Here we go again. A government bureaucrat gets caught with his department
spending outrageous sums of money on office equipment. Then blames the
"workers' compensation system" for the fiscal mismanagement.
The office equipment in question was clearly needed because it was designed
avoid future repetitive work injuries. Protecting employees from injuries
inherent in their jobs is smart business. Overpaying for the equipment
is not. Blaming the "workers' compensation system" for overpaying
is not only unjustified, it also doesn't make sense. What does overpaying
have to do with the workers compensation system? Absolutely nothing.
But its this sort of unjustified blame that sets into motion discussions
among legislators in Sacramento about "reform" of the workers
compensation system. Instead of fixing the real issue - in this instance,
apparent fiscal mismanagement - workers compensation is used as a scapegoat
because someone decided to use it as a diversion. The result is almost
always a loss of further rights and benefits to injured workers with the
passage of laws punishing injured workers.
You remember how this goes.
Back in 1988, auto insurance companies threatened to leave the state if
Proposition 104—the so-called "no fault" bill—didn't
pass. With every other TV commercial, I'm reminded that it didn't
pass, and they are still here. Maybe, just maybe, threatening to "leaving
the State" was a scare tactic to divert attention from the true motive—pay
less to future victims of auto accidents.
Fast forward to 2004, when some claimed that everything wrong with the
California economy was the "broken workers’ compensation system"
(oh yeah, and the car tax). Arnold blew up the car tax, and swore he would
"improve" the workers’ compensation system, and that he
did, at least for some. Insurance companies made record profits after
he signed Senate Bill 899, and every injured worker has lost important
rights and benefits since its passage. (Later, it was determined that
"blowing up" the car tax is what really caused lasting damage
to the economy).
So, forgive my cynicism when I read a recent article in the LA Times which
cited another disciple of the "when all else fails, blame the workers’
compensation system" crowd.
Phillip Browning, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of
Children and Family Services blames—wait for it—the California
Workers' Compensation system for his department purchasing $150 tape
dispensers and $375 dollar wireless headsets!
Apparently, this government bureaucrat figures that if he blames "the
workers’ compensation system," no one will notice that his
department is spending outrageous sums of money for items we can buy for
a fraction of the cost in the real world. He explained that his department
needs to buy these items to make the workplace ergonomically safer and
avoid future workers’ compensation claims. That makes perfect sense.
How that justifies his department paying outrageous prices for the necessary
items makes no sense. Unless your goal is to divert attention from the
real issue: fiscal mismanagement.
Of course, this is the same Browning who admitted to the LA Times back
in August that he should have "known more about" what was going
on when two executives of a Los Angeles group home were charged with misuse
of public funds and embezzlement. The Times reported that the financial
mismanagement may have "festered for years." Surprisingly, Browning
didn't blame the workers’ compensation system.
At least not yet.
What these stories have in common, sadly, is that while the "workers’
compensation system" is a convenient whipping boy for insurance companies
who reap billions of dollars in profit, or a government bureaucrat who
paid too much for a tape dispenser, the simple truth is working Californians
depend on the system to recover physically and financially when a work
I'm resisting the temptation, but I'll admit I'm curious what
that tape dispenser must look like. Damn, he got me.