In an example of how government at every level wastes tax dollars, one U.S. county is spending around $4 million in combined federal and local funds to house a dozen homeless people in an affluent community.That translates into more than $330,000 per person, which means that Uncle Sam might as well buy them each their own, fully furnished house. After all, the median single-family home in the U.S. costs around $172,000 so the government could also throw in a few years worth of utility bills and even groceries.Instead officials in Bethesda Maryland will spend the money to operate a three-story apartment building, operated by the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission, that will house 12 homeless adults. The facility will have six studio and six one-bedroom apartments as well as a gym and computer center, according to the local newspaper (Washington Examiner) that exposed the costly project this week.A chunk of the money—$1 million—will come from President Obama’s fraud-infested stimulus, which has proven to be a disastrous waste of public funds. Judicial Watch has reported on the many scandals involving the president’s $787 billion plan to jumpstart the economy and put Americans back to work. Much of the money has gone to companies that have cheated the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and a series of wasteful projects.Last summer a scathing U.S. Senate report revealed that tens of millions of stimulus dollars went to frivolous projects like international ant research, to study why monkeys react negatively to inequity and a “tunnel to nowhere” in Pennsylvania. The same probe discovered that recovery funds also bought state-of-the-art cell phones for low-income smokers trying to quit, fancy digital music players for high school students in one state and advertising to promote the stimulus.What’s another million so homeless folks can live in an upscale neighborhood? Besides the stimulus cash, Montgomery County’s new homeless digs are being financed by an additional $944,829 in county housing funds and $2.1 million in state low-income housing tax credits.
While President Obama pushes to increase taxes for Americans, his Office of Government Ethicsis planning a taxpayer-funded “conference” at a famously luxurious golf and spa resort in Florida.Uncle Sam will fly hundreds of federal employees—charged with fostering high ethical standards in government—from Washington D.C. to the world-renowned Orlando resort, which is famous for its lush, perfectly landscaped grounds, a 7,000-yard championship golf course and a lagoon-like setting with six tropical pools, waterfalls. a water slide and whirlpools.The OGE is encouraging all employees with “ethics-related duties” to attend the September event, which has been crowned “Organizational Integrity: A Shared Responsibility.”Issues that fall within the OGE’s jurisdiction will be discussed, according to a bulletin, as will topics that intersect with ethics rules and regulations. What exactly does this mumbo jumbo really mean?Here are some examples of the pressing issues that can only be addressed at a golf and spa resort hundreds of miles away from the office. Sessions will cover social media and gifts, presumably the sort that government officials have long been banned from receiving. One workshop on the agenda will reveal how to “develop agency-wide support for the ethics program”An exhibit hall will feature winners of the Excellence and Innovation Awards and presentations from government agencies on how to “overcome challenges” in areas such as training, management and communications. The winner of the Ethics Awareness Poster Contest will also be crowned and attendees will participate in a reality game created to enrich the conference experience. In an effort to go green, this year’s conference has its own mobile application and website. Because there is so much material to cover (or perhaps to spend more time playing golf and sunbathing) the conference has been expanded from 2 ½ days to three.It may seem bizarre that the agency responsible for government ethics is organizing this sort of event during a dire financial crisis to address such ridiculous matters. After all, the OGE, which operates within the executive branch, is supposed to strengthen the public’s confidence that the government’s business is conducted with impartiality and integrity
With the national debt and federal spending at an all-time high several U.S. government agencies joined forces to make an outlandish $125 billion in “improper payments” last year, an increase of more than $16 billion from the previous year.This sort of government waste and corruption is hardly an earth-shattering development. Congressional investigators have for years documented the growing crisis of federal agencies making fraudulent payments to those who don’t qualify yet little has been done to correct the situation. In fact, this month’s audit containing the latest figures stresses that previous investigations have “highlighted long-standing, widespread and significant problems with improper payments in the federal government.”The impropriety is so pervasive that President Obama issued a much-ballyhooed order last summer commanding federal agencies to create a “Do Not Pay List” to protect taxpayer resources and stem abuse. It has done nothing to protect increasingly scarce taxpayer dollars, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress.In its latest report the GAO reveals that federal agencies made $125.4 billion in improper payments in fiscal 2010, marking a substantial increase from the $109.2 billion it dished out in fiscal 2009. The biggest chunk of the fraudulent payments—more than 90%—was made by social spending programs, mainly Medicare (health coverage for the elderly), Medicaid (health coverage for the poor) and the Labor Department’s unemployment insurance.Improper income tax credits, Social Security and disability payments, free school lunches and food stamps round off the top 10. Incredibly, just a few weeks ago the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a $5 million campaign to recruit more food-stamp recipients, even though the GAO reveals that the agency doled out nearly $4.8 billion in improper benefits last year due to “incorrect computations, misapplication of an income or resource exclusion and inadequate verification of accounts and wages.”There seems to be no end in site to the waste, according to GAO investigators, who diplomatically state that “challenges” remain in “determining the full extent of improper payments across the federal government and in reasonably assuring that effective actions are taken to reduce improper payments.” Some agencies don’t even bother reporting improper payments, the GAO says, so the full extent of the problem will never really be known.
