code should be simpler, and ideally should treat all forms of income (whenever dollars or assets worth dollars go to a human being) exactly the same way wrt tax rate. But I’m quite skeptical that even serious tax code simplification will lead to very rich people paying the same effective rate as everyone else, and have no faith at all that this will work for multinational corporations. In both cases, the amounts subject to taxation are so large that it’s worth spending a *lot* of money and trouble shifting around dollars and transactions and categories to drop that effective tax rate a couple percent, and very rich individuals and large companies tend to have a lot of degrees of freedom to configure their assets and transactions. By contrast, a middle class person like me simply doesn’t have the incentive (dropping my effective tax rate a couple percent is not worth very many hours of tax attorney/accountant/financial manager time) or the means (I can move around my savings/retirement, but I probably still need to keep a big fraction of my assets in hard-to-dodge stuff like a house and a couple cars and furniture and clothes and books and such).

    That said, I think a massive simplification of the tax code would pay off for us, because it would eventually pull lots of very smart, hard working people away from playing elaborate zero-sum games between taxpayers and tX collectors, and put them back into doing something useful.

  65. #65 |  thefncrow | 

    “Regressive taxes would be at a higher rate on poor people than on rich people. ”

    That’s an incomplete definition. The complete definition is that a regressive tax is a tax that has a greater effect on low-income people than it does on high-income people.

    A sales tax is a great example of a tax that is regressive despite being nominally flat. The lower your income is, the more of your income you spend. Sales tax may be a nominally flat rate of, say, 8%, but poor people end up spending close to 100% of what they earn while the top 2% spends probably less than a quarter of their income. The impact of the nominally flat tax is greater on the poor than it is on the rich, thus it is regressive. Most places even introduce the progressive element of exempting certain goods (like food) from the sales tax, but even with such elements in play, the sales tax remains a regressive tax.

    A flat income tax is nominally flat but regressive in effect. The only way to negate the regressive effect is to introduce progressive elements to the tax, such as tax brackets or deductions and exemptions.

  66. #66 |  Mannie | 

    #39 | 2nd of 3 | September 1st, 2011 at 2:33 pm
    Yeah, reporting is a huge issue, because obviously you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know about it. Back in 1998, we conducted a huge cultural survey on patient safety, and one of the questions we asked was, “Why don’t you report?” And the major reason — most people think it’s going to be fear of malpractice or punishment, but it wasn’t those. It was embarrassment, humiliation.

    There’s another reason. Some conditions must be reported to The State for action. In New York, they have to report your high blood sugar. No one knows what must be reported and what must not. Moreover, no one knows what will be required next year.

    Many would rather risk death than risk being put onto some sort of police state list that may hurt them.

  67. #67 |  Kolohe | 

    Yeah, count me as one more under-outraged by the trucking company article. It creates a perverse incentive when you fire someone for self-reporting an alcohol problem – even those the military won’t and can’t fire you if you self-report, as long as you stay clean afterwards. And I don’t suppose Heritage would find them a bunch of Commie-Symps

  68. #68 |  supercat | 

    #65 | thefncrow | //That’s an incomplete definition. The complete definition is that a regressive tax is a tax that has a greater effect on low-income people than it does on high-income people.//

    Very few people in this country spend their money optimally (in the manner that would ultimately best promote their objectives, whatever they happen to be). Give Bill Gates an extra hundred bucks today and he would probably add it (or a significant portion of it) to one of his investments, where it would find its way to a business that could use an extra $100 in capital to generate far more than $100 in extra profits. Enough of those extra profits would make their way back to Mr. Gates that, after a year, Mr. Gates would end up more than $100 richer because of the extra $100 he got today. Further, other people involved with the business that had received his investment would also be richer than they would have if the $100 hadn’t been given.

    By contrast, if one were to give that $100 to a poor person selected at random, how much better off would that person be a year from now than if one hadn’t given the money? There are certainly some industrious poor people who, given $100, would invest it in some fashion that would truly improve their life. There are an awful lot, however, who would end up squandering it such that, a year from now, they’d been no better off than if the money hadn’t been given. The covetousness preached by some people encourages a belief that the rich just squander their money while the poor are diligent with theirs, but in fact many people who are rich are reasonably diligent with their money, and those who are poor tend to squander it; in many cases, that’s why they’re rich or poor, respectively.

  69. #69 |  JOR | 

    The problem is that taxes aren’t primarily used to fund the state (the state spends far more than it brings in through taxes), so it’s not a question of who deserves greater respect or deference or relief for funding the state. Congrats to all the proud, upscale net taxpayers for funding rape-infested prisons, imperial wars, drug and gun prohibition, public indoctrination camps, and the “progressive” state that manufactures poverty as we know it, though – the poor really owe you for that. Well, they owe you something, but I’m not sure you’d like it very much if they gave it to you.

    Rather, taxes are a weapon targeted at taxpayers to engineer their lives and funnel their activities in ways that benefit the state and the corporate elite who run it. Sure, the poorer one is, the more vulnerable one is to this kind of manipulation, and other things equal, it’s more deeply immoral to do bad things to the more vulnerable than to the less vulnerable. But even that’s not really the point.

  70. #70 |  Jasper | 

    Gonna have to differ with you here, Balko. What someone does in their own time is none of your (or their) business. As a Libertarian you should be able to relate to this sentiment.

    Lots of people with drinking problems never let it interfere with their jobs. I’ve done lots of drugs, even been addicted to a couple, and they never interfered with MY work.

    Assuming that someone who drinks on their own time will therefore automatically be inebriated is silly.

    Again, as a Libertarian I’m a little surprised our views differ.

    Love the blog!!

  71. #71 |  Radley Balko | 

    Again, as a Libertarian I’m a little surprised our views differ.

    I don’t think the company should be forced to fire him. I also don’t think the company should be forced to keep him on staff. I don’t see anything un-libertarian about that position. You should have the right to hire and fire who you want.

    If they deem him a liability, then they should be permitted to fire him. If they think he’s got his problem under control, they should be permitted to keep him around. But if you’re going to hold the company liable if he injuries someone later, you can’t also say they shouldn’t be permitted to fire him, or to give him a non-driving job.

  72. #72 |  Mattocracy | 

    ‘Congratulations on being an advocate for regressive taxation, I guess.”

    Gee thanks pal!

    “That’s an incomplete definition. The complete definition is that a regressive tax is a tax that has a greater effect on low-income people than it does on high-income people.”

    Well, sorry. It’s definitely not fair the other way either. Taxing the people the same is the only far way. Sorry its rougher for those making 20,000 compared to 200,000. People shouldn’t be punished for success. And before any says that no one should be punished for making less, they aren’t. Being taxed the same rate isn’t a punishment for anyone.

    I don’t like this class warfare thing. Everyone complains that the rich don’t pay their share even though the top 5% account for close to half the total tax revenue and will continue to do so with a flat rate.

    The problem isn’t who’s paying taxes. It’s spending. The problem isn’t with cutting taxes, it’s that no one in either party cuts spending to coincide. The inflation that accompanies governments printing money to pay for debt hurts the poor the most. As long as this is happening, no amount of tax breaks for poor people will protect them from the crippling effects of inflation.

Leave a Reply