Sunday, August 14, 2011
The final picks are in--the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and the Senate have each made their 3 picks for the 12 member "supercommittee" that will determine which Americans bear the brunt of the "sacrifices" to come.
Among those 12 there is one woman, one African-American and one Hispanic.
How does the diversity of the committee compare to that of the American population? Less than 9 percent of the committee is female, African-American or Hispanic while 51% of Americans are female, 16% are Hispanic and 13% are African-Americans.
One can argue (and indeed there are people arguing this right now) that women, African-Americans and Hispanics have less experience in these kind of leadership positions. This is, of course, a self-fulfilling prophecy because as long as the only people we name to leadership positions are people who have already been named to leadership positions then only the kind of people who in the past were given an opportunity to serve in such positions will in the future be deemed to have enough experience to be named to such positions.
This argument, however, avoids the key question "what type of experience are these people supposed to be calling on?" Surely the people who are tasked with deciding "where to cut the budget / government programs" should be people who have some degree of experience with the impact of the budget cuts / government programs.
To give a real world example. One of the college buildings in which I taught was gutted, rewired and repainted. While inspecting the building one day with one of the "important people with experience, training and credentials" I pointed to one of the emergency fire alarms on the wall. "What am I supposed to do with that?" I asked. "Pull the handle in case of fire" he smirked back at me. "And how am I supposed to do that?" I asked, walking over and reaching up my arm. The handle was several inches (about 5 centimeters) above my outreaching fingers.
[Yes, for those who wonder, that was against code -- the point is that not a single one of the men who had inspected the building had noticed it.]
One of the most basic concepts that underlies the push towards diversity is that those who are not part of a group (women, short people, parents, African-Americans, people who use canes, diabetics.....) tend to be unaware of how things will impact that particular group of people.
Sometimes the results of having one group of people make decisions that will have an effect of a group to which they do not belong can be almost laughable---as happened the year in which the committee who decided when the grades were due at a particular college had no overlap with the committee who decided when exams would be held. This resulted in professors being informed that the grades that semester were due before the final exams had been written.
It is not laughable when the people who decide what government program will be cut are not the people who may not be able to pay the rent or the people who may not be able to feed their children or may not be able to get health care or may lose their pensions.
I am not sure whether of not "the fix is in" but I am sure that great injustices will arise from the decisions made by this group of people. Unintended consequences can be just as cruel and lethal as intended ones.
Posted by mmy at 3:19 PM