Let’s discuss waste

At least Mona Charen starts off good, by finally discussing something that just about any American voter can agree with, what elected politicians fail to do once they get into office. Precisely, be moral.

Bell and Irwindale, California are described as very poor with at least 16% unemployment and a $30,000.00 average income.  Yet, the elected officials whether mayor, city council members or even the sheriff  of Bell, California in particular, pulled down high $$$ wages.  The sheriff of Bell, California earned an annual income of $457,000.00.  When outed by the Los Angeles Times, he resigned his position.  Other elected officials from the same city were arrested for their high-rolling ways and charged with corruption.

A similar situation developed in Irwindale, California.  As briefly reported in the Los Angeles times, $87 million was set aside for an affordable housing fund.  But very little of it was actually used toward housing development or the rehabilitation of existing properties.  Which meant that the elected officials of that city mostly spent the money on themselves.  So, what is the problem?  Mona Charen spent months harping about Obama in particular and the Democrats in general.  Only now on election day 2010 can she get around to discussing a story that had been in the news for the same length of time.  But she discusses this misuse of public funds and demonstrations of pure greed from public officials as “waste.”  Not really, I’d classify “waste” as a $400.00 toilet seat that private businesses on contract with the Pentagon siphoned off the public dime.  Or cost over-runs for military equipment still in the development stage.  Or for that matter, putting up turtle crossing signs as part of the shovel ready stimulus package.  Deciding that the taxpayers’ money will not be spent on what it is intended for goes well beyond waste.  Nor is it specific to party who may engage in this type of behavior.

This is one time when I can agree with Ms. Charen.  If it is your own money, and especially in hard economic times you will be conscious of your budgetary restraints and spend the money only on what you can get the best value for.  If you spend the money on someone else, the same rules apply.  If someone spends some money on yourself, if they say, take you out to a good restaurant (Charen), you can have a mighty good meal.  But when it comes from government, where there is no concern about how the money is acquired and even further, how it gets spent; then yes, there is going to be a problem.  No, this isn’t specific to party. Any politician is capable of this sort of corruption or this sort of greed.

It isn’t their money and therefore, they aren’t prepared to be cost conscious about how it would be used.

When I describe the situation as actually the politicians’ failure to be moral, that is precisely right.  If this were a private business, say a retail store, the check out clerk (or sales associate) who is trusted with handling the customers’ money and assuring the store’s profits, short changes the customer and “pockets” the cash, or over charges the customer and “pockets” the cash.  Or takes some of the receipts at the end of the day and walks out the door with it.  That would be at the least a firing offense.  It is also a very criminal offense.  No legitimate business would long keep such an employee and would soon turn him in to the law for criminal prosecution.  They are right to do so.

The politician who engages in very similar behavior isn’t “wasting” money, he or she is only stealing it instead.  Seems to me that Ms. Charen’s column could have been more accurately headlined as “Scandals start when politicians steal” instead of “Scandals start with waste.”  The second version would leave open a wide-range of interpretation.  What defines, “waste?”  If it is an earmark from a politician that brings federal $$$ to a specific district, do those federal $$$ ultimately benefit the town, the county as to its long term development?  Or is it intended to benefit the politician, his friends or well-connected special interests?  The latter might be called waste.  A failure to account for every penny spent in the federal stimulus package especially as to where it was destined to go and what ultimately it was to be used for can be classified as waste.  Creating “fake districts” that actually did not exist, meant that someone somewhere was able to pocket a hell of a lot in taxpayers $$$.  That is theft, not government waste.  It is best that we do not gloss over what did occur with euphemisms.

So, what happens if you do not call theft and corruption what it actually is?  Then you open the door for choosing not to hold people accountable for their behavior.  On this election day, the GOP have done a lot of manipulation of voters’ emotions to try to regain control, at least, of the U.S. House of Representatives.  However, they have demonstrated a lack of moral fiber when it came to their own behavior while in office.

What “spending” would they cut?  Referring to the book “The Agenda Inside Clinton’s White House,” Woodward described Clinton’s campaign staff who set up a preliminary budget only to find that if they actually cut spending on various programs, they would offend the various interest groups who actually do depend on federal largess.  Exactly what would the GOP do to cut spending that ultimately would not anger interest groups?  Or even further, actually have the courage to inform wealthy and well-connected interest groups that ultimately, they should depend on their own resources and not on government.  Not likely. The description of the sort of government that takes in other peoples’ money, doesn’t carefully account for how it is used and especially in that money being distributed to others (Charen) applies just as equally to the GOP.  Nor am I likely to believe that they would do things any differently than they had before by January of 2011.  What would they “cut” to produce a meaningful budget?  Would they reduce earmarks specifically their own?  Would they slash programs that in particular have always benefited major agribusinesses?  Or would they simply turn on people who have the least voice because they don’t have the resources to hire lobbyists?

However, I will disagree with Ms. Charen about one thing, public corruption in government is normal and not unusual.  There are a great many ways in which public corruption is a fact and one of the processes by which various interest groups can get their hands on public monies or favored legislation.  What is not normal, is the politicians actually getting caught and being held accountable for it.  On this election day, the voters do have this opportunity to hold politicians to account; but is it for all the wrong reasons?  Because the GOP have demonstrated nothing but animosity toward Obama and the Democrats, but not showing the voters that they are able to do things any better from the last time that they were in charge?  We’ll just have to see, won’t we?



4 Responses to “Let’s discuss waste”

  1. Aldo Parah Says:

    Very helpful reading. Very helpful, finally a decent website with good information in it.

  2. Glennie Talty Says:

    Loved the article, where is the Donate button? hehe

  3. jeh15 Says:

    I wish I had one. Suggest if you wish to donate, there are plenty of good causes.

  4. Clifford Croman Says:

    Good article, Each and every point is good enough.Thanks for sharing with us your wisdom.

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