Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Economy, Health Care, Law, Progressivism, Regulation
The debate over ObamaCare, the president declared, is over, and he won! ObamaCare is here to stay, and the debate is over. He claimed a grand total of 8 million subscribers, diagnosed Republicans as fear-mongering, spiteful, obstinate, petulant and obstructive., and added that he “would much prefer a constructive conversation with the Republicans about how we get some stuff done.” Which is a bit of an odd position to take since for the most part, ObamaCare hasn’t even really taken effect yet.
A new Fox News poll says that sixty-one percent of respondents in the poll released Thursday said Obama lies at least some of the time on important issues. Only 15 percent believe the president is completely truthful. Only 31 percent of Democrats said the president is always truthful. It seemed a useful poll in this context.
For the first time in the history of our country, one political party has forced the American people to buy a product devised by that party for their own benefit, that the American people have shown no indication that they wanted. The Democrats defied public opinion, rammed ObamaCare into law using the Cornhusker Kickback, Gator Aid, the Louisiana Purchase and all sorts of unseemly gimmicks to force unwilling Democrats to vote to pass it.
It funnels unprecedented amounts of power and money to Washington D.C. and out of the pockets of everyday Americans. It incentivises employers to refrain from hiring people and to cut hours for millions of their employees. It bans millions of people’s health insurance policies because they don’t conform to the rules designed in the backrooms of Congress. Obama crows over insurance policies, but doctors are so disgusted with the program that they are leaving medicine in droves. Since July 4, 2009, according to Real Clear Politics, 458 polls have been taken on ObamaCare. Twenty have shown Americans liking it, five have shown ties, and 433 (95%) have shown them disliking it. The five most recent polls have shown Americans opposing ObamaCare by double digits. And it hasn’t really started yet!
The president proclaims the debate is over and ObamaCare is here to stay.
Charles Blahous, the director of spending and budget initiative at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and a public trustee for Social Security and Medicare, said :
It is quite possible that the ACA is shaping up as the greatest act of fiscal irresponsibility ever committed by federal legislators. Nothing immediately comes to mind as comparable to it. Certainly no tax legislation is, because tax rates rise and fall frequently, such that one Congress’s tax cut can be (and often is) undone by a later tax increase. The same is true for legislation affecting appropriated spending programs. But the ACA is a commitment to permanently subsidize comprehensive health insurance for millions who could not otherwise afford it, which the federal government has no viable plan to finance. Moreover, experience shows that it is very difficult to scale back such spending once large numbers of Americans have been made dependent on it.
This is an expansion of spending commitments that is comparable to enacting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Our biggest financial problems today come from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security costs rising well beyond original projections. Nobody planned on the Baby Boom generation. The Congressional Budget Office now estimates that the gross costs of the ACA’s coverage expansion will be $92 billion in FY2015, or about 0.5% of our total GDP of roughly $18 trillion. This far exceeds the initial costs associated with the entirety of Social Security and Medicaid and is comparable to the startup costs for all original parts of Medicare combined. Only five years after enactment, the ACA will absorb more of our total economic output than Social Security did fully sixteen years after it was enacted. And government programs always, always, cost more than the estimates.
The ACA was enacted when legislators knew, or should have known, that they were living in a fiscal environment in which such extravagance was unaffordable. Deficits and Debt are far higher today than when other major entitlement programs were created. Baby Boomers are just beginning to turn 65, and their numbers swell exponentially until 2029. The sheer irresponsibility is breathtaking.
The ACA’s “CLASS” long-term care provisions were originally projected to generate $37 billion in net premiums through 2015. CLASS was suspended due to its long-term financial unworkability. That money is not coming in.
The employer/individual mandate penalties were expected to have brought in $12 billion through 2015, $101 billion over the first ten years. Obama has delayed enforcement repeatedly, and they haven’t brought in much of anything. Some ACA advocates are suggesting ditching those mandates altogether, though they were essential to the financing scheme.
The ACA was supposed to be financed in part by cuts to Medicare Advantage, the extremely popular program for seniors. This is typical of government programs. Establish the program, get everybody signed up, then start taking funding out of it to support something else. That was supposed to be $31 billion through FY2015, $128 billion over the first ten years. The White House recently announced that planned cuts will not go into effect after all —probably not till after the election.
