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Thursday, April 24, 2014
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    It's Just Money

    Forget the debt ceiling, what’s that smell in the basement?

    by | Jan 23, 2013

    toilet_paper_dollarsAs long as politicians continue looking up at a debt ceiling and forward at future spending, they will never have to confront the problem they so comfortably wallow in up to their necks today, a problem only they can fix: systemic waste.

    Debate in Washington rarely turns to addressing the root of a waste problem which infects all levels of government. There are, of course, talks about how to cut spending, but cutting programs and funding does nothing inherently to cut waste.

    Consider this sad-but-true illustration:

    I work for a state government institution. Recently, I requested a piece of technology necessary for doing my job. The item retails between $150 and $200 from multiple sellers on Amazon, but since I work at a state institution, the item had to be purchased through an “approved vendor.” The idea is that these vendors will give the state the best possible price. What did the state pay for the item? Over $300.

    Instances like that happen every day at thousands of state and federal institutions. If you started to do the math, you would see why our country is in such trouble–not because we spend, but because the system allows “approved” vendors and contractors to fleece the taxpayers. Immovable barriers of bureaucracy have been cleverly constructed to funnel taxpayer dollars right to where the political architects of those barriers want them to go.

    The unethical (although not always illegal) and mutually beneficial relationships between the vendors and the politicians who approve them are what really need to be “cut” before operating budgets are sacrificed. If you simply cut funding to government institutions and programs, those entities will lay off employees and deny citizens beneficial services, not fix the problem of corruption at levels beyond their control.

    For another example, consider what America is paying for a typical American defense contractor overseas ($150k/year) versus what a typical deployed US soldier makes ($50k). Keep digging and you will find how close the CEOs of the defense contractors are with the representatives who approve paying for their services with your money.

    Republicans have for decades successfully sold the half-truth that the cause of government waste is a society full of lazy takers. Admittedly, there are far too many Americans receiving thousands of dollars in un-needed benefits across the country. However, focusing solely on social welfare as the primary source of big government waste has been such a successful diversion for Republicans that their fiscal support of big business and bloated military has gone unchecked—and where the constituents aren’t looking, the politicians are quietly allocating. The Democrats might be giving American welfare queens thousands, but the Republicans are currently giving hundreds of billions to foreigners by way of defense contracts (only a quarter of defense contractors are Americans).

    For too long, freely elected politicians have determined what vendors and contractors get to financially rape the American people with impunity, and that is America’s fatal flaw now. The people chosen to fix the system are the same people who benefit by ensuring it stays broken.

    ###
    Jason Palmer

    Jason Palmer

    Jason Palmer is a full-time instructor of composition and American literature at a small college in North Georgia. He is also the editor of politicdiscourse.com and regular contributor to The McLean Parlor.

     

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    • boblamb

      Well said, my man.

    • hannah

      Our public corporations have always served as a source of benificence for those in the know. In the olden days, it was mostly natural resources and preferential regulatory regimes (tarrifs and trade restrictions and territorial assignments). Then as mother nature’s cupboard got bare and some people insisted on setting aside resources for general public use, the dole went from goods to contracts for services. And that was helped along by the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act, after World War II and in response to miltary contract abuses, for the FTCA, instead of making Congress more honest, prompted them to privatize and hand as many duties over to contractors as possible.

      Free enterprise and the welfare drain are both a myth — myths that are designed to distract from reality. The reality is that people receiving public assistance with funds that they haven’t first “contributed” as taxes amount to 2%, double the number of those who control 80% of our monetary wealth.

      Money is to be spent. The federal government issues our currency. If the federal government doesn’t spend, then there’s not enough for us to pass around. The only reason for levying taxes, I suppose is to ensure that the currency keeps moving. Sort of like the alternating current in our electric grid.

    • Eileen Dight

      Good essay. There is waste on every level in America. In 1979 I was on holiday from UK staying with friends Toni and Ben Volcani in La Jolla CA. Ben was a marine biologist at Scripps Institute. He drove us and two visiting French scientists 200 miles one day through the Colorado desert. We stopped for lunch at a Texaco gas station restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Philippe pointed to the iced water brought to everyone at the restaurant and the rows of electric lighting in the ceiling (there was brilliant sunshine outside and large windows) and the constant stream of large cars passing along the highway nearby and said “I am afraid for the future -- such waste of resources.” He was somber and his comment made us all pause for thought.

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