Opinion: Columnists

Taxpayers' money keeps pouring down the federal budget sinkhole

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Opinion,Cal Thomas,Columnists,Debt Ceiling,Earmarks,Waste and Fraud,Spending

Most people, perhaps even the super-wealthy, who are usually accountable to auditors, want to know where their money goes. This is especially true when they detect money for which they can’t account. Not so with the federal government.

Some recent headlines reflect a disturbing pattern that has contributed to our $17 trillion debt and to a growing cynicism among the public, which increasingly regards government in a negative light.

Here are just a few recent gems gleaned from reading newspaper stories and wire service reports: "Pentagon to destroy $1 billion in ammunition." This USA Today story says, “It is impossible to know what portion of the arsenal slated for destruction … remains viable because the Defense Department's inventory systems can't share data effectively, according to a Government Accountability Office report …”

So in addition to nonfeasance add incompetence.

The New York Times reports on a modest medical office in Brooklyn that received $4.1 million in Medicare funds for "therapy." The Times says the money went to one person. Maybe the government needs therapy. Taxpayers certainly do.

A personal favorite, again from USA Today: "IRS workers who didn't pay taxes got bonuses."

Then there's this from the Washington Post: "Navy to award contract for Marine One helicopter fleet in shadow of previous failure." Why let failure get in the way of a government program?

"$6 billion goes missing at State Department," reports the Fiscal Times. I'm constantly misplacing billions, aren't you?

Again the Fiscal Times: "Government blatantly wastes $30 billion this year." The key word is "blatantly."

Just in time for this year's university commencement exercises we learn, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal: "Government programs to reduce (student loan) defaults are encouraging more debt."

Citizens Against Government Waste this week releases its 2014 "Pig Book" listing some of the outrageous spending by the federal government. The book focuses mostly on “pork,” those earmarks added to a bill after the normal budget process. Earmarks have been outlawed since fiscal 2011, but members of Congress always seem to find ways around the many laws they pass.

This year’s "Pig Book" has found earmarks attached to the 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. One paragraph from the introduction reveals the lengths to which some members of Congress will go to circumvent the law in pursuit of their own political interests:

"The 2012 Pig Book noted that although there were fewer earmarks than in prior years, the projects involved larger amounts of money and included fewer details. This is also true in 2014. For instance, a $25 million earmark for the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund appearing in the FY 2014 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act corresponds to 58 earmarks totaling $24.6 million for the same program in the FY 2010 DHS bill. The 2010 earmarks appeared in the 'Congressionally Directed Spending' section at the end of the bill, which contained the names of the members of Congress requesting each project and its location, as required by the pertinent transparency rules. This is in stark contrast to the FY 2014 earmark, which contains no such information."

When committing a crime, some criminals try not to leave fingerprints at the scene. Congress engages in criminality on a higher plain by not leaving “fingerprints” on their earmarks. Who will hold them accountable? Apparently not enough voters, too many of whom appear indifferent, or deliberately ignorant of it all.

To paraphrase the old Peter, Paul and Mary song: where has all the money gone? Long time passing. Gone to earmarks and down a sinkhole. When will we ever learn?

CAL THOMAS, a Washington Examiner columnist, is nationally syndicated by the Tribune Content Agency.
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