We still have the “cost-saving” decisions of the Independent Payment Advisory Board— the 15 unelected bureaucrats who will decide what Medicare will pay for, and what it won’t. The ObamaCare people have always pointed out that most of the costs of health care come in the final years of seniors’ lives, and old people just don’t need such expensive treatment when they have so little time left. And they are sure that they can reduce costs by just paying providers less—which means good luck finding a doctor.
The great goal of getting those who can’t afford insurance signed up for Medicaid is confronted by recent studies showing that people who do without insurance actually do better than those who are insured by Medicaid.
Charles Blahouse concludes:
When new enrollment figures were released last week, the national discussion focused on whether the ACA is fulfilling its coverage expansion goals. The largely unwritten and more important story, however, is that the ACA is rapidly becoming a colossal fiscal disaster as enrollment proceeds heedless of the concurrent collapse of the law’s financing structure.
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Education, Energy, Foreign Policy, Health Care, History, Humor, Immigration, National Security, Politics, Taxes | Tags: A Guide to Liberal Thought, Andrew Klavan on the Culture, Really-They Do Think This!
The common conservative response to a liberal pronouncement is “You’ve got to be kidding!” Can they possibly believe what they are saying? The real divisions between liberals and conservatives are deep and wide, but Andrew Klavan takes a shot at explaining what it is that liberals believe, and how liberals think. It may be helpful, but —It’s not pretty!
Filed under: Economy, Health Care, Taxes, Capitalism, Law, The United States, Regulation | Tags: The Great Regulation, The Weakest Recovery Ever, Cause and Effect
President Obama has liked to emphasize the depth and general awfulness of what he calls “the Great Recession”— a term that pleases him because it associates his recession with Franklin Roosevelt’s Great Depression. Roosevelt cheerfully tried to tackle the Great Depression with constant experimentation. Obama has confronted his recession with regulation without end, in the unfortunate delusion that more control would fix things.
Washington set a new record in 2013 by issuing final rules taking up 26,417 pages in the Federal Register. The rules came from various agencies, but Obama remains at the helm and leadership matters. By sheer numbers, President Obama stands at the pinnacle for numbers of rules. The federal Register contained 3,659 “final” rules (which mean you have to obey them), and 2,594 proposed rules on their way to join the others.
Neither politicians nor the media regard this effort to control as anything out of the ordinary, nor important. Yet if you wonder why the recovery has been so far below average —there it is. The bulk of this year’s regulation comes from ObamaCare—a 2,700 page law that has metastasized into a 7 foot tall stack of documents, and Dodd-Frank. Things don’t get done because nobody has the authority to make them happen.
I wrote about the pressing need to protect and update our electrical grid, vital and essential to all life in America, but there is no active plan to rebuild the grid, because the government cannot make the decisions needed to approve it. The average length of environmental review for highway projects, according to a study by the Regional Plan Association, is over eight years. Eight years!
The results and costs of the legal system are not just monetary, everything is too complicated. There are rules in the workplace, rights in the classroom, and government is bogged down in bureaucracy. Responsible people do not feel free to make sensible decisions. We are pushed around by lawsuits, and unable to move for fear of punishment for barely understood regulation.
The point of regulation is to try to make things run smoothly, make sure things work in a crowded society, but rules have consequences, and not always those intended. We now have a court system where even referendums voted on by the public have been taken over by the court system in which judges now feel free to decide these matters. The objections to “judicial activism” are richly deserved, and now even judges are mistrusted.
Consider the case of a fictional Pasquale’s Pizza chain. The typical restaurant has their pizza menu on a large lighted sign behind the counter where you place your order. The federal government has decided that nutritional values for each ingredient must be listed on the menu. Impossible on the customary lighted sign. What to do? How much will it cost? The profit margin is already slim. Pizza chains have dozens of ingredients, and changing featured recipes to entice customers. ObamaCare requires a restaurant to provide health insurance for full-time workers. The cost of policies has gone up sharply. Cut back all employees to 30 hours? Female employees and male employees must work the same number of hours for the same wage.
The requirement for ethanol in gasoline has raised the cost of pizza ingredients. It has also raised the cost of transporting supplies. Requiring a portion of power to come from wind and solar has raised the cost of electricity. Fuel-efficiency regulations have raised the cost of trucking. And all that is before regulations and taxes at the local, state and national levels.
