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Archive for the ‘Government Waste’ Category

Federal Government to Require Transgender Shelters

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 20, 2015

BathroomJust when you thought that the Feds could not outdo themselves with ridiculous ideas, they come up with one that leaves many stunned.  According to the Washington Free Beacon, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be requiring special shelters to accommodate transgender people that would include sleeping and bathing facilities of their choosing.

This is another example of the Federal government creating classifications of people.  Ten years ago most Americans never heard of the term “transgender”.  Now, the Federal government is making laws to protect them.  There is nothing in the Constitution that gives the government the power to take such actions.  It would be bad enough if the government’s intent came from compassion, but it is likely more to do with money and power.  HUD’s annual budget is $6.5 billion.  By creating subgroups of disadvantaged Americans it gives itself more power and larger future budgets.  The only way to put a stop to this lunacy is by forcing the government to operate within a balanced budget.

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Department of Homeland Security Focusing on Global Warming

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 10, 2015

In another sign of government gone wild, The Hill has reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is giving high priority to “protecting” the American people from global warming.  DHS’s quarterly report report lists climate change as one of its top priorities saying it “present major areas of homeland security risk”.

Evidently DHS has greater concern about the potential effects of climate change than ISIS.  No wonder the terrorists are growing in strength throughout the world.

The Department of Homeland Security started under the Bush Administration in response to the 9/11 attacks.  It has since grown to approximately 240,000 employees with an annual budget of nearly $40 billion.  These huge numbers are just another indication of how government agencies grow after being seeded.  These agencies become self-perpetuating, as they grab for power and taxpayer funds.  DHS’s jump from protecting America from terrorists to potential climate change affects is a prime example of the corruption of government.

There are various arguments that can be made that would indicate that the theory of man-made global warming is suspect.  However, assuming for the moment that man is radically changing the environment, one indication that science is not being appropriately used in the discussion is the one sided conclusions offered concerning the potential climate change.  All effects are promoted as negative, which in itself is absurd.  Any climate change has positive and negative impacts on different parts of the globe.  To suggest otherwise is an indication of the fallacy of the science and the bias of the argument.

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Voters and Government Waste

Posted by Steve Markowitz on November 2, 2014

pigJeff Jacoby, writer for The Boston Globe, posted an article titled “No wonder voters like a candidate who knows how to castrate hogs” about voter concern for government waste.  Jacoby points to one of the most successful political ads of this year by Joni Ernst that plays on her former farming background as a way to focus on government waste.  The catch lines of the ad included below is: “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm.  So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.”  She goes on to say, “Washington’s full of big spenders.  Let’s make ‘em squeal.”

Ernst is currently running for her first term in Congress against four term congressman Bruce Bailey.  Polls show the race to be a tight one.

As Jacoby points out, the Ernst advertisement has gone viral not only because of catchy words, but also because of voter discontent with Washington wasting the People’s money.  By way of example, Jacoby points to a recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report that included the following government waste:

  • From 2011 to 2013, the federal government spent $775 million to pay thousands of government workers for paid leave.
  • 57,000 government employees were on administrative leave for over 30 days. The GAO report covered only 3/5 of the federal government’s workforce so the actual number is higher.
  • Hundreds of government employees were on administrative paid leave for three years.

Government workers are typically placed on administrative leave when being investigated for some form of misconduct or criminal act.  Their superiors find it easier to use administrative leave rather than fire such workers given government mandated employment protections.  Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn bluntly says: “Charging booze and personal trips on the office credit card.  Passing out on the job after a late night partying.  Wasting most of the work day surfing for smut on office computers.… Any one of these outrageous behaviors would be reason enough for most to be fired … unless, of course, you are on the federal government’s payroll, in which case you might instead get a paid vacation lasting months or even years.”

Adding insult to injury, The Washington Post reported that “while the employees stayed home, they not only collected paychecks but also built their pensions, vacation, and sick days, and moved up the federal pay scale.”

There was a time when working for the government, either on the local, state or federal levels, was considered public service.  That is no longer the case.  Today, many government workers’ pay and benefits are higher than comparable jobs in the private sector.  Add the bloated workforce and inability to discipline unsatisfactory employees and you have a recipe for corruption and waste.  While people working for the government industry prosper, the People are hurt due to higher taxes and lower quality services.

