So Recommend Some Things the Government Can Do...greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
So here is your chance to maybe make a national difference: -- This was also started under the IRS thread.
Got a call this morning from the Congressman's office, asking about my earlier concerns about goverment (lack of) preparedness, FBI activities against groups preparing for Y2K, and other related issues.
The staffer was very helpful, expressed several specific concerns about the overall issue, but was not yet completely briefed yet in some of technical implications of the upcoming troubles. The letter (below) was intended to follow up on what we talked about, give some examples, and give her some reference points.
She was interested in finding out what specific actions could be done to mitigate the problems, once she understood the degree of of the potential problems.
I told her I would get back to her, and have a better list of actions that the government (federal level) COULD do to minimize trouble, prevent permanent financial or buisness loss, and perhaps improve (reduce the impact) on health, taxes, and services.
I sent the following email, deliberately excluding personal freedoms concerns - let that be discussed separately with these guys. But check the list, give me some other thoughts, let me know what I left off, what (if anything) should be excluded.
No reason to assume they will ever actually pass a bill doing this, but they certainly won't consider something not recommended.
27 October, 1998
Dear Ms. ______
Thank you for your time this morning. I appreciate your efforts in getting hold of me, and hope that the upcoming troubles will be slight.
But my professional experience in finding, fixing, debugging, and troubleshooting computer programs tells me that not only are the troubles not going to be slight, but that most observers have not even anticipated their magnitude. Intermittent, irregular and unpredictable losses of power stations, the electric distribution grid, water, sewage, natural gas, telephones, gasoline and heating oil, satellites and ATMs, long distance services (funds transfers and payment) are perhaps the best that we can hope for. Some experts are predicting worse, though I consider myself an optimist: personally, I think that most utilities and services will recover adequately after only a few weeks of irregularities. If there are no riots in downtown areas, then we can get through with only 2-4 weeks of business interruptions and perhaps just a mild recession. If there are widespread riots or fires, the results may only be worse.
At the Federal level, the biggest worry among those of us who are solving the thousands of different kinds of Y2K issues found in our businesses is the lack of preparation for failure: most critically by the IRS (and local tax offices) and the various distribution activities of federal funds. (Let us leave DOD to its own devices, they must solve their own problems, and their problems do not require or cause a loss of individual property. We hope.) We greatly fear loss of business, homes, and our livelihood if the IRS (and other tax offices) is left to their current methods. They (the IRS) have a long history of failing to integrate new computer systems, of being unreasonable and arbitrary in their decisions, and of demanding payments and penalties under dubious circumstances. Now, they are failing to correct their Y2K problems, and appear to be disguising the failure to be ready. The result could be catastrophic as electronic files and electronic tax payments become unpredictable/unreliable/unstable.
So what will happen if I pay (through my regular deduction) but the IRS fails to record payment? If they record payment, but to the wrong account? If I mail a check, but it is not delivered? If they post the receipt, but they write the wrong amount? If they record the right amount, but when the bank sends the other information (about interest) payments, they record the house payments as income and the interest from savings as deductions? If they lose both? If they fail to write a refund check? If they lose my companys matching payments? If I cannot get a income statement from my company, what do I do? If a companys records are messed up, how much does the company pay until can straighten out its accounts?
What protects my family if my bank fails to transfer funds correctly, and so no taxes are paid? The equity funds are transferred, but are lost? They are sent from the bank holding the mortgage, but are lost by the countys or school districts bank? The county system works, but the car tag program fails? The county car tag program runs, but the emission stickers cannot be printed? Can I still be ticketed for not having an emission sticker?
What if a school district or local government loses its tax records? Loses its salary records? Has the records in the computer, but cant enter new information? Cant write checks? Cant post new tax receipts? Cant get equity payments transferred in from the bank? Gets the records, but cant be sure they are registered against the right taxpayer? Cant post the receipts from the banks, and so is going rapidly bankrupt?
What happens if a nursing home or hospital gets no federal/state money for three weeks? How will it pay its bills? How will it pay its employees? Buy supplies? What will prevent it from failure?
If (when) the current delicate structure of networked automatic payroll deductions for taxes and insurance, household withholding, local tax transfers and home equity accounts fail, we fear the power of the IRS to take our homes, or the power of other agencies to foreclose our mortgages or falsely report credit failures. We realistically fear the loss of hospital coverage for our parents and the invalid due to government mistakes, and the demonstrated stubbornness of bureaucracies to correct the problem realistically.
