Tuesday, June 2, 2015

June, 2015, Part 2, Political Class Insanity: A Circus In Baltimore, A Speaker of the House Gets Arrested, and Food Stamp Fraud

It is the start of another month which means it is time to review the latest political class insanity that the American political class has dropped on our heads in the past month or so. We do this review every month in order to continually prove our view that we are currently being served by the worst set of politicians in the history of our country. Their inane quotes, their failed programs and laws, their wasteful spending, their ineptness, and continued focus on their own careers and self enrichment at the expense of taxpayers is constant and disgraceful.

This month could be one of the worst ever, given the backlog that needs to be discussed. The insanity will cover a full range of areas where today’s politicians continue to disappoint and fail us. As always, the new ways they find to screw up is never ending and always creative.

1) We already knew this but it is good to get some hard data to verify the reality that the Federal government routinely blows billions of dollars every year via is food assistance programs. A recent audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that:
  • The Federal government incorrectly gave out $7 billion to “ineligible recipients” of food assistance. 
  • Part of the fraud problem is that the USDA has for years violated a requirement known as the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA), an act that requires government entities to conduct annual risk assessment of the operations of government programs that make “significant improper payments” of $10 million or more a year.
  • The USDA has been in violation of that requirement for the past four years while also refusing to implement a more efficient identity verification program prior to authorizing payments.
  • Two USDA programs account for the largest amount of the money that was wasted; food stamps, officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) together cost American taxpayers $16 billion in 2014. Of the almost $7 billion in fraudulent payments made by the USDA, those two programs accounted for $4.2 billion. 
  • Thus, an obscene 25% of the total budget for just these two programs were wasted by criminal and bureaucratic fraud.
  • A separate audit conducted by the investigative arm of Congress, also found that the USDA needs to improve its verification process for program access. 
  • The Forensic Audits and Investigative Service director at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that both of USDA programs mentioned above have been designated as “high-error” by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) since nearly HALF of the households that received benefits were not eligible because their income exceeded eligibility guidelines.
How many veterans could get the medical help they currently lack from the wasted $7 billion? How many homeless could be sheltered for that wasted $7 billion? How many drug addicts could receive treatment for that wasted $7 billion? Such a waste in so many ways, so much suffering because of political class and government incompetence.

2) I always have had faith the justice will always prevail, assuming you are around long enough to witness it. That faith was rewarded recently when former Speaker of The House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, was indicted by the Federal Justice Department. He is charged with trying to hide $3.5 million from the IRS and being dishonest with the FBI.

Now, this should come as no surprise, an American politician being crooked and dishonest. We have previously discussed the Congressman who took bribes and hid the bribe money in his freezer, the former New Orleans mayor who went to jail for kickbacks and shake downs, and the reality that any former Illinois governor is more likely to have served jail time than not. But it continues to be sad that our election processes are so bad and the people that we elect are so corrupt that it never seems to end when it comes to dishonest politicians.

A report from BuzzFeed detailed Hastert’s alleged illegal actions:

In an indictment handed down in the District Court of Northern Illinois, the Department of Justice and IRS charged Hastert, 73, with illegally transferring funds in an effort to avoid detection by the IRS, a scheme known as “structuring.”

In the indictment, Hastert is accused of agreeing to pay one individual $3.5 million.

Although the indictment does not specify the “bad acts,” sources said they could be from before Hastert, who is now a lobbyist in Washington, entered politics in 1980. The indictment does, however, claim that Hastert agreed to make the payments “[d]uring … 2010 meetings and subsequent discussions.” In at least one of those meetings, according to the indictment, Hastert and the individual “discussed past misconduct by [Hastert against the individual] that had occurred years earlier.”

The Washington Post elaborated on the accusations:

Beginning in 2013, the FBI and Internal Revenue Service began investigating “possible structuring of currency transactions to avoid the reporting requirements.” Hastert had made more than a dozen withdrawals of $50,000 in cash, which was provided to the unnamed individual every six weeks, the indictment said.

Each count in the indictment carries a potential penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago.

According to the indictment, Hasert was a school teacher and wrestling coach before he got into politics. Makes you wonder how he got so rich, dealing with millions and millions of dollars: was he just another corrupt politician or do wrestling coaches get paid really good money?

3) The Obama administration had probably the best chance to have a breakout recovery from the last recession:
  • It spent over $800 billion to stimulate the economy.
  • We are in the midst of a technology driven energy revolution that helped hold down energy costs while creating good paying jobs in the energy industry.
  • The Fed printed up trillions of dollars and flooded the market with it as an economic stimulus.
Despite these incredible tailwinds, the Obama administration has presided over the worst, most tepid, lowest performing economic recovery in at least a century. Obama years’ annual GDP growth results have never been near or over the historic annual GDP growth of 3% or so, always falling well below that target growth rate.

And it appears it is not going to get any better soon. The first quarter GDP estimate for 2015 was recently downgraded from a very weak .2% growth to a .7% contraction. Thus, getting back even to the long term average of 3% is getting more and more difficult as long as the current politicians in the White House and Congress are running the show. The Washington Post agrees with this assessment: 

Americans are starting fewer businesses, new companies are going out of business more quickly, and the new firms that do get off the ground are creating fewer jobs. None of that bodes very well for an economy still trying to find its footing.

Still trying to find its footing five years after the recession ended. Might be time to finally admit that with the current economic policies in the Beltway, finding any footing is going to be a long way off.

4) Lifve and safety have been facing some difficult times in Baltimore lately. After the riots and destruction that were caused by the death of a young black man while in police custody, tensions have been high between the citizens, the mayor, the district attorney, and the police force in that city. Unfortunately, for whatever set of reasons, that tension has led to a new crime wave in that city.

Just in the month of May, 38 people have been killed by street violence, making it the deadliest month in the city for the past 15 years. And while violence and crime is up, police records are showing that fewer than half the number of arrests are being made when compared to the number of arrest in the same time period last year.

And yet, the district attorney of Baltimore is proving once again that it is not only Washington political figures that are clueless and insane when it comes to doing their jobs and having so-called “good optics.” As more and more citizens of Baltimore are being murdered, as more and more citizens fear for their lives, the city prosecutor recently announced via Twitter that she is going to serve as the guest ringmaster at a circus.

Yes, the streets of Baltimore are turning into the Old West and rather than focusing on bringing people together and finding a way to reduce the violence and unite the community, she is going to be a circus ringmaster. I say that again since it is so difficult to believe that this is her priority in this time of local city crises. A circus ringmaster.

Again, when it comes to politicians and government bureaucrats, at any level of government, “you can’t make this stuff up.” This ringmaster gig comes not too long she sat on stage during a Prince benefit concert in Baltimore, while still in the midst of the unrest in Baltimore. Unbelievable. 

But maybe not a surprise since we have a President who has played more than two hundred rounds of gold and attended over seven hundred fundraisers as the economy has limped along, the government has given out untold billions in bad welfare checks, the Middle East continues to implode, etc. There is money to be made and fun to be had if you are a member of the political class. Just ask Hasert, Mosby, and the thousands of others that are more concerned with their own self enrichment, financially and ego wise, than serving the citizens of this country.

More insanity tomorrow

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