There are many major issues of our times that never seem to get resolved by the political class sitting in Washington. The issues of failing public schools, the lack of a coherent national energy strategy, escalating health care costs, leaky borders, Social Security and Medicare heading for insolvency, a bloated military establishment, and other major challenges never get resolved. We have overspent our nation's resources by more than $ 14 TRILLION and we have nothing to show for it.
Even the politicians that have accomplished nothing realize their incompetence, if you believe the following quote from Colorado Senator Michael Bennet as stated in the Washington Post on September 3, 2010: "We have managed to acquire $ 13 TRILLION of debt on our balance sheet. My view, we have nothing to show for it. " How true.
As a side note, realize that it was less than a year ago when a politician was talking about "only" a $ 13 TRILLION national debt. In less than 12 months, the Obama administration and Congress have added another $ 1.3 TRILLION to that figure or about $ 11,000 per US household.
Do not believe Bennet's opinion? Consider a quote from former President Bill Clinton, as quoted by the Associated Press on September 21, 2010: "Do you know how many political and economic decisions are made in this world by people who do not know what in the living daylights they are Talking about? " How true.
So even members of the political class acknowledge that they do not know what they are doing and have been abysmally unsuccessful in addressing the major problems. But what about some of the smaller issues of our times, How is the political class doing with those? Not very well if you consider the following examples of horrible priorities, horrible wastes of taxpayer money, and horrible execution of government functions:
– Let's start with one horrible sense of priorities from California Congressman Howard Berman. Congressman Berman and his staff are working on legislation that would order the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to restrict helicopter flight paths and set minimum altitudes over some of the most exclusive residential property in Los Angeles. The affluent neighbors of Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton are upset about the sound of helicopters that these celebrities use and want the Federal government to intervene, a cause that Congressman Berman is working on.
Some serious problems on this issue. First, the country is about to go over a financial cliff and this Congressman is spending taxpayer resources on a matter that affects just a very small number of Americans. Talk about bad priorities.
Second, according to the Associated Press article that reported on this "injury," the FAA already has existing rules in place to regulate helicopter traffic so the entire effort of Berman is unnecessary, especially since the legislation he is proposing has very few specific recommendations on How to regulate the southern California celebrity helicopter crisis. His proposed bill is leaving those ugly details to the FAA to figure out.
What a waste of time, energy, and taxpayer resources when hundreds of other, far more important issues need to be addressed. So, I think you can assume that a lot of our $ 14.3 TRILLION national debt was expended on these types of empty, very low priority initiatives.
– Second example of bad priorities this week comes directly from the President. With the nation on a collision course with severe fiscal problems in the beginning of August, one would hope that the political class would be in an "all hands on deck, 24 hours a day mode," trying to solve the debt ceiling issue. They all should be locked in a room and not allowed to come out until they have reached a solution. This includes everyone from the President down to Congressman Berman, his helicopter issue being damaged. However, that is not the case.
This past Monday, the President decided that spending a few hours to host the Major League Baseball World Series winners, the San Francisco Giants, at the White House was more important than staying deeply involved with debt ceiling crisis. Better to kill a few hours hanging out with very rich professional athletes than helping avoid the fiscal crisis. The Giants would still be champions two weeks from now and two months from now. Why was this meeting not postponed in light of the fiscal crisis? Bad, bad set of priorities, Mr. President.
It should be interesting to see if his bad sense of prioritizing continues this week: does the President leave Washington for a purely political birthday bash / election fund raiser event in his honor on August 3 or does he put the good of the country first if the Debt ceiling issue is not resolved by then? I know what option I would be betting on, given what the President's less than proper priority usually is.
– Let's look at a few other services we get from the Federal government to see if we are getting real value for our $ 14.3 TRILLION of debt. The first example comes from the Briefing section of the July 29, 2011 issue of The Week magazine. This week the section focused on the medical evidence that is revealing, for the most part, antidepressant usage may be causing more problems than solutions.
An interesting part of the article was the description of how a drug gets approved by the Federal government, through the FDA, for use by Americans. It appears that when a drug company comes up with a new drug, the FDA requires that the drug company must show two drug trials where the proposed drug shown positive effects. If the drug company can show just two successful trials, the Federal government will approve the drug for use.
However, what most people do not know, the FDA does not set a limit on the number of negative trials that the new drug caused before it finally got to two positive trials. Theoretically, a drug company could conduct hundreds of trials and if any two of them showed positive results, the drug is approved.
The analogy to me is golf. If I hit 10,000 golf balls in a row on the same par three hole, I may ever get a hole in one, not because I am a good golfer but because the odds of probability say if I do anything, I may get a Result I desire. Same thing with the FDA's approval process. Conduct enough drug trials, ever you will get the answer you want. This is what we are paying for, an FDA that allows a golfer to do the same shot over and over until he gets it right. Hardly a valuable Federal government service.
