Unclassified Info: Paying for the results of poor decisions

I don’t know about you, but I am getting pretty tired of having my money go to pay for stupidity.

Last week, I was outraged to hear about the General Services Administration, a group whose mission is to streamline government process, spending $823,000 at a casino in Las Vegas.

Perks for the 300 attendees of this so-called conference included specially minted coins, clowns, goodie bags and various other excesses paid for by none other than you and me.

Sure, there probably are more egregious examples of waste on both the state and federal level and this one may actually be chump change by comparison, but its scale doesn’t make it any less grating — especially at a time when the rest of us prepare our taxes and are reminded that some of the money we supply to our government in good faith goes to pay for ridiculous boondoggles.

I realize taxation is the price one pays to live in this country. My only hope is that a few pennies of my hard-earned cash goes to fund something like schools and other programs that will enrich the lives of my children and others in my community. I’d prefer a system where I could voluntarily donate it to a local school or organization that would serve my community.

So why ramble on about paying for stupidity? Because the topic hit home last Saturday evening as I was stuck on the freeway with thousands of other drivers as a tanker truck loaded with 8,600 gallons of fuel burned out of control.

Predictably, the cause of the accident was a result of an alleged drunk driver. That news got me wondering who would have to pay for the massive firefighting response, as well as the eventual cleanup.

California Department of Transportation officials apparently think it’s too early to discuss whether they will seek restitution from the motorist, Hakop Maghakyan, who California Highway Patrol officials said was drunk and speeding when his car crashed into that tanker full of gasoline.

I get it. Since no formal charges have been filed and Maghakyan has not been found guilty, no one wants to take a stand. That said, I think they should have. I do not understand why the public dialogue isn’t already including accountability.

I do not want my tax money anywhere near the cleanup of that avoidable mess. The notion that anyone other than the guilty party would be financially on the hook for 100% of those costs is absurd. To that end, I think the appropriate state authorities should have sent a stronger message of financial liability for those who wreak such havoc and are found guilty in similar matters.

This is no time to be wishy-washy.

Make no mistake, there is no intention to convict anyone here. But it’s important to make a declaration that the state is not paying for the results of poor decisions.

California already has in place a system where child support can be garnished from a non-custodial parent. If it doesn’t already, the state should make a point of garnishing a guilty individual’s wages for however long it takes to repay a debt incurred for something stupid — like crashing into a tanker truck while intoxicated.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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