You end up with schools that make fools of themselves over zero-tolerance regulations that do nothing to prevent violence, school lunches that kids won’t eat. You have armed federal agents raiding the Gibson Guitar Company and confiscating their guitars and their materials ostensibly because the wood used for guitar frets violated and environmental law. The wood was legally imported, meeting all the standards of the country of origin, but the costs to Gibson were huge. You not only cannot fight city hall, but you must surrender even though you are in the right, just to avoid further financial damage. There is case after case of people subjected to an armed SWAT raid, accused of violating a regulation they’ve never heard of, and ruined financially.
What business is going to take a big risk, invest a lot of money in a new venture, expanding, hiring new workers in such a climate? There is risk in everything we do. Trying to legislate risk out of our lives just leaves us with rules that keep people hunkered down, trying to avoid bureaucratic attention. In this climate, politicians cannot even get the big things done, let alone attempting to undo the web of regulation that is crippling society.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Economy, Health Care, Politics, Progressivism, Regulation, Statism | Tags: The Cost of Bad Ideas, The Democrats' Mistakes, Unicorns and Rainbows
When the Democrats started digging old plans out of dusty drawers, they decided, since they controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, to go for government sponsored health care; they were absolutely sure that the American people were going to love it. Big mistake.
The cost of American health care had been climbing significantly, and Democrats were sure that they could significantly cut the costs of medicine by making the medical profession more efficient and insisting that they learn from the best practices of industry stars. Another mistake.
Democrats believed that the uninsured were a huge problem because people with no insurance were flooding emergency rooms and driving up costs. Turned out that most of those who used emergency rooms had insurance, they just couldn’t make appointments with their doctor for immediate help. Turned out that a large percentage of the uninsured did not have insurance because they could not afford it, but because they didn’t want to pay for insurance. They were healthy and unconcerned. Oops!
Democrats believed that if they added some nice benefits that people had never had before on their insurance like therapeutic massage, birth control and pediatric dentistry, the government insurance would be even more popular. They would just spread the costs of the new benefits across the board so the expense would not be noticed. They didn’t have an insurance actuary figure out the costs of including those benefits on a policy for 55 and 60 year-old folks who had no need for birth control or pediatric dentistry.
The CBO has issued a report that appears to show that ObamaCare will cost less and cover more people than expected. But their projections seldom turn out. There are just too many variables. The latest report says that ObamaCare will cost $104 billion less over the next 10 years than it thought just two months ago. The numbers rest on the CBO belief that premiums will be flat next year, but the industry has already warned of double-digit rate increases— a sharp rise that will drive costs up far beyond the CBO’s estimates.
Out of the blue, the Census Bureau has changed how it counts health insurance, just at the moment when ObamaCare is roiling the insurance markets. The effect will muddy comparisons between pre-ObamaCare and post-ObamaCare numbers. A lot of things we would like to know, like how many people gained or lost insurance under ObamaCare? Did government crowd out individual insurance? It will apparently take several years before we have answers to those questions.
The one thing that is increasing dramatically is unhappiness among physicians. Nine out of ten doctors discourage others from entering the profession. 300 doctors commit suicide every year. Depression among doctors is not new, but the level of unhappiness is on the rise. Being a doctor has become a miserable and humiliating undertaking, and many doctors feel that America has declared war on physicians and doctors and patients are the losers.
Many doctors just want out. More are running for Congress. Medical students opt for high-paying specialties so they can retire as soon as possible. MBA plans for physicians are flourishing, they promise doctors a way into management. The website called the Drop-Out-Club hooks doctors up with jobs at hedge funds and venture capital firms.
Some, including President Obama, seem to believe that doctors are paid way too much and if the government needs to save costs, they can just pay doctors less. This is the mindset that reduced Medicaid to such a point that those who go without health care may do better than Medicaid patients. Same goes for Medicare and the other government controlled health care systems.
More doctors refuse to accept health insurance. Some have gone into concierge medicine, where for an annual fee, the doctor is at your service for the year. The federal government is hoping to go after that escape from ObamaCare, and they are still intending to end Medicare Advantage plans.
Just processing insurance forms costs $58 for each patient encounter, according to Dr. Stephen Schimpff, an internist and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center. Physicians have had to increase the number of patients they see. The end result is that the average face-to-face clinic visit lasts about 12 minutes, in which the doctor probably spends most of the time interacting with his computer.
