Unite splin­tered U.S. with ‘no more $1,200 cof­fee cups’

Albuquerque Journal - - OP-ED - Diane Di­mond www.DianeDi­mond.com; e-mail to Diane@ DianeDi­mond.com.

Call me crazy, but I think if fed­eral em­ploy­ees rou­tinely waste mil­lions of tax­payer dol­lars, some­one ought to be held ac­count­able, crim­i­nally ac­count­able if pos­si­ble.

And if any­one signs off on ob­vi­ously out­ra­geous spend­ing, like the per­son who ap­proved buy­ing cof­fee cups for the Air Force at $1,200 each or the one who OK’d spend­ing $3 mil­lion to study how shrimps per­form on tiny tread­mills, let them come be­fore Congress and ex­plain their ac­tions. If their su­per­vi­sor made them do it, I want to know that. Let’s fig­ure out how high up the food chain these nutty ex­pen­di­tures are be­ing ap­proved.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port from the Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice, fed­eral em­ploy­ees have been wast­ing our tax dol­lars for decades with no end in sight.

The CRS re­ports that over the last dozen years em­ploy­ees at 20 fed­eral agen­cies have made pay­ment mis­takes or au­tho­rized im­proper pay­ments of at least $1.2 tril­lion.

Imag­ine — more than a tril­lion tax­payer dol­lars mis­spent, yet can you think of any ma­jor me­dia out­let that is shin­ing a light on this pre­pos­ter­ous waste of our money? Can you name any politi­cian who is cam­paign­ing to right this sink­ing ship? Me nei­ther.

This prob­lem knows no par­tic­u­lar po­lit­i­cal party. Ev­ery year since 2009, fed­eral em­ploy­ees have sent out er­ro­neous pay­ments to­tal­ing more than $100 bil­lion. Last fis­cal year, which just ended in Septem­ber, the to­tal was $141 bil­lion. In just one year!

I can think of no more se­ri­ous dere­lic­tion of duty for a govern­ment em­ployee than wast­ing tax­payer’s money. And, if it is the same fed­eral agen­cies mak­ing these mas­sive fi­nan­cial mis­takes year af­ter year, when does the Jus­tice De­part­ment step in, start in­ves­ti­gat­ing and file charges?...

Here are more re­cent ex­am­ples of how your tax dol­lars are be­ing mis­ap­pro­pri­ated: Ev­ery year the fed­eral govern­ment shells out about $1.7 bil­lion to main­tain empty build­ings. Yep, in­stead of sell­ing some of the 770,000 struc­tures Un­cle Sam owns, the feds keep pay­ing for their up­keep. Sound like a smart idea to you?

The Pen­tagon spent $28 mil­lion on a re­ally bad wardrobe choice for soldier’s uni­forms in Afghanistan. When we out­fit­ted the rag­tag Afghan army some­one at the De­part­ment of De­fense OK’d a cam­ou­flage uni­form with ex­pen­sive zip­pers, in­stead of but­tons, that sported a lush green pat­tern. The bright green stood out — dan­ger­ously so — in the brown Afghan desert. Who thought that was a good idea?

And in the last month of each fis­cal year the an­nual “Septem­ber Shop-a-thon” takes place as fed­eral agen­cies scram­ble to spend what is left in their bud­gets. As fis­cal 2017 came to a close last month, 67 agen­cies, which ap­par­ently had op­er­ated just fine through­out the year with­out spend­ing ev­ery­thing they were al­lot­ted, went on a last-minute orgy of spend­ing to­tal­ing $50 bil­lion. The De­part­ments of De­fense, En­ergy, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, Home­land Se­cu­rity, Jus­tice, State and Vet­eran Af­fairs each spent over $1 bil­lion each — in just one month. You see, when an agency doesn’t spend its en­tire al­lot­ment its next bud­get is sure to be re­duced...

Is this any way to run a govern­ment? Of course not. But don’t imag­ine that fed­eral em­ploy­ees will sud­denly vol­un­teer to ex­pose this mon­u­men­tal waste of money. Why would they want to put their pay­checks and perks on the line?

Ev­ery year Wash­ing­ton spends more than $22 bil­lion to pay for fed­eral em­ploy­ees’ va­ca­tion and per­sonal time off. The av­er­age fed­eral bu­reau­crat gets 20 va­ca­tion days, 13 sick days and 10 paid hol­i­days ev­ery year. That’s 43 days of paid time off. Such a sweet deal, and one I’m bet­ting most read­ers don’t en­joy.

I know this is a lot of num­bers to ab­sorb. But we all need to re­al­ize how our money is be­ing han­dled. Taxes are high enough.

This ir­re­spon­si­ble spend­ing is not go­ing to end un­less the poli­cies and cul­ture of fed­eral agen­cies are elim­i­nated. And noth­ing will be dif­fer­ent with­out a per­sis­tent pub­lic howl for re­spon­si­ble spend­ing. Con­sider this my scream into the wilder­ness de­mand­ing more ac­count­abil­ity and real re­form.

If Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who sold him­self as the con­sum­mate suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man, is look­ing for an is­sue to unite the frac­tured elec­torate be­fore the mid term elec­tions, here it is. Sell it with the slo­gan: “No More $1,200 Cof­fee Cups!”


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