Chris Edwards

Catching Terrorists with 1920s Technology

On August 18, the Washington Post ran a story on the post-9/11 technology investments at the FBI. The story concludes, “five years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and more than $600 million later, agents still rely largely on the paper reports and file cabinets used since federal agents began chasing gangsters in the 1920s.”

The Big Dig

With Boston’s Big Dig highway project in the news, a brief review of the project’s finances is in order.

 

As the project was getting started in 1985, government officials claimed that it would cost $2.6 billion and be completed by 1998. The cost ultimately ballooned to $14.6 billion and new problems continue to arise as the project finally nears completion. (The federal share of the project’s cost was $8.5 billion). In 2004, hundreds of leaks were found in the project, which added millions of dollars in taxpayer costs. And in recent weeks, parts of new road tunnel ceilings have collapsed. 

 

Raphael Lewis and Sean Murphy wrote an excellent Boston Globe series a couple of years ago revealing how the Big Dig had been grossly mismanaged. A key problem was that Massachusetts repeatedly bailed out bungling Big Dig contractors instead of demanding accountability. Contractors were essentially rewarded for delays and overruns with added cash and guaranteed profits.

 

When federal money is involved, state and local profligacy and corruption are usually the result. For background on the general problem of cost overruns on federally funded projects, see my compilation of evidence here.

Government Catch-22

The Washington Post reports today on the series of corruption scandals to hit Connecticut in recent years.

One scandal involved former Governor John Rowland, who was sentenced to jail for illegally accepting gifts. The Post quotes Rowland’s defense attorney lamenting that a new state legislature effort to crack down on corruption by imposing tighter rules will mean that “government will operate less efficiently.”

FEMA: For Ever Mis Appropriating

A new government auditor’s report finds that at least $1 billion out of $6 billion in one FEMA aid program for Hurricane Katrina was paid out fraudulently. Examples of waste ranged from $300 spent on Girls Gone Wild videos to $20,000 in aid paid to a state prisoner calling FEMA over the phone with a fake property damage claim.
As I discussed today with Bill O’Reilly on his radio show, FEMA’s wasteful spending is deep-seated and long-standing. A year before Katrina, there was Hurricane Frances in 2004. FEMA rushed in with aid and auditors later found that 12,000 claims were paid to residents not even hit by the storm.

At the time, USA Today said, “The findings are the latest to point at questionable disaster relief payments made by FEMA. Audits dating back at least a decade have shown similar problems elsewhere.”

What to do? The answers are in Downsizing the Federal Government.

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