American Elephants

Government Waste Hits You Right in the Pocketbook. by The Elephant's Child


Federal watchdogs have ideas for saving $67 billion a year, according to a report by a House committee. That’s without counting the sequester.

So who are these “watchdogs”? They are the government’s Inspectors General who police the departments of the government for waste, fraud and abuse. They are the government’s auditors. They suggest ways to make government operation more efficient and to plug money leaks.

Each year, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform surveys the Inspector Generals and reports how many of the recommended steps have not been taken and how much taxpayer money has been wasted as a result.

The 2013 Inspector General’s report was released last week, and said that 16,900 of the IG’s recommendations are yet to be implemented. Using the most conservative estimates, they put the lost savings at $67 billion a year. That’s almost 80% of the sequester cuts that are supposedly causing layoffs, furloughs and general misery throughout the government. Eliminating waste, fraud and abuse as opposed to putting all those government employees on furlough? Such a choice.

The inspectors general do a fine job of enumerating the waste — but getting it ended is something else again.

There are 82 programs across 10 separate agencies endeavoring to improve teacher quality — something almost every local school district is trying to do as well. Are teachers improving?

There are 47 job-training programs —45 of  which overlap. The federal government runs 80 programs for the “transportation disadvantaged.” No bus service?

There’s an airport in Oklahoma that is kept open simply to collect federal funds. ($450,000) The airport receives one flight a month.

The robot squirrel  project to see how they interact with rattlesnakes  ($325.000) has received considerable publicity.

The government pays as much as $2 million annually in monthly service fees to maintain about 28,000 grant accounts that are empty and have expired. Because they have not officially been closed they still are charged service fees. Free money.

The cost to produce a penny is more than two times its actual value. This year the average production cost per penny was 2,4 cents. The demand for copper has driven up the cost.  Many countries have ceased penny production. We should either stop or use a less costly steel alloy as Tim Geithner suggested, but it takes an act of Congress.

Faulty FEMA calculations lead to replacing buildings instead of repair. (IA) ($75.4 million) FEMA uses a “50 percent rule,” if an estimated repair cost exceeds half the cost of replacement, you replace the building.

Highly publicized programs to identify mindless waste that should be eliminated, come along regularly. Some admirable  Congressman has taken it as his special task as long as I can remember, to expose the waste in government. There are honest Congressmen and there is always someone who gets really indignant about the waste they see.

From 1975 to 1987 Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire issued monthly “Golden Fleece Awards” — citations for especially nonsensical federal spending. A favorite was The National Science Foundation spending $84,000 on a study of love.

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. published his 2012 “Waste Book” in October, 2012 — 200 pages of painstakingly enumerated stupid government expenditures. Senator Coburn has also been fighting compulsive spenders and earmarks throughout his Senate career. He outlines 100 projects costing a cumulative $18 billion., and that’s just the silly stuff. Ask yourself, he says:

  • Can we afford this at this time?
  • Could this money have been better spent, or not spent at all?
  • Is this a national priority or is this something benefiting a special interest?
  • Does this fit the role of the federal government as outlined in the U.S. Constitution?

It is easy to find waste; eliminating it is something else. The bigger the government gets, the more private wealth it consumes, and the more taxpayer money is just plain wasted. Obama has made it clear that he does not believe that there is any waste in government nor any agency that can possibly be eliminated. At the Hoover Institution, Bill Whalen says:

There’s nothing stopping Republicans from daily – even hourly – citations of grill sergeants, “robot-squirrels” and cow burps found hidden inside department budgets. Add up the waste, calculate and translate in terms of keeping national parks open and White House tours operational. It’s another way for Republicans to educate Americans as to what taxpayers can live without.

A purist will note that these and other citations of profligate spending won’t balance the federal budget. And they’re right. But that’s not the point. In order to claim the high ground on fiscal policy, the GOP must embrace austerity, not steer away from it. That means steering the public toward recognition that not all spending cuts are cruel or uncalled for.

Republicans like to talk about the evils of Big Government. That’s a philosophical argument. Show the people how government waste hurts their own family budgets instead. Don’t just tell them you care, show them how much.

