Can or cant

THE delay in the release of PUA payments is — understandably — resented by the affected eligible applicants. The funds are supposed to help them in this time of dire need. Many of their friends and/or relatives have already received theirs. But some say they have been waiting for their money for over a month or two now. 

If you’re running for office this year, you must publicly express concern about the backlog, and you must find ways to help expedite the process. But besides writing open letters and telling the affected voters that you feel their pain, you can also try to learn more about what’s causing the delay. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell once noted that Aristotle (possibly the smartest man who ever lived) “could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to open her mouth. He did not do so because he thought he knew.”

In the case of the PUA payments, besides Googling “PUA payment backlog” to get a better idea of how this new federal program is being implemented nationwide, we suggest that candidates for office ask CNMI DOL if they can be allowed to observe firsthand how the department is processing the applications, who determines which application should be rejected (and why),  which application is inadequate or incomplete (and why), etc.  That way, concerned politicians can have a clearer view of the problem at hand which may help them come up with possible ways to fix or at least mitigate it.

We offer this unsolicited advice based on our belief that even if it’s an election year, many politicians, especially the perennially “concerned,” may actually mean what they say. They say they want all eligible PUA applicants to get their PUA payments as soon as possible. So we say: find out how it can be done instead of just talking about it a lot.

In his recent review of  “Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk,” British writer Theodore Dalrymple said the most valuable thing in the newly published book is its classification of the various species of grandstanding or cant: “piling on (that is to say, adding one’s voice to a target already under attack), ramping up (that is to say, extending outrage yet further), trumping up (that is to say, the finding of severe moral problems where there are none), displays of strong emotion (that is to say, exaggerating one’s emotional responses) and dismissal (that is to say, assuming that one’s moral position is so self-evidently correct to all decent people that any other view can be brushed aside like a noisome little insect and do not even have to be considered).”

As they say, if the shoe fits…

Sound advice

IN the case of the House resolution expressing opposition to the pay-raise granted to the Settlement Fund trustee — Rep. Tina Sablan is right. The proverbial ship has sailed. The trustee’s request for a pay raise was reviewed and approved by the federal court which also consulted the class counsel. The judge found the trustee’s request reasonable, citing the Fund’s “positive financial status and better-than-expected investment return during this fiscal year.” In other words, the Fund can afford the pay hike and it will not affect the Fund’s ability to make regular payments to the retirees. 

As we all know, the Settlement Fund owns a consent judgment totaling $779 million which it may enforce against the CNMI government in federal court if the Commonwealth fails to make timely payments. It was the CNMI government’s failure to pay what it owed the retirees that triggered the class action lawsuit, the settlement agreement, the creation of the Settlement Fund, and the appointment of the trustee “possessing all the powers of a federal receiver.”

As for the trustee herself, she was chosen by the federal court exactly seven years ago today (Sept. 25), and among the factors that the judge  considered was “the need to ensure [that] the Trustee is free from any conflicts of interests or potential conflicts of interests.”

Right now, the only thing that should truly concern retirees is the CNMI government’s ability to continue paying 75% of their pensions as required by the settlement agreement. That ability is premised on how soon the economy can get back on its feet.

Still, we understand the rationale behind the (non-binding) House resolution. Several of their constituents have relayed their “grave concern” to lawmakers who, in this election year, have “to do something.”

But as Rep. Tina Sablan has said, “If we really want to understand this issue better and we really want to understand the work that the trustee is doing on behalf of the Settlement Fund…then we should get those records and have that information before we rush to make statements that could be seen as political interference.”

Exactly. The only thing we can add is that this piece of excellent advice applies to all politicians who may want to make a statement regarding any issue or controversy.

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