26 September 2011

Mixed bag

of Waste Fraud and Abuse!

I realize that getting rid of waste or fraud is pretty high on the list of things that needs to be done to government spending. And this is pretty bad. There's no reason the government could not cross reference these sorts of things to prevent such abuses as someone (else) receiving benefits for 30 years after an untimely demise. So yes. I agree. Absolutely. Fix it.

Here's the problem. Lots of people (including GOP candidates for high office, I'm looking at you Newt) seem convinced that eliminating waste fraud and abuse will magically fix our debt/deficit problems. 600 million over 5 years is no small sum. The federal debt is over 14 trillion. The federal budget deficit per year is over 1 trillion (plus states and cities each have their own deficits). 125 million vs 1 trillion is a very small number. 125 million out of 60 billion (the cost of the sorts of benefits discussed in the story) even is a small number (way less than 1%). Taken as a representative sample of fraud in government spending of all kinds and at all levels, we might get a couple hundred billion to save, being very generous (and this assumes that the "waste, fraud, abuse" is not put back in through lobbying, I'm looking at you defence contractors).

The public isn't really fully aware of this disparity. They think they are. But they are not. A large and princely sum of fraud will impress upon them the popular notion that none of their own cherished programmes need be cut or culled and no great sacrifices imposed in order to get the country's fiscal house in order. Only those evil fraudsters over there are wasting the taxpayers money. Certainly not me or my friends and family. None of my sacred cows (medicare, social security, defence, etc) need to be trimmed in the slightest and I damn to hell any politician who tries!

Bullshit. The sooner we wake up to it. The better. Government, at all levels, certainly needs to fix loopholes big enough to drive hundreds of millions of dollars through in their programmes. But that's not really going to solve the greater fiscal problem.You are going to have accept less, demand less, or pay more for what you get from government. Period. It's not a story of government spending all being full up with lies and crooks and scams.

The story is that you are scamming yourself by pretending to pay for (publicly provided) things and then pretending that they don't cost nearly as much as they really do. You are to blame. You. Not "them". You.
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