For more than 40 years, Amtrak has relied on $1 billion or more a year in taxpayer handouts to run slow, and often late, passenger trains. Indeed, the man considered to be the “father” of Amtrak, Anthony Haswell, recently said that he is “personally embarrassed over what I helped to create.”
Reporters who cover state and local government should heed the example of the Topeka-Capital Journal’s Andy Marso. It’s my opinion that reporters often insufficiently examine how state and local politicians spend federal tax dollars. Heck, I’m even surprised when a reporter mentions that the money originated from Uncle Sam to begin with.
According to popular myth, Democrats favor government planning of the economy and Republicans favor free markets. Today’s example of why this is baloney comes from the Republican governor of Indiana, Mike Pence. Before I get to the story, readers should know up front that I was a state budget official (2006-2008) in the prior administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels (R).
Last week, the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly passed a water infrastructure bill with only three members (two Republicans and one Democrat) voting against. In what must have been a moving scene for beleaguered supporters of unabated big government, tea party “radicals” joined hands with Democrats to support special interests at the expense of taxpayers.
CNN.com has an article today on disability overpayments made by the Social Security Administration ($1.3 billion over two years according to a recent Government Accountability Office report). Although people often associate government overpayments with fraud, often times it’s just bureaucratic bungling.
Almost three weeks before the government went into a partial shutdown, I warned that a Republican insistence on defunding or delaying the president’s signature Affordable Care Act in exchange for keeping the government open and increasing the debt limit was doomed to failure. Given my strong desire to see Obamacare tossed onto the ash heap of history, I would have been thrilled to be proven wrong.
I would have loved to have seen Obamacare suffer a lethal blow. I would have also loved for a unicorn to show up at my door with a check made out to me for $1 billion. Neither was going to happen.
I’ve taken a lot of flak from establishment media types and angry federal employees for my contention that the hullabaloo over the so-called government “shutdown” is excessive. The fact is most government activities have not stopped and most government employees continue to work. However, one activity that has stopped – and, man, this is personal – is the approval of new beer labels and recipes.
On Sunday, CBS’s 60 Minutes profiled Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) on-going investigation of fraud and abuse in the federal government’s two main disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (see Chris Edwards’ discussion here). Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs (Coburn is the ranking member) held a hearing on a particularly egregious example centered on the Social Security Administration’s Huntington, WV office.
It’s looking like it will take a week or more for Republicans and Democrats to reach an agreement to “reopen” the federal government. Regardless, with each passing hour a resolution necessarily becomes closer at hand because a so-called “government shutdown” effectively means that a budgetary impasse in our two-party dominated system has reached the end stage.