When considering the case of the Environmental Protection Agency employee who, according to a recent Huffington Post report, “allegedly downloaded over 7,000 files of pornography on a government computer and watched them two to six hours per day” while raking in $120,000 a year courtesy the U.S. taxpayer, it is tempting to respond the way Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) did: “Fire him! What’s the question?”
Tempting, but wrong!
Allow me, by way of explanation, to remind readers of a classic scene from the brilliant 1993 crime drama “A Bronx Tale”…
Young hothead Calogero (Lillo Brancato, Jr.) is mad as hell at Louie Dumps, a slippery neighborhood guy who owes him twenty bucks and won’t pay up. A couple local goons share predictable advice — “Hit him with a f*@king bat”; “Knock him all over the f*@king block” — brutal guidance Calogero appears inclined to heed until his mob boss mentor Sonny (Chazz Palminteri) steps in:
“What’s the matter with you? What have I been telling you? Sometimes hurting somebody ain’t the answer. First of all, is he a good friend of yours?”
“Nah. I don’t even like him.”
“You don’t even like him. There’s your answer right there. Look at it this way: It cost you twenty dollars to get rid of him. Right? He’s never going to bother you again. He’s never going to ask you for money again. He’s out of your life for twenty dollars. You got off cheap!”
We should employ a bit of Sonny’s counterintuitive smarts in the case at hand as well.
Rather than calling for the head of this anonymous EPA bureaucrat — henceforth referred to herein as Louie Pumps — those of us who dream of living in a free society should be setting up a private fund to cover whatever costs might be incurred in sending Pumps out to hold surreptitious porn viewing seminars for the employees for any and all federal agencies willing to host him.
After all, a motivated, true believer operating the largely unaccountable wheels and cogs of the regulatory apparatus can probably inflict $120,000 worth of damage to our collective dreams, aspirations, and future prosperity before lunch on a “good” day.
But the guy hunkered down in his cubicle wasting away hour after hour trawling through whatever weird fetish videos tickle an EPA hack’s fancy? The one Googling, say, “Brownfield Site Lust” or “Hazmat Suit Holiday” and indulging domination/submission fantasies via the magic of streaming video instead of through his interactions with average citizens in the pursuit of happiness?
That man, my friends, is a deep cover freedom fighter.
And if he keeps his job, like Calogero, we got out of it cheap.
Which is to say, Chaffetz and other supposed proponents of limited government in Congress should think long and hard about what, precisely, their endgame is in terminating Louie Pumps. Filling his oh-gawd-I-don’t-even-want-to-know-what-that-stain-is shoes with a starry-eyed “serve the state!” stickler for enforcing and promulgating already suffocating red tape hardly seems the best way to nurture a laissez-faire philosophy.
Indeed, this “scandal,” such as it is, provides an opportunity to be bold; to think outside the box. House Republicans should take a play from the book of nudgers like Cass Sunstein and institute a “choice architecture” within the federal government that will encourage more, not less, of the (alleged!) behavior at the EPA. They should pass a bill within the next ten days allowing federal employees to choose one of the five or six major free pornography sites as their … uh, splash screen on their work computers. Cubicles should be soundproofed and outfitted with do not disturb curtains. Health Savings Account rules should be expanded to include at least one pair of Beats headphones as an allowable expense. Whatever OSHA department creates those mandatory workplace posters that resemble something one might find tacked to the door of a barn on a 1930s Soviet collectivized farm should be charged with mounting a campaign to weed out porn stigma from every nook and cranny of the federal government.
Those who resist should be gently mocked for endorsing theocracy and/or sharing Rick Santorum’s prudish worldview.
Now, if those employees still prefer to go on metaphorically screwing their fellow Americans rather than watch two to six hours of pornography a day, that’s their choice. It would be unethical to force them to do so just because we got it in our head that they should.
Maybe someday they’ll even return the favor.