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Just what we need, a cheerleader in chief

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Column by Jim Flynn

A recent guesstimate of the number of civilian employees working for the federal government is around 2.6 million.      It’s not unreasonable to assume more than two and a half million employees should be able to keep track of how trillions of federal dollars are being spent.

Bad assumption! Frequent news stories reveal Washington loses track of billions every year. However, according to the White House there’s new hope. Just recently the president appointed VP Joe Biden to cheerlead all departments and agencies to spend more responsibly. Really! Rah! Rah! Rah!

Because of errors and frauds, Washington wrongly paid out $125 billion last year, up from $110 billion the year before. Even inefficiency and thievery suffer inflation.

In 2009, Social Security made $6.5 billion in overpayments. It’s an annual occurrence - partly fraud and partly errors. The 2010 total isn’t available yet. They’re still counting.

Similarly, after 30 years of paying bogus claims and getting scammed by hospitals, doctors, and hustlers, estimated at $60 billion a year, Medicare has announced plans to use high-tech screening to head off fraud – not with their own employees of course. They awarded a $77 million contract to defense contractor Northrop Grumman. Don’t be surprised if they hire additional personnel to oversee the Northrop contract.

A few months ago the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that Congress is funding 342 economic development programs, 47 job training programs, 80 transportation assistance programs for the poor and disabled, 90 child development programs, 82 programs to improve teacher quality, and 2100 computer data centers, five time as many as they had ten years ago. GAO didn’t reveal how many bureaucrats work in those overlapping programs.

Since 2008 the president has been increasing the number of IRS employees because they’ve been getting more successful at chasing cheaters. For 2012 the president proposes to add five thousand more IRS employees, plus another twelve hundred to begin administering his new health care plan - or is it the other way around?

Federal employee attitudes have been influenced by decades of wild spending by Congress. Why should lower level employees stick their necks out when elected officials continue to vote greedy, wasteful, and corrupt projects? Every program has protectors - congressmen, committee chairpersons, high level bureaucrats, and influential lobbyists.

A sampling of nonsensical spending by Congress includes three quarters of a million dollars to study gas emissions by dairy cows and a hundred and seventy five million to maintain buildings the VA never uses, including a monkey house. Those are just two of a long list of lax and loony projects that federal employees have to administer with straight faces.

Congress fears it may lose power if it gives up reckless spending. The Cheerleader-in-chief wants to spend, spend, spend but appear frugal in order to get re-elected. And the nation is in deep financial difficulty. Rah-Rah-Rah? All together now: Boo! Hiss! Boo!