Betsy McCaughey: More ways Washington squanders your money
PRESIDENT OBAMA is golfing on Martha’s Vineyard, and Congress is adjourned for a five-week vacation. So who’s minding the nation’s capitol? No one. Truth is, no one is ever minding that store. A string of disgraceful revelations in the weeks before politicians packed up for vacation shows that Washington is permanently mired in a culture of hazardous waste.
From the Patent Office to the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS and worst of all, the Department of Health and Human Services, career federal bureaucrats protected by union rules are taking taxpayers to the cleaners.
We, the people, don’t mind paying “our fair share,” as the President often says, if the money is used to strengthen our nation and help the needy. But it’s not. More than 20 percent of the fruits of our labor is being sucked up by the federal government. Add in the 17 percent being used by state and local governments, and at least 37 percent of GDP is being consumed by government programs. Do you get more than a third of your happiness from government? I didn’t think so.
Here are snapshots over the last six weeks showing what federal bureaucrats are doing to waste your money.
The Environmental Protection Agency is not protecting your tax dollars. According to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, “EPA surpervisors knowingly signed off on time sheets for people they knew. . . did not work, and in fact, never even logged onto their computers.” EPA employee John Beale got away with not coming to work for weeks at a time over two decades and charging airline tickets to the agency, all by masquerading as a CIA agent. None of his EPA supervisors has been held accountable for not stopping the costly charade.
When Issa raked EPA top official Gina McCarthy across the coals, she suggested that Congress consider making it easier to fire bad employees. That’s when all hell broke loose. The public employees’ union attacked McCarthy, and she quickly recanted, saying “I want to reaffirm the U.S. EPA’s commitment to fostering the type of organization that our dedicated and hardworking employees deserve.” Never mind what taxpayers deserve.
Over at the Patent and Trademark Office, paralegals are being paid to shop online, do their laundry, and watch television. According to a report released July 28, paralegals, who are allowed to work from home, use a billing code called “other time” for about half their hours billed. Judges complained that work wasn’t getting done, but backed off when unions resisted.
Then there’s “official time,” the term for IRS employees paid by taxpayers but working full time on union matters. The equivalent of 286 full-time staffers work exclusively for the National Treasury Employees Union while being paid by you and other taxpayers (2012 figure).
When IRS employees are not working for the union, they’re misspending your money. Next to the Department of Health and Human Services, the IRS takes the cake for most improper payments, including government benefits provided to ineligible people.
The “come and get it” philosophy also explains why 11 out of 12 government investigators posing as customers were able to sign up for taxpayer-subsidized Obamacare health plans even though they could not provide any information about their income or immigration status.
That’s the finding of a recent General Accountability Office investigation. But investigating isn’t easy. More than half the federal government’s inspectors general (47 out of 73) are formally complaining to Congress that government bureaucrats systematically stonewall, preventing the investigators from uncovering waste, fraud and misconduct.
Such abuses by powerful unions are what incited the Thatcher revolution in England and the Reagan revolution. It’s time for Americans to elect leaders who will stop the public sector union shakedown.
And when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gets back from vacation, show her this list. Back in the fall, she said further cuts to federal spending are impossible. “The cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make.” It’s bare because it’s being looted.
Betsy McCaughey is a syndicated columnist and former lieutenant governor of New York.