Friday, December 11, 2015

December, 2015, Part 7, Political Class Insanity: More VA Corruption, Another Stupid Politician Quote, and More

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.
  • 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) When reporting on political class insanity, sometimes you just have to shake your head in disbelief and say out loud you cannot make this stuff up. This is the case with our first topic today,based on a Washington Examiner article from November 24, 2015 by Sarah Westwood. The Veterans Administration (VA) has been under fire and investigation for a while because of their incompetence in providing the promised medical care to our veterans. 

Thus, you would think and hope that the people running the VA would be on their best behavior and be diligent in our taxpayer money at the VA was being spent and used. But alas, that would be a major error. According to the article:

  • According to an inspector general’s report, two employees of the VA who allegedly stole $400,000 of taxpayer money from the organization will be allowed to KEEP the money they defrauded from the VA.
  • While they did each get pay cuts and demotions, they do not have to return the stolen money
  • Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves were both accused of abusing a program that was used to relocate VA employees who transfer long distances to new jobs within the VA. 
  • Rubens fraudulently stole more than $274,000 and Graves stole more than $129,000, according to the agency's inspector general.
  • Congressman Jeff Miller was justly outraged by the fraud: "This is not a situation in which VA can have it both ways," Miller said in a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald Monday. "In demoting Rubens and Graves, VA has already admitted what they did was wrong. Consequently, the department's failure to recoup the money Rubens' and Graves' unethical behavior enabled them to benefit from defies all logic."
  • In a bit of twisted irony, the Congressman pointed out that the VA aggressively goes after veterans or their surviving family members when they accidently get overpayments from the VA but are letting their own employees get away with far more than the typical overpayment to a veteran.
  • In even more irony, Alison Hickey, the VA's former top benefits official, stepped down from her position in October amid controversy over the inspector general's findings.
Like I said, you cannot make this stuff up. Steal tax money, get to keep the money you stole, get to keep a job within the VA, get your boss fired, and as always, get Congress all fired up who end up doing nothing. Insanity.

2) There is an old saying that goes something like the following: "It is better to remain silent and thought stupid than to speak up and remove all doubt.” That wisdom certainly applies to a recent sentiment by California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. In light of the recent terrorist attack in California, the good Congresswoman issued the following statement: “We let the assault weapons ban, which was led by our Senator Dianne Feinstein, we let that lapse. So you know, multiautomatic round weapons are easily available, even though not in California, but they can cross the state line, as you know.” 

The only problem here is that there is no such thing as a “multiautomatic” weapon. So how are we expected to take her seriously on a very important issue and topic when the Congresswoman is so ignorant of what she is talking about? This is similar to a Colorado Congresswoman who several years ago stated that over time there would no longer be any large capacity magazines left in the world as they got used up:

Little did she know that a magazine is refilled when it is empty.

Again, word of advice to politicians: better to remain quiet and thought stupid than to speak up and remove all doubt. Because when you speak up on topics you have no knowledge about your credibility goes to zero, a journey that is usually pretty short to begin with.

3) Several times over the past few years we have reported on several studies and audits of the Pentagon's financial systems and accounting processes and how everyone who has looked at those processes comes away with the same conclusions: the Pentagon’s financial processes are so screwed up that they are not only are they in disarray but they cannot even be audited, that is how bad the situation is.

Given that the Pentagon accounting systems cannot even be audited, one can only imagine how much fraud and waste is going on within the Defense Department. If they were a private company within the country, the SEC would likely have prosecuted them under any number of accounting laws.

Well, according to a recent article by Nathan Barton, writing for the Daily Caller website, the Pentagon is not alone in being totally out of control from an accounting and audit perspective:

  • A government inspector general report recently concluded that it could not audit billions of dollars allocated to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) because HUD’s accounting processes and books are so poorly kept.
  • HUD's financial statements are missing financial records, some records are inaccurate and in some cases actually violated Federal law. 
  • Just one single HUD entity, the Government National Mortgage Association, had $20 billion in financial accounting problems (Ginnie Mae).
  • According to the inspector general report: “This audit report contains nine material weaknesses, eight significant deficiencies in internal controls and six instances of noncompliance with applicable laws and regulations. These weaknesses were due to an inability to establish a compliant control environment, implement adequate financial accounting systems, retain key financial management staff and identify appropriate accounting principles.”
  • With regards to Ginnie Mae, the audit could not audit $19.8 billion in Ginnie Mae’s purse “because of the inaccurate reporting from its budgetary system.” Specifically, Ginnie Mae — a HUD agency — is missing documents needed to audit the funds.
  • The audit could also do nothing with $5.4 million of Ginnie Mae’s loan assets because accounting documents “did not completely transfer” after the agency switched contractors maintaining the records, the report say. As a result, "Ginnie Mae was unable to provide appropriate supporting documentation and data to enable us to audit the completeness and accuracy of these asset balances.”
  • The audit report also noted that HUD’s accounting has not had any oversight for the past ten years.
Again, just like the Pentagon, if a company tried to pull off some of these accounting shenanigans many people would have been investigated and possibly gone to jail under Federal laws. But alas, these are government workers wasting taxpayer dollars so you know that no one will get demoted, no one will get fired, and the problems are unlikely to be fixed within our lifetimes.

4) Let’s finish up today’s and this month's political class insanity with some good out fashioned corruption. What makes this case special is that the corrupt politicians actually got caught and actually got jail time. The added twist is that he is closely to Hillary Clinton.

In 2008, Clinton called New York state politician Sheldon Silver “a stalwart voice on behalf of the needs of New Yorkers.” Which is not surprising since way back in 2000, Silver, a former speaker of the New York state assembly, lobbied members of the state assembly to support Clinton’s Senate campaign. He offered Clinton his law office for Clinton to do lobby Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

Unfortunately, Silver was recently found guilty in a Federal corruption trial. He was charged with seven counts of fraud, extortion and money laundering and was found guilty on all counts. The prosecutors showed that Silver managed a scheme through which he received a whopping $4 million in illegal payments for taking official and illegal actions that benefited a cancer researcher, Dr. Robert Taub, and two real estate development companies. Evidence pointed that Silver orchestrated the New York State Health Department to grant Dr. Taub $500,000 to study mesothelioma in return for Dr. Taub to refer patients to the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, which in turn gave money to Silver.

The good news is that this corrupt politician is going to jail. The bad news is that he had access to the one of the highest political power players in the country, Clinton. The further bad news is that I doubt he is the only corrupt American politician raping the American taxpayer today.

That will do it for this month's political class insanity. Seven days were needed to digest all of the insanity from the past month or so. And you can bet that it is likely we will repeat the process again next month.

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