Under ObamaCare the incentives are all wrong. The government adds ill-considered benefits to insurance policies in the hope of getting people signed up. This makes the insurance too costly for most people. The push from the government will be a constant effort to cut costs. Hospitals will push for doctors to see more patients in less time, so they can be adequately reimbursed. Doctors will be encouraged to pay less attention to the Hippocratic Oath and more effort to try to get adequately paid, or to get out of the profession—which will encourage the best and brightest to aim for other careers. Watch for a push for increased immigration of physicians from third world countries. Other than that…
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Freedom, Health Care, Politics, Progressivism, Statism | Tags: Admitting Reality, Lies and Euphemisms, The Pretense of Universality
Ross Douthat had an excellent column on Sunday about “the serious moral defect at the heart of elite culture in America.”
He began with a look back at a column by a Harvard undergraduate, Sandra Y.L Korn, which got some attention thanks to its daring view of just how universities should approach academic freedom. She claimed such freedom was dated and destructive and that a doctrine of “academic justice” should prevail instead. Harvard should not permit its faculty to engage in work tainted by “racism, sexism, and heterosexism.” She could come up with only one contemporary example of a Harvard voice that ought to be silenced, a “single conservative octogenarian” the renowned political philosophy professor Harvey Mansfield. Possibly because there are no conservatives to be found at Harvard.
Douthat says he tries to be a “partisan of pluralism, which requires respecting Mozilla’s right to have a C.E.O. whose politics fit the climate of Silicon Valley, and Brandeis’s right to rescind degrees as it sees fit”… but it’s hard to maintain respect “when these institutions will not admit that this is what is going on. Instead, we have the pretense of universality —the insistence that the post-Eich Mozilla is open to all ideas, the invocations of the ‘spirit of free expression’ from a school that’s kicking a controversial speaker off the stage.”
It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.
I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.
Do read the whole thing. We desperately need to clearly understand just what is going on around us. Propaganda fails if everybody knows that it is just propaganda. Lies, recognized, are just embarrassing.
Journalist Jack Kelly asks “Why Aren’t Public Officials Held to Account for Lying?” He contrasts the penalty imposed on a television con man with the whoppers told by government officials, and suggests that the penalties for lying should be equally applied.
It was chiefly the concept of equal protection of the laws — the idea that the rules should apply to the rulers as well as the ruled — that made our government different from most others in the history of the world.
It is the lying that gets toxic.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Freedom, History, The Constitution | Tags: Internet Freedom, Internet Technology, Surrendering Control?
The Obama administration has backed off from its plan to abandon U.S. protection of the open internet in 2015, only a month after announcing its plan to do so. Objections from Bill Clinton, a warning letter from 35 Republican senators, and critical congressional hearings and the administration now says the change won’t happen for years, if ever.
The proposed change is an agreement under which the U.S. retains ultimate control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as Icann. Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling told Congress last week they can extend the contract for up four years.
A House panel voted along party lines on Thursday to delay the administration’s plan to surrender oversight over certain internet management functions. Republicans worry that the proposal to transfer power to an international nonprofit group could open the door to an Internet takeover by authoritarian regimes.The bill would block the transfer of Internet powers for up to a year while the Government Accountability Office investigates the administration’s plan. The bill now goes to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.
Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) argued that the United States should carefully study the proposal before moving forward.”We know what China has done to silence dissent and Vladimir Putin wants to use the powers of the [International Telecommunications Union] to control the internet.”
Democrats accused Republicans of being paranoid. Ranking Democrat Anita Eshoo said “It is not a conspiracy or a digital black helicopter.”
The policy in question is the protection of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) and the vital Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (ANA)— functions that are the lifeblood of the free flow of information online—linking easy-to-remember domain names to numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Bill Clinton issued a directive to Commerce in 1997, to maintain “a market-driven policy architecture that will allow the new digital economy to flourish while at the same time protecting citizens’ rights and freedoms.” Icann has worked under the auspices of the federal government since 1998 to perform the oversight role.
Obama wants to forsake these essential protections in the name of global accommodation, potentially allowing countries or even bodies like the United Nations to impose their own definition of internet “freedom.” Obama’s decision would be consistent with his views on net neutrality, recent efforts of the FCC to place monitors in U.S. newsrooms and the Justice Department’s surveillance of professional journalists.
