Monday, January 16, 2017

January, 2017, Part 10, Political Class Insanity: More IRS Incompetence, Wasting Billions Of Taxpayer Dollars and a Rising Wabe Of Crime

It is the beginning of another month which means it is again time to review the latest political class insanity from Washington and around the world. Political class insanity takes many forms including the wasting of taxpayer wealth, criminal fraud within government programs, inane and stupid political quotes and actions, the inability to create and implement effective and efficient government programs, stupid and ill performing economic policies and strategies, and other forms of insanity that continue to evolve and surprise and shock us. 

Today and for all of the insanity posts this month, let’s start off with a welcome piece of honest political dialog. It comes from a State Department spokesperson. Mark Toner, who is about to start the daily State Department press briefing. In a joking matter, he makes the following quote: "Welcome to the State Department. I think we have some interns in the back. Welcome. Good to see you in this exercise in transparency and democracy." 

He then burst out laughing at his own quote, indicating he also knew what a joke the Obama administration has been, especially Mr. Toner’s State Department, when it comes to cover ups, lack of transparency, denial of Freedom of Information Act requests, the prosecution of whistleblowers, etc. But at least it was a little refreshing to finally hear some actual honesty out of Washington as we see from the actual clip of the news conference:

With that context of honesty, let’s see what other insanity has been going down:

1) Let’s start today’s discussion on political class insanity with some good old fashioned wasting of taxpayer money. Rachel del Guidice, writing for the Heritage Foundation on January 10, 2017, reviewed some of the ways the Federal government absolutely throws away our tax dollars away on useless efforts and programs that have been uncovered by Senator Jeff Flake in his current wasteful spending report, “Wastebook” PORKemon Go.” Flake identified over $5 billion in wasteful spending examples that included the following atrocities:

1. “Spaceport to Nowhere.” The Missile Defense Agency continues to fund a rocket launch site in Alaska that could cost the organization up to $80.4 million. The facility is 20 years old, “rarely used,” and was established with an $18 million earmark. “The millions spent to date on this launch complex have not made America safer from potential missile attacks from foreign adversaries,” the report states. “To the contrary, it has siphoned away tens of millions of dollars that could have been better spent on more promising initiatives.”

2. Fishes on a Treadmill. How long can a mudskipper use a treadmill? The University of California-San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography is using grant money from the National Science Foundation to answer just that. The study found that mudskippers “can exercise longer and recover quicker under higher oxygen concentrations.” The grant also is slated to be used “to purchase what one of the researchers jokingly refers to as ‘all the toys’ as well as travel costs for junkets to conferences.”

3. Holograms at a Comedy Museum. The National Comedy Center, a nonprofit in New York, received a $1.7 million grant from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to create a comedy museum. The museum will feature holograms of dead comedians. A New York state lawmaker has promised to bring an additional $3 million in federal funding. “I’m not kidding you,” Flake said at Heritage. “It’s a comedy club that, unfortunately, gets your tax dollars.

4. Partying College Students. Part of a $5 million grant from a section of the National Institutes of Health paid for a researcher at Brown University to study the partying habits of college students. Some findings: “Greek members engaged in more risky health behaviors … than non-Greek members,” and college students tend to increase their intake of alcohol on game days. “According to the researchers,” Flake said, “all the games had the same goal—causing the participants to become intoxicated. I think that falls into the obvious category.”

5. Do Boys or Girls Play More With Dolls? A study executed by Vanderbilt University with money from the National Eye Institute and National Science Foundation examined “whether boys or girls spend more time playing with Barbie dolls.” The report surveyed about 300 men and women and cost over $300,000. The study also found, in the words of Flake’s report, that “women were much better at identifying the correct Barbies while the men were more likely to recognize the Transformers.”

6. Singing Dinosaurs. A study conducted with partial funding from $450,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation examined whether dinosaurs were able to sing. The two-year study examined, in part, whether dinosaurs ever possessed a syrinx. The lead author said the study was “another important step to figuring out what dinosaurs sounded like.”