In a flagrant example of how the government wastes taxpayer dollars, a federally-funded job center in Florida has financed a costly public relations campaign that is distributing thousands of superhero capes to the unemployed.The story would almost be funny if it didn’t involve such an idiotic act with increasingly scarce public funds. The job agency, Worforce Central Florida, is supposed to help the area’s 100,000-plus unemployed residents find work. Instead, it spent $73,000 on a corny publicity campaign titled “Cape-A-Bility Challenge.” The idea is to “generate awareness” of the agency’s programs, according to an official quoted in the Orlando newspaper that broke the story last week.A cartoon character named “Dr. Evil Unemployment” is the campaign’s star character and 6,000 red satin superhero capes are being distributed to jobless central Floridians who care to participate. The capes cost the government $14, 200 and foam cutouts of “Dr. Evil Unemployment” an additional $2,300. Apparently, the idea behind the capes is to elevate the self-esteem of the unemployed.The innovative campaign will also raffle gift cards and purchase media spots as well as billboard space. An advertising agency hired to run the promotion will collect $7,500. Ads feature videos of employers, job seekers and the public job agency’s chairman in a cape posing as superman. It’s all part of a brilliant “Everyday Superheroes” theme that the ad agency created for the campaign.On a bit of a positive note, the media coverage has led state labor officials to request aninvestigation into the matter. This doesn’t mean that anyone will be punished for such a ridiculous waste of public resources, but at least it will give the agency’s inspector general the opportunity to compile details of how it all went down and whose brilliant idea it was.
Led by a famous politician who pimps oil for a sworn enemy of the United States, a pair of congressman are denouncing cuts to a fraud-infested government program that gives low-income residents money to pay heating and cooling bills.Known as Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the welfare project gets around $5 billion annually despite documented waste and corruption that’s been repeatedly exposed in congressional probes and the media. Just last summer the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), detailed many of them in a report that blames lack of oversight for the costly problems.Investigators found that a number of dead and incarcerated people receive LIHEAP funds as well as 1,100 federal employees whose salary exceeds the maximum income to qualify for the handouts. One federal employee quoted in the report admitted that she requested her “free money” after seeing the “long lines” of applicants. Even when GAO investigators posed as applicants with fake documents, benefits were always paid out.Instead of eliminating the scandal-plagued program altogether, President Obama has only proposed to reduce its funding in fiscal year 2012. This has outraged self-described advocates of the poor, including two Massachusetts congressmen (Democrats Michael Capuano and Jim McGovern) and a former lawmaker (Joseph Kennedy) who capitalizes on his family name to promote his agenda.Kennedy, who served in the U.S. House for more than a decade, runs a nonprofit (Citizens Energy) that provides discounted and free home heating services for the poor. A few years ago Kennedy formed a partnership with Venezuela’s America-bashing communist leader, Hugo Chavez, to provide heating oil for his charity. Kennedy came under fire for starring in television commercials praising Chavez, who has referred to a U.S. president as the “devil” and has close ties to Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.Evidently, Kennedy’s friends in Venezuela aren’t providing enough free oil for all the needy folks in his state because this week he demanded that the president and Republicans “find some heart and soul and recognize the terrible impact” of the proposed LIHEAP cuts. To make his point, Kennedy showcased an elderly couple at a Boston press conference this week.They 80-something man and woman will be devastated this winter if Uncle Sam doesn’t subsidize their energy bill, according to Kennedy and his congressmen pals beside him at the podium. Capuano, who represents Boston in the U.S. House, acknowledged that the government is facing serious budget issues but pointed out that it’s not right to start with cutting “the most basic needs in this country,” referring to heating oil.
As the already-bloated federal government keeps expanding under President Obama, a new congressional report exposes astounding waste in hundreds of duplicate programs that cost U.S. taxpayers billions annually.Released this week by the bipartisan Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the United States Congress, the report is sure to enrage most Americans because it illustrates the sort of corruption that prevails in a government on steroids. In all, investigators found redundancies in more than 540 programs, including education, social services, agriculture and defense.No wonder the nation is $14 trillion in debt. Just take a look at some of the examples listed by the GAO. Ten federal agencies run more than 82 separate programs to improve teacher quality, 20 agencies operate 56 financial literacy initiatives, 80 programs provide the elderly and disadvantaged with transportation, 44 are dedicated to employment training and 20 help the homeless. More than a dozen agencies oversee food safety, including two for eggs alone.Additionally, the Department of Transportation spends nearly $60 billion annually to run more than 100 highway, transit, rail and safety programs and the Environmental Protection Agency and Treasury Department operate identical projects to boost domestic ethanol production. Combining those efforts alone could save the country up to $5.7 billion annually, investigators found.The feds could also save taxpayers lots of money—about $1.75 billion over a decade—if they only managed federal oil and gas resources more efficiently, the GAO found. Uncle Sam should also consider selling abandoned properties that cost millions to maintain. A few years ago the GAO published a report detailing the exorbitant cost of maintaining 927 vacant or underutilized properties throughout the country.Last spring a national news organization published an expose on the dilapidated government buildings that are draining scarce taxpayer resources in the midst of a financial crisis. Many are considered hazardous structures and all are deserted, including prime capitol-area real estate that’s been vacant for nearly a decade. One of the decaying buildings sits in the heart of Washington D.C., within view of the U.S. Capitol.