Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November, 2015, Part 5, Political Class Insanity: Bad Priorities In Illiniois and Wasteful Sepnding In Afghanistan

It is the start of another month which means it is time for our monthly review of the latest political class insanity that continually spews forth from America’s politicians. Their actions, words, quotes, incompetency, and general ineptness continue to reinforce our theory that we are currently being served by the worst set of politicians in the history of the nation.

As you read about the latest shenanigans and ineptness of the political class, keep in mind what should be their priorities in these difficult times and compare this list to what they are actually working on:
  • NBC recently reported that ISIS forces are getting larger and stronger despite the Obama administration spending billions of dollars on a failed air campaign and military strategy.
  • The stock market is stalling.
  • Job creation is barely keeping up with population growth.
  • Wage growth is anemic, growing just .2% in the second quarter, the lowest quarterly growth since 1982.
  • The labor participation rate is at the lowest level in decades because the Obama economy cannot generate enough jobs.
  • Thousands of veterans are still not getting the medical care they were promised by the Federal government.
  • A record number of police officers have been assassinated in the past week.
  • 45 million Americans are still receiving monthly Federal food assistance.
  • Our borders still leak and thousands of illegal immigrant criminals continue to walk our streets.
  • Major programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are hurtling towards insolvency and lose hundreds of billions of dollars every year to fraud and mismanagement.
  • Our kids are still getting lousy public educations at most public schools.
  • The IRS and other government functions seem to be getting their computer systems hacked on a regular basis, exposing tens of millions of Americans to identity theft potential.
  • Obama Care is a failure along so many dimensions as health care costs continue to soar despite the Obama promise that they would decrease.
  • Annual Federal deficits, while down, are still about half a TRILLION a year meaning that even though the Federal government is collecting more in taxes than ever before, it still cannot run a balanced budget.
Again, keep these real crises in mind as you read what our politicians are actually doing, saying and wasting.

1) The state government of Illinois has always been a joke. At one point in time there were more living former Illinois governors who had done prison time than living former governors who had not done prison time. The state is very close to being bankrupt. Vendors have not been paid for their products and services provided to the state government for a very long time (current unpaid debts are likely to be $8.5 billion by the end of the year), and state lottery winners have not been paid despite winning the state lottery. 

I would also assume that the state is not any better than other states when it comes to issues like failing public schools, crumbling infrastructure, drug abuse, crime, and other major issues affecting a large number of Illinois citizens. One would hope that state politicians in Illinois were hard at work resolving these major, major issues.

But as with our national politicians, associating hope with any American politician is usually a bad bet. Illinois is no exception. Instead of focusing on resolving the major issues affecting the state’s residents, Illinois state representative Edward Acevedo recently wrote and filed legislation that called for the national Republican Party to “denounce Donald Trump for his disgraceful behavior and to distance itself from him in the future.”

Furthermore, the legislation contends that Trump “has repeatedly made misogynistic, sexist, and derogatory comments towards women,” as well as “offensive and abhorrent comments towards people of Latino descent, Mexican immigrants, and Asians.” 

Really, this is what a major state politician is spending his time on instead of saving the state from fiscal insolvency and tackling the other major problems facing the states’ citizens? Name calling and hissy fits vs. sincere and effective governing? Inane priorities, just another case of inept politicians rearranging the deckchairs on their Titanic because they have no idea how to stop the state government ship ship from sinking.

As a result of Acevedo’s bad priorities, the New York Times reported on the crises that his inaction and the inabilities of him and his peers in the state government are causing:

Social service organizations that have contracts with the state, and the low-income populations they serve, may be suffering the most. Some nonprofits have not received money from the state since July 1 and say they have been forced to deplete their cash reserves and scale back services. Mark Mathews, the executive director of the Child Abuse Council in Moline, which provides counseling and visits homes of troubled families, said he had eliminated two staff positions and reduced one program’s caseload by 40 percent.

“It’s definitely damaging the not-for-profit agencies,” he said. “We haven’t been serving as many families. At-risk families aren’t getting home visits or services. That’s the tough thing.”

The sheriff of Cook County, Thomas J. Dart, said that people who would normally be helped by nonprofits, like the homeless, have begun to show up at jail instead, in search of assistance. Nonprofits are cutting staff, and some could close if the impasse continues, he said.

“These are folks who have missions to help the disadvantaged,” Mr. Dart said. “What was already difficult is becoming impossible.”

Despicable abuse of citizens welfare, tax dollars, and needs.

2) Let’s stay in Illinois and take a brief look at how bad the state government has been run and where it is today from a financial perspective:
  • As mentioned in the previous point, by the end of the year, the state government might be looking at a mountain of unpaid operating expense debt that could total $8.5 billion.
  • This means that every Illinois household would theoretically have to write a check for almost $1,800 just to pay off this outstanding operating expense debt in addition to any other state taxes they are already paying.
  • With the state politicians unable to come up with a functioning state government budget, it is highly likely that the state will not be able to pay the $560 million in pensions that are due in November and December.
  • Until they do come up with a budget, state lottery winners will not be paid their winnings.
All of which gets them into a potential fiscal death spiral since what fool would buy state lottery tickets knowing that previous winners might not get paid for a while or ever, reducing lottery revenue, and if they start missing big payments like pension bills, the cost of the state borrowing money is highly likely to increase, increasing its interest payments and deepening a debt hole that is huge to begin with.

What a mess, what insanity. A rich state like Illinois that could go bankrupt, you cannot make this stuff up.

3) It is no secret that America’s roads, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure are in need of serious repairs. They have been neglected as the American political class squandered trillions of dollars over the years on useless, wasteful and often crime infested programs and projects. One day a major bridge or tunnel is going to collapse and kill a bunch of Americans because of this neglect.

I wonder how many bridges or road could be repaired, in this country, for $43 million? Why $43 million? That is the amount of money that a Pentagon inspector general found that the Defense Department spent when they built a natural gas station in Afghanistan. This $43 million natural gas station was built in Sherberghan, Afghanistan to show the Afghans how natural gas could serve as a viable energy option for their country.

Not only is this a stupid idea to implement in a war zone, but the underlying numbers are incredibly insulting to the American taxpayer:
  • The original project plans were bid out at a cost of $3 million. Still a lot of money but nowhere near $43 million.
  • But somehow, between 2011 and 2014, the project costs skyrocketed from the original $3 million bid to a total cost of $42.7 billion, about a 14 fold increase.
  • Those involved claimed that $30 million of that nearly $43 million was nebulously called “overhead.” Others of us might call that $30 million corruption and kickbacks.
  • If $30 million was “overhead,” than the overhead portion of the project was two and a half times more than the construction of the project, hardly an efficient ratio.
  • To add insult to injury, the inspector general looking into this debacle found that as similar project that was built in Pakistan by the Defense Department cost $300,000, a fraction of what it cost to build a similar facility in neighboring Afghanistan.
  • More insults to the American taxpayer, according to the inspector general: “One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation, or outcome.”
  • The final insult: the area of the station in Afghanistan is too dangerous for the inspector general to even determine if the project ever became operational.
As always, you cannot make this stuff up, the creative and original ways that the political class and the government operations it oversees find to waste our wealth on idiotic and corruption infested projects. Again, ask yourself: how many American roads, bridges and tunnels could have been repaired for $43 million and not wasted somewhere in the boondocks of Afghanistan? 

The reality that this waste was not identified until years after it occurred shows just how dysfunctional the Federal government has become

Wasteful spending, bad priorities, and idiotic financial management. A typical day of insanity review from the American political class. More insanity tomorrow.

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