Greed and mismanagement occur within both the private and public sectors of the economy.  In the private sector such poorly managed companies ultimately go out of business with their employees and stakeholders damaged in the process.  Not so in the public sector.  When a governmental organization is mismanaged, it is typically given more employees and more tax dollars to fix the problems.  Unfortunately, this approach only feeds the government workers industry and makes government even less efficient.

 

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25,000 VA Employees Earn More than $180,000 Annually

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 7, 2014

The VA scandal involved veterans dying as they waited for medical treatment from Veterans Administration hospitals.  In addition, VA management personnel were given bonuses as a result of their falsified reports that indicated timely treatment.

The IRJournal.com published VA salary information that adds fuel to the fire of the growing scandal.  The compensation list comes from the Office of Personnel Management.  It includes the number of civilian governmental employees who earn more than $180,000 annually that indicates:

  • Just over 25,000 government civilian workers earn more than $180,000 annually.
  • 18,709 of the 25,000 works for Veteran Affairs Department, 5% of its workforce.
  • For comparison, 2,355, or 3% of the Department of Health and Human Services workforce, earn more than $180k annually.
  • Also, 1,605, or 3% of the Department of Transportation’s workforce, earn more than $180k per year.

The government’s knee-jerk reaction to the VA scandal has been to increase the Department’s budget for the coming year.  However, the problem is not related to a lack of funds.  It is caused by employee greed, pure and simple.  While Liberals decry greed in the private sector, they hide from the discussion when it comes to governmental employees since such a discussion will likely lead to the conclusion that the power and funds going to the government should be limited.

VA Pay

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Washington Politicians Rich Pension Benefits

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 16, 2013

It looks like the knuckleheads in Washington are finally ready to reopen the federal government.  After creating the problem, yes both the President and Congress, they will undoubtedly take credit for once again saving the American people from Washington’s own incompetence.

At a time when it is obvious how dysfunctional the politicians in Washington are, it’s interesting to review some of the special perks they have voted themselves over the years.  A glaring example is there pension, as published by Bankrate:

  • As a comparison, the average Social Security benefits for Americans are about $15,000.
  • Another glaring example shows that most public workers still have defined pension benefit plans that few workers in the private sector have.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, retired city and county workers receive approximately $26,000 per year in these pension benefits.
  • Congressmen/women who serve just three terms, six years, have annual pensions of more than $14,000 at age 62. After 20 years of service they qualify for pensions of at approximately $59,000 annually and can collect this amount at 50 years of age.
  • A 30 year congressman/woman is eligible for annual pensions in excess of $75,000.  This group currently includes over 20 “public servants”.
  • As of 2011, 280 retired Congressman/women average pensions exceeded $70,000 annually.
  • Should House Speaker John Boehner retire in 2014, after being a congressman for 24 years, he would receive an annual pension of approximately $85,000.
  • Not to be outdone, after eight years as President, Barack Obama is eligible to receive an annual pension of $200,000 in addition to any other benefits including Social Security.

There was a time when those working for the government deserved the title “public servant”.  In exchange for relatively low salaries and benefits, these workers were to serve the public good and receive job security.  Now, in addition to the job security, they are paid more than the private sector workers who pay their bills through taxes.  In addition, government workers become a special interest group in themselves that has created an unholy alliance with the Democratic Party.  In return for ever increasing salaries and benefits, they donate funds to the Democratic Party and their votes.  The system has become corrupted as our Founding Fathers feared.

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Progressive EEOC “Benchslapped” by Court

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 10, 2013

This Blog has often writes about a government out-of-control that tramples on individual and corporate rights with increasing impunity.  Laws that may start with good intent often morph into discriminatory regulations enforced by an out-of-control bureaucracy and regulators.  The bureaucrats and regulators, who are rewarded for enforcement activities, end up taking rights from some Americans for the benefit of others.  The system is ripe for political interpretations and partisanship, as we have seen in the recently IRS scandal

Earlier today Fiona W. Ong, an attorney with the labor law firm Shawe & Rosenthal, posted an article about the EEOC’s (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s) overreach that was castigated by the courts.  The case, brought by the EEOC against a temporary staffing firm, is discussed in Ms. Fiona’s article and its links posted below.

