Thursday, June 29, 2006

Breathtaking Waste and Fraud

Two stories in the NYTimes the other day merit further comment as they pile up further evidence that Bush is indeed the Worst. President. Ever.

The first titled 'Breathtaking' Waste and Fraud in Hurricane Aid describes the complete and total collapse of fiscal control and oversight by the federal government in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster.

Among the many superlatives associated with Hurricane Katrina can now be added this one: it produced one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history, costing taxpayers up to $2 billion.

Wow! $2 billion down the drain because the incompetent Bush administration can’t get its act together. Imagine if something like this had happened while Democrats were in power? Do you think it would have been a one-day story generating little more than a collective shrug from the establishment media as if to say “What else is new?”

"The blatant fraud, the audacity of the schemes, the scale of the waste — it is just breathtaking," said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Of course, something like this would not have happened during the Clinton administration because Democrats actually take governing seriously. They put competent and knowledgeable people in place at agencies like FEMA who actually know what they are doing and take their jobs seriously. Republicans see government as an impediment to their buddies in private industry who are just trying to make a profit. Their objective is to weaken government oversight and controls as much as possible and in the case of FEMA they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross acknowledged that their systems were overwhelmed and tried to create new ones on the fly.
"We did, in fact, put into place never-before-used and untested processes," Donna M. Dannels, acting deputy director of recovery at FEMA, told a House panel this month. "Clearly, because they were untested, they were more subject to error and fraud."

You think so, huh. Some might argue that this outcome was inevitable, but that is not necessarily so.

"There are tools that are available to get money quickly to individuals and to get disaster relief programs running quickly without seeing so much fraud and waste," said Gregory D. Kutz, managing director of the forensic audits unit at the G.A.O. "But it wasn't really something that FEMA put a high priority on. So it was easy to commit fraud without being detected."

Not a high priority. There’s an understatement.
The story goes on to note that “there are bigger cases of government waste or fraud in United States history.” But interestingly enough, all of their examples occurred during the George W. Bush administration. Imagine that!

The Treasury Department, for example, estimated in 2005 that Americans in a single year had improperly been granted perhaps $9 billion in unjustified claims under the Earned-Income Tax Credit. The Department of Health and Human Services in 2001 estimated that nearly $12 billion in Medicare benefit payments in the previous year had been based on improper or fraudulent complaints.
Auditors examining spending in Iraq also have documented hundreds of millions in questionable spending or abuse. But Mr. Kutz of the accountability office said that in all of his investigative work, he had never encountered the range of abuses he has seen with Hurricane Katrina.

The other story of note is the one that reveals the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has relaxed its enforcement of food and drug safety laws by more than 50 percent since the Bush regime came to power.

The number of warning letters sent to companies in violation of federal food and drug safety laws has fallen by more than half under the Bush administration, according to an investigative report released Monday by a Democratic lawmaker.
The drop in enforcement actions by the Food and Drug Administration occurred even as agency inspectors continued to turn up a relatively steady number of industry violations, said Rep. Henry Waxman.
''Americans have relied on FDA to ensure the safety of their food and drugs for 100 years,'' the California Democrat said. ''But under the Bush administration, enforcement efforts have plummeted and serious violations are ignored. FDA can't do its job when its enforcement arm is tied behind its back.''

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