Some people say that they don’t mind paying taxes. “You like your roads prim and proper don’t you?” they say. “What about your schools and your city parks and your state legislatures?” they say. “I’ll bet that you use state, local and even federal funded expenditures that you don’t even know you’re using.” Others say they “don’t miss it” when another complains about the amount of money they pay in state and federal taxes. “It’s a beautiful country,” they said. “It doesn’t come cheap.” The idea behind the “I don’t miss it” statement is that the complainer is a bit of a nitpicker, and that the nitpicker should appreciate all this country has to offer. The objective of such a comment is also to get the nitpicker to see that they are being a little greedy for wanting to keep more of their own money.
Fair enough, but what percentage of this money that has been taken from us is used on such worthwhile ventures, and what percentage is simply wasted? What percentage is used on a politician’s pet pork barrel projects, and what percentage is used in a fraudulent manner?
Pork Barrel projects: “The Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CAGW) 2010 Pig Book identified 9,129 (pork barrel) projects at a cost of $16.5 billion in the 12 Appropriations Acts for fiscal year 2010.”
A “pork” project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. To qualify as pork, a project must meet one of seven criteria that were developed in 1991 by CAGW and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition.
• Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
• Not specifically authorized;
• Not competitively awarded;
• Not requested by the President;
• Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
• Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
• Serves only a local or special interest.
Factcheck.org describes pork barrel spending as “government funds that are allocated by a legislator for a particular pet project, often without proper review.”
Fraud example: Out of $835 million in questionable Medicare payments identified by private contractors (contracted to investigate Medicare overpayments) in 2007, the government was only able to recover some $55 million, or about 7 percent, the report found.
“Medicare is already a pay-and-chase system when it comes to fraud, waste and abuse,” said Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “Providers are paid first, then questioned if there’s a problem. Add to that mix contractors who sit on cases of ongoing fraud when they should be referring them to law enforcement, and you have a recipe for disaster.”
Waste: A Mother Jones blogger snickered that a Washington Times poll found that the Americans they polled believe that 53% of every dollar collected in taxes by the federal government is wasted. The blogger said: “The Republicans are obviously winning the PR battle on this one.” The blogger said: “This means that some respondents said 60% or 70% or 80%.” He said: “I wonder how other country’s (citizens) would respond to a question like this.”
The blogger’s objective, with these comments, was to diminish the Washington Times poll, but an astute commentator asked the blogger a pertinent question on the comment board: “What is the true number? How much IS wasted?” In other words, if you’re going to mock the “outrageously high” 53%, then what is the true percentage? The blogger apparently didn’t deem such a projection necessary. Like a liberal Supreme Court Justice (Breyer, Ginsberg), the blogger wants to consult foreign precedent to obfuscate matters at hand. Instead of providing a projection, the blogger decided to mock the average that the citizens polled gave as outrageous. This is similar to President Obama mocking Republicans for their outrageous beliefs without providing answers of his own. Like Obama, the blogger would rather leave the mockery as a standalone point. The truth is it’s almost impossible to arrive at a precise figure, but if you’re going to mock other’s projections you should be required to put some skin in the game and venture a guess of your own. Making such a projection would also belie the blogger’s objective.
If the blogger were to venture a guess at the percentage of every dollar that the federal government wastes, he would have to include government redundancies, overspending, abuses of funding formulas (i.e. fraud), manipulation of data to encourage spending in various departments, funding fictitious congressional districts and colleges and students, embezzled funds, and missing money due to accounting errors and manipulation.
For many citizens the best way to express their frustration over this issue is apathy. They know that there is little they can do, so they have decided that they won’t care. As long as their bread and circuses arrive on time, they allow Washington to do whatever it is they do. Turning a blind eye to it also prevents one from realizing how powerless they really are.