Who’s Watching Washington?

In light of President Obama’s pledge to introduce more programs to solve our nation’s problems, someone ought to ask him how those already in place are doing! How well are taxpayers being served by the Energy Department’s Economic Recovery Act grants, for example? The one to LG Chem Michigan, the manufacturer of car batteries, seems to have been a near total waste of $150 million dollars. According to today’s Washington Post (Page A11), the U.S. Inspector General issued a report that found less than half of the promised jobs were created AND workers were found to be playing games, watching movies––even volunteering for animal shelters WHILE GETTING PAID.

Those were monies that the administration spent to stimulate the economy and we already know they deserve a C at best for those efforts. What about the day to day routine operations of government in Washington? Let’s take the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a case study in how Washington operates. First, Congress authorizes expenditures that propose to solve some problem. In this case affordable housing. Then dozens of people are hired to administer the program at the federal level and of course at the state level as well. Then if there’s anything left over, local politicians decide where those monies are spent and which of their campaign donars get the work. The people who need affordable housing? A few of them get the housing, but not as many as if Washington had just given them the money in the first place and let them buy their own housing.

Then there’s the sad truth that all these federal and state employees whose job it is to manage the $1 to $2 billion annual expenditure designed to build, buy or renovate housing are not up to the job. I don’t blame them individually, but I do fault the concept. Why would we expect layers upon layers of bureaucrats to be able to do a good job managing monies whose intent is clouded by political aims? At best the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development should be shuttered. If states want to use taxpayer monies to build and renovate affordable housing, fine, but why should the federal government be involved? Oh, the Inspector General–which seems to be the only agency in Washington that does its job–which found HUD’s oversight faulty a year ago says there hasn’t been much improvement (Washington Post, 2/14/13, Page A2). Are we surprised?


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