As I mentioned, Y2K is unique in that There is nothing you (the government can do to stop it ... the last time for preventive action was 1996. And Clinton-Gore failed then. Now, we (those of us who actually know how hard it is to do computer re-programming) know they are lying about current efforts in the federal government. Their public statements are lawyer-prepared double-speak that makes no technical sense in the real world. They arent solving a technical problem, but rather (they) the Clinton-Gore are creating a public relations show-and-spin illusion.
But as King Canute found out about the tide, Y2K wont care what is said. It only cares what is done, and what is not done. Y2K troubles will only be solved (or prevented) by concerted, coordinated action by dedicated engineers, testing groups, and programmers in each area. Those very dumb computers continually exchanging funds, economic information, and tax reports between government and industry and the taxpayers, will not (cannot) listen to politicians, they will respond only when re-programmed and tested by workers.
To most quickly get up to speed on the subject, please read TimeBomb 2000 by Ed Yourdon. Warning: more people will want to lie and cover-up the problems than fix them. This effect gets stronger the higher in an organization you go. The pressure to cover-up and distort the state of preparedness (or lack of preparations) in an organization is also greater the closer one gets to a lawyer and the further one gets from a programmer.
I mentioned that the government can no longer solve the problem. There is not enough time any more, given their current late start and lack of progress.
But there is time to reduce the potentially fatal impact Y2K will have on businesses, taxpayers, and the federal government itself. And those actions you do have control over at the legislative level.
The following EMERGENCY PROTECTION PLAN is made in anticipation of an unknown, unpredictable, irregular (potentially massive) series of computer failures in accounting, receivables, inventory, taxes, payroll, insurance, health and services at businesses and governments nationally. These measures are intended to protect the innocent who are affected by these failures, provide funds to let governments who have lost their computers (and possibly their tax and salary data) to remain active during this emergency. Those governments and agencies who respond early are rewarded, those who require emergency support are protected. Taxpayers are protected against loss by foreclosure from government errors; those who deliberately cheat are punished. Taxpayers who prepare themselves are rewarded (because they are less likely to need government support later); those who require government support for medical and health are protected from government inaction or errors.
There are problems implementing each of these proposals. They are meant to start you and the Speaker thinking about the process of protecting taxpayers, government workers, and government users from the governments own mistakes and errors. They are also intended to penalize the cheats and crooks who would otherwise take advantage of the governments mistakes to pollute, to avoid taxes, and to overcharge the government for false goods and services.
Doing nothing assures failure. Doing something protects people from the government past mistake of being too late, and doing too little.
Robert Cook, P.E. Ste 290, 1090 NorthChase Pkwy, Marietta, GA 30067 CSA, Atlanta firstname.lastname@example.org (Phn) 770-955-3518 (Fax) 770-956-8748
-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (email@example.com), October 28, 1998
Add your recommendations and comments below. We'll see what happens.
Emergency Protection Plan
Measures will be effective through the Y2K emergency preparedness period:
1. Eviction shelter (no one will lose a house or get evicted if they make credible efforts to pay.)
2. Tax protection for people/businesses who think they've paid taxes, but have funds lost by others or by IRS. Burden of proof is shifted to IRS/local tax offices to prove no payment was sent. If payment was sent, but not processed correctly, IRS to accept replacement check, and IRS to pay penalty for stopped check/cancellation fees.
3. No penalty/interest in taxes if credible effort made to pay (at least equal to previous year/qtr/monthly payment) Adjustments allowed for up to 12 months with no penalty to the business or individual.
4. Triple penalty if taxes evaded or fraud discovered.
5. 500.00 tax credit/taxpayer for emergency preparedness by individuals (max 1000.00 per household) (500.00 (max) for alternative power, light, water, food, medical supplies.) (500.00 (max) for house insulation/weatherproofing/heating/cooling improvements)
6. Waiver on church/relief group donation/receipt requirements (for gifts towards Y2K shelters less than 500.00)
7. Fed loans guarantees (at 3-6%) to support local government agencies who can't pay salaries/expenses in 2000. Schools = none utility districts = 2-3% cities (under 100,000) 3% cities (over 100,000) 4% cities (over 500,000) 5% counties 4-6 states 5-6
8. Provide Fed loans (at 2%) to local governments to make repairs/replacement/remediation before 2000.
9. Provide Fed loans (at 5%) to local governments to make repairs/replacement/remediation after 2000.
10. Nursing home/Medicare/hospital guarantee - no one will be discharged/refused care due to insurance mistakes - monies to be charged back to insurance companies at 12% interest. (1% per month).