7. Binge-Watching Computers. Can computers learn human behavior by binge-watching TV shows such as “The Office” and “Desperate Housewives?” The study was funded in part by the Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation, which helped researchers study how TV shows “train computers to understand and predict human behavior.” Flake said he sees this research as nonsensical. “Spending nearly a half a billion dollars to … turn computers into couch potatoes doesn’t compute for me,” he said

And while the government was spending tax dollars on these insults to our wealth, consider the other societal problems that could not be helped by the billions of dollars spent on this nonsense:
  • How many homeless Americans could have been given shelter, fed a hot meal, or given job training for that wasted $5 billion?
  • How many veterans could finally receive the medical care they need and were promised for that wasted $5 billion?
  • How many deaths of drug addicted Americans could have been prevented for that wasted $5 billion?
  • How many researchers could have been hired to seek treatment for cancer and dementia patients for that wasted $5 billion?
  • How many more teachers could have been put in our schools for that wasted $5 billion?
This is why no American, rich or poor, should pay an extra penny in taxes, especially when those taxes are wasted on such efforts like these and while so many Americans are suffering in so many ways. Despicable.

2) Another example that the Senator uncovered that was not described in the above Heritage article was that the IRS spent $12 million on an email archive system that it never used. $12 million spent, absolutely no benefit in return. But this is not the first time that we have discussed IRS incompetence.

The Daily Caller, reporting in 2014, also found more IRS ineptness:
  • The IRS has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on software and server licenses that they never used.
  • At that time the IRS computers and programmers were still using Windows XP operating system, a system that I do not think that Microsoft even supports anymore.
  • The IRS was using staff to do what up-to-date computers could do much cheaper and faster.
So pathetic and inept.

3) We have talked a lot this past week about the out of control gang and gun violence in the city of Chicago. Despite having some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, over 700 residents were killed in the city in 2016 and over 4,000 had been shot. We often point out that no one in the political class, local, state or Federal, has yet to come out with a plan or solutions for this violence.

How desperate have local politicians become? Consider the desperation that was recently expressed by Chicago Police Board Chairwoman Lori Lightfoot in an NPR interview: “We need to have more federal gun prosecutions in Chicago. Our federal partners from the U.S. attorney’s office, the ATF, the FBI need to be much more invested in this overall strategy. Chicago Police Department cannot tackle this issue by itself. This is not a problem that we’re going to arrest our way out of.”

The first step in resolving any problem is recognizing you need help which is a good sign from Ms. Lightfoot. But calling on various Federal agencies to help you out might be in vain, given that these same agencies have a less than stellar record of success. Anyway, we wish the best of luck to Ms. Lightfoot, possibly the one person so far in this whole scandal and mess that has any sense of what is needed to address the problem.

4) For the past few decades, the violent crime rate in this country has been going down, through good economic times and bad, through ever increasing gun sales, through all types of politicians, the violent crime rate has been going down, a very good thing:

Violent Crime Rate Chart

But that trend is starting to reverse itself. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, quoting analyses done by the Brennan Center For Justice in Chicago, the murder rate for the country’s largest 30 cities is expected to rise by 14% in 2016 when all of the final stats are added up. 

Although al lot of that is expected to be driven by the insanity in Chicago, 43.7%, that still means that there will be a substantial jump in the violent crime rate in a lot of those 30 cities. I am sure that there will be a lot of thoughts on what is reversing this long term positive trend but allow me to propose two:
  1. As the Federal government and politicians across the country continue to fight a losing “war on drugs,” the drug cartels that supply those drugs have gotten wealthier and more violent which is causing the rising wave of violent crimes in our cities.
  2. As the Obama administration has released tens of thousands of known illegal immigrant criminals and felons onto our streets and has been incapable of stopping criminals from entering, and re-entering this country, it follows logically that crime will go up when you allow more criminals to be on our streets.
Another failure of a failed Presidential administration, the end of the declining rate of violent crime in this country.

That will do it for today’s and this month’s political class insanity: higher crime, more bad news from Chicago, IRS incompetence, and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars.

Note: over the next couple of days we will be reviewing the accomplishments and failures of the Obama administration with most fo the time begin taken up by the failures because there were so many of them and so few accomplishments of a positive note.

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