A crucial cog in the political machine of the Empire State's Sen. Roscoe Conkling, he was named by President Grant to the powerful and lucrative post of collector of customs for the Port of New York.
Arthur was removed in 1878 by President Rutherford B. Hayes, who wanted to clean up the federal patronage system. But when James Garfield of Ohio was nominated to succeed Hayes, he sought to unite his party by picking the Stalwart Arthur as running mate.
Six months into the new administration, a deranged office-seeker shot Garfield. Arthur was president. And in a dramatic turnabout, he became the president forever associated with civil service reform, converting the U.S. government into a meritocracy where individuals were hired based upon examinations and advanced based upon merit.
In our time, however, Arthur's achievement has been undone, as a racial spoils system in federal hiring and promotions has been imposed by Democratic presidents, unresisted by Republicans who rarely exhibit the courage to stand up for their principles when the subject is race.
A week ago, an item buried in The Washington Post reported that Obama had "issued an executive order requiring government agencies to develop plans for improving federal workforce diversity."
Obama, wrote Isaac Arnsdorf, is targeting "a problem that has been on the administration's radar. Whites still hold more than 81 percent of senior pay-level positions."
Now, as white folks are two-thirds of the U.S. population, and perhaps three-fourths of those in the 45 to 65 age group who would normally be at senior federal positions, why is this "a problem"?
As no one has contended otherwise, we have to assume that the men and women who hold these top positions got there because of the longevity of their service and the superiority of their skills.
Why is the color of their skin a "problem" for Barack Obama?
As reported here previously, African-Americans are hardly underrepresented in the U.S. government.
Though only 12 percent to 13 percent of the U.S. population, blacks hold 18 percent of all federal jobs. African-Americans are 25 percent of the employees at Treasury and Veterans Affairs, 31 percent of State Department employees, 37 percent of the Department of Education, 38 percent of Housing and Urban Development. They are 42 percent of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., 55 percent of the Government Printing Office, 82 percent of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.
According to The Washington Post, blacks hold 44 percent of the jobs at Fannie Mae and 50 percent of the jobs at Freddie Mac.