George Orwell (photo) looked into the corrupting effects that such thinking can have on action in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language.
He thought that the writing of his time had become sloppy and decadent and that "the decline of language must ultimately have political and economic ..." effects. "In our time," Orwell wrote, "political speech and writing are largely in defense of the indefensible."
"Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties." People defending such acts can't say, "'I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so’" and instead cloak their true thoughts with euphemisms.
Bombing helpless people from the air is named "pacification." Robbing millions of peasants of their lands becomes "relocation." In Orwell's time, imprisoning and torturing people, shooting them in the back of the head was called the "elimination of unreliable elements."
What I'm about to do is examine recent statements of the SFMTA Board using Orwell's scope. Justifying the extraction of "income streams" from taxi drivers may seem minor in comparison to the above but major corruption starts small. Hitler began by beating people up in beer halls. More to the point, cab drivers were one of the first groups to lose benefits and workers rights by being forced to sign "independent contracts." Millions of other workers have since suffered the same fate.
The simple fact is that a government agency has targeted workers in a private industry as a source of revenue and justifies its actions with the following double talk.
"The medallions are our assets and we can do what we want with them."
1. The medallions became "assets" because of laws that the MTA wrote.
2. These "assets" only have value because of the cab drivers who work the medallions.
3. The idea that you can do what you want with an "asset" without regard to the effect that it would have on the people who give it value runs contrary to the moral principles that have characterized western civilization for the last one hundred and fifty years.
4. Only extremists of the left or right would agree with Heinicke's political stance on this matter (i.e. communists, fascists, dictators, tea party fanatics, etc).
"We're doing this for the public good."
Right! A "public" that does not include cab drivers or, indeed, the public that uses cabs.
What the MTA really plans to do is take millions of dollars that cab drivers have earned and use it to cover a budget shortfall. But it goes beyond that - these proposals will stay in effect whether there is a shortfall or not.
And, the percentages that the MTA intends to take from drivers in the form of "transfer fees" are three to ten times higher than 5% that is charged by New York and most other cities in the country.
In effect, the MTA intends to tax San Francisco cab drivers at a higher rate than any other group of the people in the country. Heinicke, I suppose, would call this collateral damage.
The only "public" being served by MTA's plans are the wealthy individuals and corporations that the city (and the country) are under-taxing or not taxing at all; as wall as, of course, Heinicke and his personal ambitions.
Is it Alice in Wonderland or the White Rabbit?
I don't know how else to characterize the following fantasies.
Medallion sales revenue will go to improve illegal vehicle enforcement.
The Heinicke plan projects $14 going to the MTA. The Pilot Plan gave the city $10 million a year. Taxi Services got permission from the MTA to hire two new investigators over a two year period. Only one works regularly in the field. The other works enforcing regulations in the taxi industry. Meanwhile unregulated "car services" Sidecar, Uber and the new pink mustache cars proliferate like rabbits while the MTA does nothing.
The cost of medallion enforcement over the last two yeas has come solely from a 100% increase in medallion holder renewal fees. Of the $20 million that the MTA has taken in from the Pilot Plan in medallion sales revenue, the taxi industry has yet to see one red cent.
We intend to improve taxi service.
What better way to improve service than to turn cab driving into a dead end job that will pay even less in the future than it does now?
What better way to improve service than to ignore the reports, proposals and plans of the TAC and other driver/experts in the industry?
What better way than to show callous disregard toward several hundred professional taxi drivers (who worked and followed the City's own rules) by killing the waiting list?
What better way to attract new quality drivers than to ignore the ideas, needs and wishes of the ones who are already here?
"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity," George Orwell.
And, I might add - insincerity is the great enemy of pure action as well.
Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman initiated the vote on Heinicke's Plan at the last Board meeting by saying,
"we've heard enough,"
when she couldn't possibly have read so much as a word of the Taxi Advisory Council report.
In a strange way, of course, she was right. There was no point in listening to anything cab drivers might say or think. Brinkman and the rest of the Board members clearly had already voted before they walked into the meeting room.
Or, as Director Malcolm Heinicke wrote in a May 17, 2012 e-mail that went to Roberta Boomer, Tom Nolan and Cheryl Brinkman with a Cc to Ed Reiskin:
"... most of all we all need to come to agreement on this (the MTA's plan) as best we can BEFORE IT IS FORMALLY PROPOSED." (my capitalization)
"If that means we need to move this piece of the overall package to a latter meeting, so be it, but we need to get our agreed plan and then sell the Mayor and the Supes."
Earlier in the same e-mail Heinicke showed sincere feeling when wrote,
"... Chris is significantly limiting the revenue to the MTA and sending more to the amorphous Drivers's fund. I understand why she is doing this but it is not good policy in my view. The MTA should get revenue. And, if we do not push for that, we are sacrificing the needs of the City to placate a few cab drivers."