There is significant evidence that international groups are big on the “international” or “we are the world” idea, and not so much concerned about freedom and equal access. Many authoritarian countries already try to control and censor the internet. Not everyone believes in freedom of information—and we have considerable evidence in our own country of the current struggle to control speech that is unpopular or provocative or simply disagrees. The recent flap about NSA surveillance has made many international activists concerned, although Internet freedom would seem to offer Internet surveillance free to all comers.
When Icann’s contract with the federal government expires in 2015, it simply means that one government contractor is no longer responsible for the administration task. It does not mean the federal government has agreed to cede the oversight role. Only a vote of the U.S. Congress could do that.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Economy, Freedom, Regulation | Tags: Big Bloated Government, Exposing Layers of Excess, Spotlighting Duplication
How many bureaucrats does it take to screw in a lightbulb? According to USA today, It takes 10 different offices at the HHS to tun programs addressing AIDS in minority communities. Autism research is spread out over 11 separate agencies. Eight agencies at the DOD are looking for prisoners of war and those missing in action. Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado has 8 different satellite control centers to control 10 satellite programs.
These are simply 26 new areas pointed out by the Government Accountability Office, where federal government programs are overlapping, duplicative, fragmented or just inefficient. There are 162 areas so identified in part reports. This gives Congress a clear map for saving tens of billion of dollars a year.
We owe this list to Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who wrote the legislation requiring this annual report, which is now in its fourth year. “Turning this ready-made list of cuts into savings is one of the best ways Congress can regain the trust and confidence of the American people”, he said. “At the end of the day there are no short cuts around the hard work of oversight and identifying and eliminating waste.” The prepared testimony said:
It is impossible to account for how much money is wasted through duplication, in part because the government doesn’t keep track of which programs each agency is responsible for.
“One of the most troubling things in GAO’s report is the number of agencies that have no idea just how much taxpayer money they are spending on their programs,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). He has sponsored legislation , the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, that would require the government to better track spending data from Congress to an agency to its ultimate recipient. The bill has passed the House 388-1 last year and waiting for a vote from the Senate.
The agencies in question will object. Every agency in question will feel their slice of the pie is more important, and losing budget and personnel diminishes the agency. Bureaucracies always have empire-builders in their ranks. They just are not often recognized, because they have been good at telling their superiors how necessary that budget and that staff are to the good of the nation.
Many of GAO’s recommendations deal with some of the most complex and challenging areas across the federal government,” said Beth Cobert, the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, in a statement. “Fully addressing them is a long-term process that in many cases will take years to implement.”
Uh huh. Shine a spotlight on them and see what happens to the dark corners. Last year, the GAO reported that the two main groups responsible for POW/MIA issues were “unable to resolve disputes” about who was responsible for what. When last month, National Public Radio detailed how bureaucratic and slow the search for remains was, DOD Sec. Chuck Hagel ordered that POW/MIA efforts be streamlined into a single office.
This is what transparency and sunlight are all about. A media that is too lazy, uninterested, or partisan to do their traditional job as governmental watchdog, actually costs taxpayers money. A bloated, expansive government that is more interested in being important and powerful than in freedom and thrift harms everyone.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy, Economy, Immigration, Politics, Progressivism, Regulation, Taxes | Tags: Making It More Expensive to Hire, Overregulation and Overtaxation, The Great Job Destroyer
ObamaCare is not a popular subject, and as people actually begin to interact with it, it’s going to be a lot less popular. Democrats are desperate to make their stand for the mid-term elections about something entirely different. They have decided on the culture wars.
Today it is “Equal Pay for Women” which everyone thought was dead as a doornail after it became illegal to pay a woman differently than a man for the same job— way back in 1963— when the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed. President Obama is out there again today trying to claim that women are paid only 77¢ for the same job for which a man was paid $1.
Since that is against the law, it’s hardly surprising that the only place it still happens is in the increasingly lawless White House, where female aides are indeed paid less than male aides.
Obama brags about the Lily Ledbetter Act which he claims was to make equal pay for women a reality, but it actually only eliminated the time limit for filing discrimination claims — and was more correctly referred to as a law to benefit trial lawyers (who donate to Obama).
