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 my testimony last week to the House Oversight Committee, I focused on aid-to-state programs as a major source of waste in the federal budget.
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.
New international student test results called PISA have been released. See here and here. Once again, U.S. high-school kids did poorly. American kids ranked 36th in math, 24th in reading, and 28th in science among 65 countries and jurisdictions. The U.S. scores were below the average of other countries in all three subject areas.
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).
Despite the fears expressed in news stories, federal worker furloughs do not seem to have caused major economic disruptions. While the National Parks were closed, most government workers that provide useful services to citizens are at the state and local level, not the federal level.
In a recent op-ed for the Indianapolis Star I discussed the symbiotic relationship between federal and state government when it comes to doling out corporate welfare subsidies. The focus was primarily on Indiana, but the issue is a national concern.
The Indianapolis Star’s July 21 investigation of a contractor hired by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to select companies to receive taxpayer handouts is further evidence that a separation of commercial interests and state is needed. For that to happen, however, the states will need to separate themselves from the federal money that perpetuates “crony capitalism.”
It looks like the cost of Arlington County’s gold-plated bus stop will be even higher than a $1 million. According to the Washington Post, taxpayers will also have to pay for an “independent contractor to review the cost and design” of the Transit Taj Mahal in Northern Virginia.