An interesting article, “Minority firm disqualified on Central Corridor,” appeared in last Monday’s Minneapolis Tribune. A disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) contractor for the light-rail construction project in Minneapolis, J-MOS, for Joan’s Minority Owned Supplier (not a joke), had faxed her suppliers that all materials “MUST STOP AT J-MOS FOR A BRIEF 5 TO 10 minute LAYOVER, prior to arriving at its destination.”
J-MOS was taking part in a federal program which steers contracts to women and minority-owned firms even if their bids are higher than those submitted by their non- “disadvantaged” competitors. The coming to light of the incriminating FAX was cause for J-MOS to be disqualified as a DBE. Although she can still bid on future light-rail contracts, the Met Council, which oversees that project, will not be able to count them towards their goal (quota?) of giving 15% of the business to female or minority-owned businesses.
Joan Johnson (the Joan of J-MOS) had apparently arranged with the real contractors to run the supplies through a dummy warehouse, (split the disadvantaged markup?), and move along from her brief stopover in businessland better heeled than ever, thanks to a compassionate government’s lifting up of the downtrodden. Complaints about these sorts of shenanigans by J-MOS go back to 2002, but Ms. Johnson was indignant, calling it an “insult” and complaining that she was being unfairly singled out for practices followed by many other DBEs.
Can you imagine? Would it be possible that government programs designed to cheat suppliers and the taxpayer based on racial and gender criteria might lead to widespread fraud and abuse? Do you suppose that come election time, crooked politicians won’t make calls on their sleazy clients to help fund their reelection efforts? At least in Chicago when this sort of thing goes on, there is a certain dignity to the proceedings. The crooked contractor kicks back money directly to the crooked politician without any nauseating pretense of “social justice.” The public is not supposed to know about it – of course they do – but are certainly not obliged to genuflect to the practice.
Just as an exercise, let us examine what effect these programs might have on the female or minority owners of real businesses. First of all, they will not be obliged to work hard, innovate, and run a tight operation in order to compete with the others that do. That is a training regimen for failure in dealing with anyone but the government, and government is running out of money. Fast, thanks not least to these kinds of practices.
Next, in order to avoid shame and self-loathing, these beneficiaries of government discrimination will have to concede that their hard-work, energy, and talent are less important than membership in some sort of victim group, which makes them incapable of achieving success on their own merits and through their own efforts. Conceding that, have they not also conceded inferiority because of race or gender?
And isn’t that the kind of thinking good people considered profoundly racist and unjust so many years ago, before this all got turned upside down?