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Consumers Corner # 36


Then they enjoy spending our money

By Jim Murphy

Business leaders and politicians love to talk about how government should be smaller, cheaper and run like a private company.

Until they become appointed to high-level positions, that is. Then any perk for themselves is well deserved, no matter what the cost.

Recent federal appointees in Washington, D.C. are a good case in point.

Consider these recent actions:

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency:

Not Lean:

Ordered “a $43,000 soundproof phone booth for his office, so his employees could not overhear him,” says the New York Times.

Flew first-class (against government custom) and when possible, on Delta Air Lines, so he could build up frequent-flier miles.

 Hired security guards in Italy, says the New York Times, at a cost or $30,000, while embassy guards were free.


Dismissed, reassigned or demoted five agency officials who objected to his costly requests.


Secretary of Housing and Urban Development,

Not Lean:

Spent $31,000 to buy a new customized hardwood dining room table, chairs, sideboard and hutch for his office during a time of severe budget cuts.


Proposed changes to federal housing subsidies that would triple the rent for the poorest households, according to the Washington Post.


Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Not Lean:

Authorized top dollar salaries for two new appointees to his office, paying them more than $230,000 a year. The amounts reportedly were far more than either one had been making.


Is exploring such cost-cutting ideas as: moving staff members to the basement or to Dallas, making them work from home or share desks.

At the same time, he is considering ending public access to an open, searchable record of over 1 million consumer complaints.

“I don’t see anything in here that says I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government,” the New York Times reported. He made the comments at a banking industry conference in Washington. “I don’t see anything in here that says that I have to make all of those public.”

More than 185,000 of those complaints were resolved with some form of compensation or relief, the Times says. Among them: consumer complaints about Wells Fargo that spurred action by the agency.

No wonder big business wants these reports kept secret.



An Ohio woman whose 15-month-old baby Sofia died after being accidentally left in the car for 9 ½ hours, wants to make sure no other parent has to deal with this horrible tragedy.

So Karen Osorio and her husband, both employees at Procter & Gamble, are launching a public awareness campaign with P&G’s Pampers brand to prevent vehicular heatstroke.

Called “Bag in the Back,” it urges parents to put a bag, wallet, shoe, cellphone or other essential personal item in the back seat of the car, so they won’t forget their baby.

The information will be included in gift bags to new mothers of 400,000 U.S. families through a network of hospitals, says the Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Osario thought she had dropped the baby off at daycare. She also checked on the baby’s progress on an app during the day, not realizing she was reading posts from the day before.

“Changes in routine” can be a cause

David Diamond, a neuroscientist and professor at the University of South Florida, says “most unintentional so-called hot care deaths involve changes in routine.”

Ms. Osorio left later for work the day of the tragedy, because she was packing to move to a new location. The day before, her husband had dropped Sofia off in the morning and Ms. Osorio had picked her up in the afternoon, a switch from their normal routine.

Some 40 children die from being left in cars each year.

Besides starting “Bag in the Back,” Ms. Osorio contacted LifeCubby, the app her daycare center used to share details of a child’s day. The app will now put a prominent gold checkmark over a child’s profile picture at check-in and generate a daily “Who’s Not Here Yet Today” rep0rt to call guardians of absent children.

The nonprofit Sofia Foundation for Children’s Safety launched in May on what would have been Sofia’s second birthday.



 1 in 3

Medicare patients who undergo an operation in the year before they die, says USA Today, “even though evidence shows many are more likely to be harmed than to benefit from it.”

Source: USA Today and Kaiser Health News


18 percent

Medicare patients who have surgery in the final month of their life. Eight percent have surgery in the final week of life , according to a 2011 study in The Lancet.


70 percent

Patients with a non-fatal skin cancer and a limited time to live, who underwent surgery, according to her 2013 study in JAMA Internal Medicine.



The Swedes were only here in the Philadelphia area for about 43 years.

Yet one of the key things they left us was the log cabin – which eventually spread across the country.

At the time New Sweden was established in Pennsylvania about 1642, Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden. And Finnish Swedes here built log cabins, similar to those they lived in at home. Local residents who moved west took the log cabin idea with them. And the rest is history.


Photo Credits

“Money” flickr photo by 401(K) 2013 https://flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/6848823919 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license. http://401kcalculator.org


Jim Murphy is a direct marketing copywriter who has run his own consulting business since 2004. For nine years, he wrote and edited “Choices,” an award-winning credit union magazine with a circulation of 80,000. Now a certified member and vice president of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides, Jim also writes historical articles for the Queen Village Neighbors Association magazine.

Any comments made are Jim’s opinion, and not necessarily those of the Old Pine Community Center.





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