With a sardonic chuckle, I read this morning “PG&E to pay $2.5 billion for Wine Country fires” in Northern California. But who is REALLY paying? That’s right, the Ratepayers. Whether it’s a Government screw-up (stupid war, failed social program), or a corporate malfeasance (Crash of 2009, toxic waste sites), or a quasi-governmental entity like a Utility – the citizens always end up paying the bill in the long run. Higher electric rates in this case, higher taxes in others.
How do we construct a system of rewards and penalties, checks and balances that includes Accountability? It’s all the rage in California to have “oversight committees” on tax-payer funded initiatives. But what real authority do they have, other than telling the newspapers or the state government “Ooops”? In a corporation you can be fired, and maybe have some stock options cancelled if you really screw up. If we’re lucky, a corporation is fined, but looking at the Financial Crisis it was pennies on the dollars lost. In the government, you can be fired or voted out of office. But even if you can go further than firing people responsible for commission of errors, or for failure to properly oversee those people making the mistakes, and you could seize their pensions, that doesn’t come CLOSE to making up for the cost of damages. We need a system that includes Accountability, Auditability, and Atonement/Restitution.
I’m still thinking, and open to suggestions.