11. Credit report shelter: the credit reporting industry would need to give recommendations; but no one to get adverse credit rating due Y2K failures on account of other businesses/ reporting failures.
12. Fed to make disaster/riot insurance available to businesses/people who lose possessions/homes/businesses due to riots/fires/loss of utilities/other "un-natural" disasters stemming from Y2K. (Catastrophic losses only - Loss of business due to computer failure/recession/business failures would be excluded.)
13. No penalty to any business or utility if emergency operations or emergency controls causes accidental emissions or pollution releases. Emergency delivery of power, water, food, sewage, and transportation services are permitted regardless of any other federal or state pollution requirements or limits.
14. Deliberate emissions or pollution is penalized at triple the current rates.
-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 28, 1998.
Very impressive, hope you get a positive response. I expect the recipient will be overwhelmed with the wide breadth of the issues/suggestions. I hope it produces some results, generally I've found that making suggestions to politicians has no effect as they have their own agenda. I suppose my suggestions tended to be on policy rather than something like 2K which is more apolitical, ie we're all in it together. Politicians are like managers, except with wider reaching power. We all know how difficult it was to persuade managers about y2k. Here in the UK, the nearest we have to a y2k Czar(ina) is Ms Beckett, who recently attacked the "self-styled year 2000 experts" in the Times (after they criticised the Gov's efforts, eg $50,000,000 to train only 250 "bug busters"!). I've crossed swords with her (re correspondence) when she was in opposition, its obvious she has no grasp of logic, let alone the issues at stake. My criticism of many politicians is that they have no personal qualifications or work experience in the field they represent. I feel that to understand y2k you need this background.
-- Richard Dale (email@example.com), October 28, 1998.
Temporarily suspend enforcement of some scheduled drug laws to allow Americans to stockpile needed (as well as potentially needed) pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies and to allow Americans to legally be able to purchase low cost pharmaceuticals from overseas mail order companies.
-- Arnie Rimmer (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 28, 1998.
The Federal Government has consistently maintained that they will be ready for Y2K; in the case of the IRS, see http://www.zdnet.com/zdy2k/1998/10/4997.html Until you can convince John Koskinen et al otherwise, you are wasting your time.
-- Jack (email@example.com), October 28, 1998.
How about taking all needed measures and preliminary steps to draw whatever is needed from the National Reserve stockpiles in case of Y2K caused shortages?
-- Paul Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 28, 1998.
Jack: Yes, we might be wasting our time but then again, maybe not. I think there is probably a big difference between what Koskinen is saying publically and what he is saying behind closed doors.
Some positive head banging here won't hurt and does not require a great deal of time (except for Robert who has taken the initiative. I commend Robert for his efforts, even if they are, in the end, totally ignored by those who have the power to do something. Sure beats panic.
-- Arnie Rimmer (email@example.com), October 28, 1998.
Robert, you are wonderful.
If you didnt mention it, mandatory responses geared toward contigency plans in Large Metro Cities....Accountability...I cant even get an answer from anyone in our city.
-- consumer alert (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 28, 1998.
Please urge the Federal Government to be truthful about repairs, and to disclose Y2K project status in a timely manner. Advise people what to expect due to failures, and how to prepare. Last minute preparation = panic. Great job!
-- Mike (email@example.com), October 28, 1998.
Preliminary response is positive: They will include in their (the Senate's) Y2K agenda in either the 2nd week of Dec or early January. Possibly through Bennet's committee, more likely separately as part of an IRS package. Nothing back from the House yet.
-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 29, 1998.
Wow! Congratulations, Robert!
-- Tricia the Canuck (email@example.com), October 29, 1998.
In the immortal words of some drunk in some unknown, past golfing event: "YOU 'DA MAN!"
-- Slick (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 29, 1998.