Nevertheless you constantly hear the 77¢ claim. Why? It is a statistical anomaly. When you look at male and female careers, men are apt to do the dangerous or high risk jobs. They have traditionally been in logging, mining, high-rise construction, linemen, explosive experts —jobs that pay way more because of the risk involved. Women are more apt to be secretaries, teachers, social workers. Women frequently drop out of the job market to raise children, for a few years or for longer periods.Women just assume more responsibility for child-rearing than men. The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act recognized that fact.
The 77¢ number comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure refers to the annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers. It doesn’t compare comparable men and women, and does not reflect that full-time men work 8%-10% more hours per week than full-time women.
The Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) is based on the faulty idea that “It’s Not Fair” in the interest of capturing more votes from women. The bill forces employers to raise women’s pay by sharply reducing their ability to defend what they believe is a justified differential in pay based on merit. The PFA limits the use of work experience or education to discriminate by requiring employers to demonstrate that they are job-related ‘necessities.’ The bill authorizes grants to supporters of the bill like the AAUW for training women in negotiation skills. Men are excluded. It will increase the cost of employing women, and so reduce job opportunities. It will also provide a bonanza for lawyers.
If you make it more costly to hire someone, employers will hire fewer someones. The current theme in the media is the continuing dearth of jobs, the Great Recession with few jobs, why aren’t there more jobs? No one seems to point out that Obama is passing more and more laws and more regulations that eliminate jobs. Whether the Affordable Care Act, the continuing drive to shut down coal-fired power plants and destroy the entire coal industry in the name of climate change, or the simple refusal to approve the Keystone XL pipeline — Obama talks jobs, but his ideas are that only government really creates jobs. Then we’re back at “crumbling roads and bridges,” job-training programs, and improving education. Same old talk.
It drags on. Businesses I patronized regularly close. Supposedly the job situation here is fine, but health clubs are closing and the biggest ones are increasing their advertising. If you pay attention to new advertisers, you can tell what businesses are hurting.
Filed under: Capitalism, Conservatism, Domestic Policy, History, Liberalism, Politics, Regulation, Statism, The Constitution, The United States | Tags: $1.7 Billion Maintainance Costs, Empty and Abandoned Buildings, Federal Government Property
“The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate, but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists.”
A Google search suggests that most articles have picked up on a 77,000 number, as the number of empty or underutilized buildings owned by the federal government—as a proxy for you and me. The “federal government” is simply the representative of us—a fact that is worth remembering.
Other numbers range from 45,000 to 100,000 and 300,000 which really points out that they have no idea how many empty, underutilized, abandoned buildings or properties there are across the whole country. Missile sites are included, as are buildings so abandoned that trees are growing through the roof. Taxpayers own them, and even when they are vacant—they are still expensive.
The Office of Management and Budget estimates that these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year. Even empty, someone has to mow the lawns, keep the pipes from freezing, maintain security fences, or pay for some basic power, except when it doesn’t. The only known centralized database that the government has is the inventory maintained by the General Services Administration called the Federal Real Property Profile and it’s not reliable.
Doing something with these buildings is complicated—even when an agency knows it has a building it would like to sell, bureaucratic hurdles limit what they can do. No federal agency can sell anything unless it’s uncontaminated, asbestos-free and environmentally safe. Expensive fixes.
Then the agency has to make sure another agency doesn’t want it. Then state and local governments get a crack at it, then nonprofits—and finally a 25-year-old law requires the government to see if it could be used as a homeless shelter. No wonder many agencies just lock the doors and say forget it.
These publicly owned properties are managed by the federal government for the benefit of the people. There are also enormous amounts of public lands. Military bases: Fort Hood, Texas, now sadly in the news, is 340 square miles in size.
There are National Parks and National Monuments, National Forests, and land ‘managed’ by the Bureau of Land Management. Trillions of dollars worth of land. And I am undoubtedly neglecting other jurisdictions. My brief Google search made it clear that we are not alone. It is a common governmental problem. I did find one article on “how to squat in abandoned property,” (probably British) and of course, reference to the empty cities of China.
I emphasize taxpayer ownership because President Obama, for political reasons, chose to shut down what he thought of as “government land” under his purview, during the “government shutdown.” The Constitution clearly says “We the People.” Bureaucrats, far too often, forget just who is the boss. They may prefer to think of themselves as enlightened public servants. They are the hired help.
This is one reason why Republicans believe in smaller government, but they aren’t much better at property management. It’s bipartisan.