Even Jesse James never stole $72 billion

June 18, 2011|By LLOYD WATERS

Aren't you happy that you have a Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look after your money as a taxpayer and to keep your government honest?

Even though Jesse James was a crook, he never stole $72 billion of your money.

Almost in a nonchalant manner, the GAO reported last week that some retirement checks for federal employees were being sent to the retiree long after he or she was dead.  

The same Government Accountability Office, in a report in 2009, revealed that there were some $72 billion in improper payments made in fiscal year 2008 to those programs involving Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, retirements and others.

Little wonder there are no funds available for Social Security cost-of-living allowances.

Just why there would be no system to validate whether a person is living or dead and due a retirement check is a little unbelievable. I guess the person "responsible" for this process sees little need for actual "accountability."

Then again, there might not be a person responsible.

People, especially in government, don't seem to get overly concerned when they're wasting other people's money. That's a real problem with politics these days.

There is always an easy solution when $72 billion is wasted in our government.

"We'll just raise the taxes and get more money to waste" seems to be the attitude and answer of our fiscal caretakers.

Or "If that doesn't work, let's just raise the debt ceiling to accommodate even more waste."

There appears to be too little accountability in government these days, so I'm not certain that Government Accountability Office is the proper name for this agency.

Maybe we could create a few new agencies.

Perhaps we might form an agency and call it the Government Fix-it Office. "If it's broke, we're going to fix it" might be the motto.

Or how about an agency called the Government Preventing Fraud Department or maybe even the Government to Eliminate Wasteful Spending Office.

Perhaps the Can't We Just Have a Little Common Sense Office?

Government accountability just doesn't get it for me, especially since the problem never seems to get fixed by the people who receive the GAO report.

This office is only estimating the waste of some $72 billion in a fiscal year in those departments named. Can you imagine, for a moment, the waste in other departments?

My grandmother Gen, rest her soul, would always share her wisdom with me when she cautioned, "Waste not and want not."  That was a major theme of her generation.

There seems to be no end to the tales of waste in government. I'm certain each of you can offer even more thoughts on this topic.

In the current report of sending federal retirement checks to dead retirees, or to some of those other mentioned departments, the other sad story is that this money has little chance of being returned or recouped.

In a recent article in the Washington Times, it was suggested that from January 2009 to March 2011, some 160 cases involving retirement payments were made for federal workers or their spouses who were dead. Few of these cases will result in any criminal prosecution, and the possibility of the government retrieving taxpayers' money is slim to none.

The fix seems obvious. Let's create a system that promotes real accountability from the very beginning in every department. In this system, all local, state and federal agencies "must" participate and show results of "accountability" and "waste reduction."

Perhaps "Waste Not, Want Not" should be the main mission statement of these agencies.  

And maybe we should all be happy that Jesse James was a thief and not a deceased federal employee with a retirement. He's been dead since April 3, 1882.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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