Just Dump It. It’s Not Worth Saving. by The Elephant's Child

Obama’s Sequester strategy is slowly crumbling. The White House dreamed up the sequester idea to force Republicans to fall in line. They thought that big cuts to Defense would force Republicans to cave. Progressives are not in politics to tinker with the existing system; they are in politics to achieve “social justice” and transform the way Americans live. Through government programs they will make everyone equal and take care of everyone in need. They can’t be having Republicans cut back on the funding they need to achieve their goals.

Republicans did not cave, so Obama had to enumerate all the layoffs and furloughs and children who wouldn’t get their vaccinations, park restrooms locked, and White House tours cancelled. Schoolchildren whose visit was spoiled, left Obama talking about bake sales and how he didn’t know anything about it, it was all the Secret Service’s fault. The ongoing list of horrors produced mostly a sharp decline in Obama’s believability, so now he is embarked on a “charm offensive” which even aides say is just for show. There is a budget battle coming up.

President Obama has clearly stated that he does not believe that spending is a problem. No one knows how he arrives at that delusional idea. He believes that the problem is the rising costs of health care, which ObamaCare will arrest.

It’s hard to understand why Democrats don’t see that the glorious future they hope to achieve has been tried over and over and always failed. Europe is the only the most recent example. Creating a massive government program that would absorb one-sixth of the economy and make every American dependent on government for health care, they saw as a major stepping stone to the ‘fundamental transformation’ of America. They are completely oblivious to the crumbling breakdown of their vision, sure that they can fix anything with a few new rules or regulations.

ObamaCare is a dreadful mess, and a law that will break down of its own weight. It is going to cost more than anyone dreamed, the law is stifling medical innovation, there are far from enough doctors, so the intent is to palm patients off on nurses, and import doctors from other countries. Now we learn that wives will be dropped from husband’s employer-provided health insurance. Insuring ‘children” until they are 26 will put an enormous burden on Insurance policies, and employers will have a strong incentive to drop spouses. ObamaCare requires a “per life” fee from companies that insure their workers, now $1 or $2 will be $65 in 2014. Some companies will simply require their employees to pay a spousal surcharge rather than drop them from the insurance rolls.

Democrats were astonished to learn that Paul Ryan’s budget plan includes the repeal of ObamaCare. The depth of the delusion is apparent when you recall that when ObamaCare passed, it’s supporters insisted the law would “bend the cost curve down,” and reduce the deficit.

The Senate’s budget plan (after 4 years of delay) not only does not  halt the massive spending in ObamaCare, it adds an estimated $1.2 trillion for subsidies to individuals for purchasing coverage through the exchanges., and $638 billion in matching funds for states to expand their Medicaid coverage. (possibly useless since few doctors will accept Medicaid patients).

Today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates ObamaCare will add almost $1.6 trillion in new spending over the next ten years. It obligates an estimated $1 trillion for subsidies to individuals for purchasing coverage through government exchanges and $644 billion for states agreeing to expand their Medicaid programs. To pay for the new entitlements, it takes over $700 billion out of Medicare, a program headed for insolvency without reform. They assume they can just pay doctors and hospitals less, and the medical professionals will still see those patients.

Supporters are desperate to hide ObamaCare’s failures and shortcomings, so the next phase has ideas such as strengthening the individual mandate penalty, expanding the powers of the Independent Payment Advisory Board. (IPAB) (Death Panels) Their only ideas are more force (mandates, fines and penalties), cutting the pay of providers, and denying service. You will participate, you can spend your days trying to find a doctor or go to the emergency room for any little thing raising costs dramatically, and if you are in such pain you need surgery, we’ll supply you with pain pills instead.

Every one of the major think tanks has brilliant ideas for replacing ObamaCare. Hospitals are reorganizing to save money and for greater efficiency. But individual doctors are coming up with different ways to practice. We have a number of “concierge’ doctors here— you pay an annual fee, and they become your doctor. I know  a physician who bought a big motor home, outfitted it as a doctor’s office, and arranged to park it at a local mall. I wrote recently about an Oklahoma Surgery Center that has reduced costs remarkably. Doctors are many of our best and brightest, and quite capable of finding innovative solutions. Pity that Democrats didn’t think to get their help. Of course they didn’t consult the American people either.  Just Dump it

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