– A while ago we reported on the ill forged and down right stupid program that was implemented by the Justice Departments' ATF division called "Fast and Furious." The objective of the program was to intentally allow guns to be sold to the Mexican drug cartels and then track them to crime scenes where arrests could be made and the network of gun trafficking could be better understood.
The problems with this program were many. First, it turns out that the government really had not way of tracking the movement of the guns once they left the country so that once the cartels had them, they were lost to the trackers. Second, these were not a few, low caliber guns. There were thousands of guns, many of which were military grade, that our government allowed to easily get into the hands of the violent drug cartels.
Third, and tragicly, recent news reports are finding that weapons from this program have resurfaced in connection with at least 122 crimes in Mexico. The New York Times reported that on 48 different criminal occasions between 2009 and 2011, Mexican authorities found weapons from this operation.
At least two of the weapons were used in the killing of a US border agent and who knows how many Mexican citizens were also killed as a result of this botched gun tracking program. Total incompetence that happened to be more than wasted taxpayer wealth, it was and will continue to be a fatal waste of human lives. I wonder how much of the $ 14.3 TRILLION was a result of insanely bad programs like this one?
– But the waste and incompetence of Fast and Furious gets even better. According to an article from McCatchy Newspapers that was recently reprinted in the St. Louis Petersburg Times, six drug cartel gun runners, the exact kind of people that the ATF failed operation would be looking to appreciate, were actually paid informants on the payroll of the FBI and the DEA.
So lets get this straight: one part of the Federal government (ATF) is trying to catch Mexican gun runners who are actually working for another part of the government (the FBI and DEA)? How much of that $ 14.3 TRILLION was wasted because one part of the Federal government did not know what another part of the Federal government was doing? Thus, they were actually working counter to each others' objectives, accomplishing nothing in the process but expending a lot of taxpayer money to nothing.
– A scathing article by David Brooks of the New York Times that was summarized in the July 1, 2011 issue of The Week magazine is unmerciful when it comes to Fannie Mae, the giant Federal government mortgage facilitator. According to Mr. Brooks, Fannie was used for over a decade to funnel taxpayer money to Democratic party politicians and to the friends of Fannie's chief executive, James Johnson.
By flooding the market with risky subprime mortgages, to eventually be backed by taxpayers when that market collapsed, Mr. Johnson was rewarded with over $ 100 million in compensation. According to a new book on the subject, "Reckless Endangerment," Johnson and his insiders "paid themselves lavishly and used Fannie funding to lobby Congressmen, falsify academic research, and suck in reputable figures such as Bill Daley, Ken Starr, and Larry Summers To defend Fannie's scam. " All parties to this disgrace walked away from the nuclear economic meltdown they helped create.
Thus, part of the $ 14.3 TRILLION debt is a result of this type of criminal behavior backed by both Congressional involvement or Congressional laxity. In either case, nothing good came out of the whole Johnson tenure as head of Fannie, a tenure that will cost the American taxpayer billions of dollars to clean up for years to come.
– The last example of political class incompetence comes from Miami. A recent Miami Herald article reported on how south Florida has become the Medicare scam and fraud capital of the country. Since it is estimated that anywhere from $ 60 to $ 90 billion a year in Medicare funds are lost to criminals and fraudsters, why has not the political class, via Congress, made south Florida a focus point on cleaning up the taxpayer waste?
According to the article, whenever there is a little heat put on the scammers, they just take their money and go to Cuba, South America, or Central American to live off of their ill gotten gains. If everyone knows what is going on, why is not action being taken to crack down on those still scamming Medicare in south Florida and pressuring other governments to extradite those living abroad back to the US? The problem is defined but no solution is forthcoming. In the meantime, the tens of billions of dollars lost every year via south Florida scams contribute to the $ 14.3 TRILLION debt.
Well, unfortunately, not only the political class not solve the major issues of our time, they can not solve any of the less important issue, all of which have contributed to that $ 14.3 TRILLION national debt over the years. The non-prosecution of criminals, both in south Florida and in Washington, the lack of cooperation and the redundancy across federal government entities, the bad priorities that cause a loss of focus on what is really important, and government regulations that are not effective. Is there any doubt why we have the debt we do?
At least three steps need to be implemented immediately to rescue the country from the debt of the political class:
- Step 1 – reduce government spending by 10% a year over five years in order to get out of control government spending reinied in. More importantly, it would require every Federal organization to do a ground up audit of itself to eliminate redundant functions, terminate bad or unneeded programs, and ferret out waste.
- Step 2 – hold members of Congressional committees responsible for the objectives of their committees. Failure to attain those objectives and adequately keep the government functions their committees oversee would result in those committee members being removed from their committee posts.
- Step 3 – impose term limits for every Federal politician. If you have been in office more than ten years, you are now part of the debt problem and need to be removed.
The political class members currently in Washington have done nothing and are doing nothing to attack the cancer that is that $ 14.3 TRILLION national debt while providing no meaningful value while they waste TRILLIONS of dollars. No value, but high cost, a deadly combination.