The case was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan that not only found against the EEOC, but castigated the Commission for pursuing a meritless lawsuit.  The court ordered the EEOC to pay the defendant $745,000 to help defray its cost of litigation.  The EEOC appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit who this week upheld the lower court’s decision.

As a labor lawyer, Ms. Ong likely see firsthand the huge costs employers expend defending against frivolous claims.  While those employers succeed in many of the cases, the legal costs are huge, especially with the nearly limitless pockets available when the plaintiff is the US government.  This reality forces completely innocent defendants to pay “green mail” since such settlements ultimately are less costly than litigation.

Like Ms. Ong, seeing a government agency slapped down for abuse is heartwarming to this blogger.  However, that warm feeling is tempered by the damage abusive government programs have done and will continue to do to individuals and the greater economy.  For this and similar reasons, American industry has been gutted as companies respond to the abuse in the only logical manner available to them; move to countries with friendlier business environments.

In addition, my fleeting feeling in of warmth engendered by the court’s decision quickly cools when realizing that the EEOC made the outrageous decisions with taxpayers not only paid for this foolish litigation, but also the fine levied by the court.

This should be a lesson to Progressives looking for even more government.  It should be remembered that behind every bureaucratic and regulatory position there is a human being who is just as greedy and flawed as those in the private sector.  However, there are significant differences with the main one being that government employees are rarely held accountable for their poor decisions.

EEOC Slapdown Over Meritless Criminal Background Check Lawsuit

By Fiona W. Ong on October 9th, 2013 Posted in Background Checks, Employment Discrimination, Litigation, Workplace Trends

I like the EEOC – I really do.  They do important work, and most of the time they seem to get it right.  But every once in a while they dig in their heels over something patently ridiculous, leaving employers and management attorneys like me tearing out our hair in frustration.  So there’s no small measure of satisfaction when the EEOC gets benchslapped by a court for engaging in an unreasonable lawsuit, as just happened in EEOC v. Peoplemark, Inc.

As I mentioned in a recent blogpost, EEOC’s Attempt to Prohibit Use of Background Checks Rejected, the EEOC is being rather aggressive in its pursuit of employers using criminal background checks in the hiring of employees.  Although the EEOC’s own Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions contemplates the reasonable use of criminal records, the EEOC has been pursuing criminal background check claims against employers that just don’t make sense.

In the Peoplemark case, the EEOC brought suit against a temporary staffing company because a company VP told the EEOC that the company had a policy of denying jobs to those with felony records.  It turned out that the VP was mistaken (and what a mistake that was!), but the EEOC pursued the case even after it was clear that no such policy existed and that the company did, in fact, refer felons for jobs.  After the case was finally dismissed, the trial court scolded the EEOC for bringing a lawsuit that lacked merit from the beginning and forcing the company to incur significant defense fees and costs.  Deeming the EEOC to be unreasonable in continuing to litigate even after it was clear that there was no basis for its claims, the court ordered the EEOC to pay the company $219,000 in attorneys’ fees and $526,000 in expert fees, plus costs. This award was upheld on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Frequently employers are forced to spend excessive sums of money to defend against frivolous claims.  Rarely do courts award fees and costs to employers who successfully defend themselves against such claims, and realistically, individual plaintiffs could rarely afford to pay them in any case.  So it really warms my heart on those extraordinary occasions when justice is served!  Three cheers!

 

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US Marshals Service’s Missing Thousands of Encrypted Radios

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 22, 2013

The Wall Street Journal reported on yet another example of an inept and wasteful federal government.  According to the report the US Marshals Service that is charged with protecting federal courthouses and protecting witnesses cannot account for at least 2,000 two-way radios worth approximately $6 million.  Making matters worse, these radios have protected encryption for secure communications, which in the hands of criminals could endanger innocent people’s lives.

