Monday, March 6, 2017

March, 2017, Part 4, Polticial Class Insanity: More Food Stamp Scandals, More High Living By Washington Politicians, and the Disgust Levels With Washington Rises

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) Michelle Obama was a big advocate for kids eating well which is a noble principle. However, her school meal program turned out to be a disaster, schools lost lots of money trying to comply with the regulations of the Federal government effort, tons of food was wasted, and kids are not eating any healthier. Federal government failure.

Which makes it even worse is that another Federal program under operation at the same time was undermining and having the exact opposite effect of healthier eating. Consider a Chris Edwards article from the Downsizing Government website on February 22, 2017:

  • The Federal government program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, is supposed to help low income recipients “make healthy food choices within a limited budget” and “permit low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet.”
  • Again, a noble intention but it turns out that about $15 billion a year of SNAP resources is being spent on junk food, not quite what Michelle Obama had in mind.
  • Since the SNAP budget was $67 billion in 2016, feeding 44 million Americans, then over 22% of the budget is being used to buy junk food.
  • This was the bottom line finding of a Department of Agriculture study that was released last November which tracked SNAP and non-SNAP purchases at a major grocer over a period of a year.
  • The study found that SNAP buyers spent a higher percentage of their purchase on soda than non-SNAP buyers while SNAP buyers spent a lower percentage of their purchase on fruits and vegetables.
  • For SNAP buyers, “sweetened beverages,” “prepared desserts,” “salty snacks,” “candy,” and “sugar” accounted for 22.6% of purchases. 
There really are three scandals in this failure of the Federal government:

  1. Why is the Federal government subsidizing the purchase and consumption of junk food which contributes to obesity which contributes to the high cost of healthcare in this country?
  2. How badly has the political class managed the economy that 44 million Americans, about 13.5% of the entire population cannot find good enough jobs to feed themselves and their family?
  3. We have often discussed the criminal cases that have arisen as a result of abuse in the SNAP program so not only is 22.6% of the program wasting taxpayer wealth on junk food but billions of other dollars are being lost to criminal fraud, making this probably one of the least efficient government programs ever implemented.

2) The Blacksphere website recently reported on more government waste, but this time it was politicians wasting huge amounts of taxpayer wealth on their lavish lifestyle, as reported by the Washington Free Beacon:

  • The Beacon article found that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which includes the African American members of Congress, and its fundraising arm, the CBC-PAC, spends far more of its money towards administrative and fundraising purposes than spending it on black candidates, which is the whole purpose of the PAC to begin with.
  • According to the CBC-PAC website, its purpose is to raise: “the number of African Americans in the U.S. Congress” and to “support non-Black candidates that champion our interests, and promote African American participation in the political process-with an emphasis on young voters.” 
  • However, a lot of the PAC expenses were spent on lavish vacations and accommodations including $5,000 last January for the Buccaneer Resort Hotel in St. Croix,Virgin Islands, last March another payment was made to another St. Croix luxury resort hotel, $820 was spent on St. Croix taxis, over $2,000 was spent on St. Croix sightseeing tours, and over $4,500 was spent on catering at Un Amore, an Italian restaurant.
  • But the CBC also spent and wasted a lot of money domestically: $40,000 was spent at the Conrad Hotel in New York City, which is an all-suite luxury hotel, over $18,000 was spent at the luxury St. Regis Hotel in Washington DC, $6,576 on the 5-star Beverly Hills Hotel, $3,268 at the Waldorf La Quinta Hotel Resort and Spa, $4,180 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las vegas, a $3,372 bar tab at Drai’s Rooftop Bar and Lounge in Las Vegas, and $2,000 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Hotel.
  • The article also reported that: “The group paid $28,342 for “fundraising event tickets” to IHeartMedia Inc., a mass media corporation in San Antonio, Texas. The PAC put $22,112 toward “tickets and catering for a fundraising event” at the Staples Center, a sports arena, in Los Angeles, Calif. More than $25,000 was spent on catering at The Palm restaurant in New York City while $27,070 was spent on catering at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse in Washington, D.C. Thousands more were spent at other restaurants. The group also spent $1,621 on Broadway tickets and another $5,960 at the Golden Theater in New York City.”
  • Thus, rather than helping out African American political candidates, the CBC appears to be more interested in living the good life as analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics which found that CBC members via their PAC spent $283,100 on administrative expenses (e.g., luxury hotels, sightseeing tours, fancy dining, etc.), $127,000 on fundraising (i.e. getting money for their luxury lifestyles) and only $91,000 on the stated purpose of their mission, funding black candidates.
Do as I say, not as I do, the trademark of the American political class. Not thinking that the CBC is getting in touch with their constituents if they are staying in luxury hotels, both domestically and internationally, and eating and partying at high end locations.

3) But maybe Americans are finally getting fed up with a Federal government that wastes its hard earned tax dollars on failing government programs like SNAP and are fed up with politicians living the good life like the CBC members are doing while the rest of the country suffers. Consider the results of a recent opinion poll conducted by the Convention of States effort:

  • The poll asked the following question: “Overall, which level of government do you believe is doing a better job of serving its citizens and delivering results?” 
  • A whopping 71% said that state governments do a better job than the Federal government.
  • Republicans felt that way, 82% vs. 18%, Independents felt that way, 77% to 23%, and even Democrats, the lovers of big government felt that way, 54% vs. 46%.
So maybe there is hope as Americans realize that Washington and those that inhabit it really care only about themselves and now operate a bureaucracy that is bloated , inefficient, and ineffective. We can only hope that it is not too late.

For those of you that would like to make a difference and fix what is broken government wise in this country today, may I suggest you go to the following link to find out about a nationwide effort to fix what is indeed broken:

More insanity next month.

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