We’ve learned about what a huge and dysfunctional agency Veterans Affairs is in recent weeks. I had not realized that the agency added 100,000 workers in just the past seven years.
If you are interested in financial markets, Cato has an interesting forum tomorrow on bank runs. But if you are more interested in highways and spending, you can catch me at this Heritage forum tomorrow on the Hill.
Peggy Noonan’s op-ed on the weekend was titled “The VA Scandal Is a Crisis of Leadership.” Noonan discusses how President Obama “doesn’t do the plodding, unshowy, unromantic work of making government work.” Obama is not a good manager, and so scandals like the current one are to be expected.
In discussing one of her main achievements as British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher said, “privatization is at the center of any program of reclaiming territory for freedom.” One area where Britain reclaimed a lot of freedom is aviation. Since the 1980s, that nation has privatized airlines, airports, air traffic control, and in some cases airport security screening.
After my blogpost yesterday about Department of Veterans Affairs spending, my research assistant Nick created the chart below on the number of VA employees. Wow, you don’t often see bureaucracies expand that rapidly! A 56 percent increase in just 13 years, from 219,000 to 341,000 employees. The VA has 100,000 new employees just since 2006.
Rep. Ralph Hall is in the news for losing to a primary challenger in his Texas district. I first met 91-year-old Hall just last week as we were on a Capitol Hill panel together organized by the Texas Association of Business (TAB). In the photo, that’s Hall to my right and Rep. Kevin Brady and TAB head Bill Hammond on my left. (Photo credit: Office of Rep. Hall).
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the fifth largest agency measured by spending. Looking at estimated outlays for 2014, VA spending of $151 billion comes in behind the Department of Health and Human Services at $958 billion, the Social Security Administration at $914 billion, the Department of Defense at $593 billion, and the Department of Treasury (mainly interest costs) at $469 billion. See Table 4.1.
Two years ago, a thorough, bipartisan Senate report concluded that the federally created information-sharing hubs known as “fusion centers,” long billed as a “centerpiece of our counterterrorism strategy,” were in fact an expensive boondoggle. Despite being funded by the Department of Homeland Security to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars over a decade, the centers produced no useful counterterror intelligence and often focused instead on local law enforcement matters unrelated to any legitimate national security purpose.
In the months and years after the 9/11 disaster, federal policymakers did what they usually do after crises: they increased spending and seized more power. At the Bush administration’s urging, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 as a complex amalgamation of 22 different federal agencies.
The news is shocking: Patients dying on the waiting list for government-provided healthcare. But this is not a report from Canada or the British National Health Service. It’s right here in America, in the health system administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.