The Journal obtained the information about the inept government waste through Freedom of Information Act requests.  When confronted with the report a US Marshals Service spokesman made the lame excuse that “this issue is in large part attributable to poor record keeping as a result of an older property-management system, as opposed to equipment being lost.”  However, that same agency’s Office of Strategic Technology had a more blunt assessment stating: “It is apparent that negligence and incompetence has resulted in a grievous mismanagement of millions of dollars of USMS property.  Simply put, the entire system is broken and drastic measures need to be taken to address the issues.  The 800 pound elephant in the room needs to finally be acknowledged.”

Last year the US Marshals Service was on the hot seat for a very different reason.  The Wall Street Journal then exposed the fact that almost all of the USMS’s Virginia employees had government cars.

It is remarkable that with nearly daily examples of inept government actions being reported that so many in the United States remain willing to give that government still more power.  As Forrest Gump once so infamously said, stupid is as stupid does.

 

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Growing Disability Claims Threaten US Financial Stability

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 19, 2013

Given the problems in the Middle East, the Edward Snowden case, and of course the George Zimmerman trial, there has been little “space” left in the news for more mundane items such as economics and the economy.

We do not have to go back too many months to recall when there was serious concern over Europe’s sovereign debt, America’s deficits and the US sequestration spending cuts.  However, ignoring these issues does not indicate that the problems are resolved.

Michael Boskin, a Stanford University economics professor published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled The 2016 Disability Insurance Time Bomb concerning the serious problem of America’s growing disability liability.  Boskin states:

  • In 1970 less than 3 million Americans collected disability payments from Social Security’s disability insurance program.  Today that number is nearly 11 million.
  • In 2012 the disability payments cost $140 billion, increasing eight times (adjusted for inflation) from 1970.
  • While the number of people receiving disability payments has skyrocketed, physically taxing jobs such as manufacturing, mining and agriculture have declined between one-third and three-fourths since 1970.
  • Boskin reports that the Social Security’s Disability Insurance Fund will run out of money by 2016 without significant changes or increases in taxes.
  • In the past 12 months approximately 1,000,000 newly disabled workers were added to the program.  This alone represents approximately a $300 billion total cost for these recipients’ benefits.

Boskin concludes that the number of people receiving disability has skyrocketed in part because of changes in the law made in 1984 by Congress that significantly broaden those eligible including back pain, arthritis, and increased mental illness coverage.  In addition, the government does not adequately supervise those receiving benefits.  As an example, in 2009 less than 1% of those on disability went back into the workforce or gave up benefits.  Disability insurance is being viewed in many cases an extension of other government and nongovernmental benefits.

States have also taken advantage of the federal government’s disability program.  Many shift their citizens from Medicaid and welfare onto disability insurance or Medicare, both of which are paid for by the federal government.

Social Security disability payments is another unfunded liability placed on future Americans.  Unlike the Greatest Generation that returned from World War II and created an economy that allowed their children to prosper, those children, the Baby Boomers, are stealing from their children and future generations so that they can live more comfortably today.  Narcissism and greed is an insidious affliction of society.  It will be interesting to see the reaction of younger Americans when they finally figure out what the Baby Boomers have done to their country and future.

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FHA Could Face Huge Losses

Posted by Steve Markowitz on June 4, 2013

The Wall Street Journal reported on the potential for massive losses at the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).  According to the Journal, under an extreme economic scenario the FHA could lose $115 billion over 30 years requiring substantial taxpayer funding.

The $115 billion potential loss figure emanated from a new stress test used to determine risk of FHA loans using an analysis employed by the Federal Reserve board instead of an independent actuarial review previously used.  This more realistic test nearly doubled the potential loss figure.

In addition, the FHA attempted to hide the potential losses from Congress and taxpayers.  The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked the agency why it had not disclosed the use loss figure.  This came on the heels of FHA internal documents suggesting that the potential loss be hidden from the public and Congress.

There are troubling aspects of this potential loss for the FHA.  First, in its first 79 years the FHA never required taxpayer support.  In addition, this is yet another example of a government or government backed agency’ lack of transparency with the People who they are supposed to be working for.

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Better Place, Another Green Energy Company Bites the Dust

Posted by Steve Markowitz on May 27, 2013

The Wall Street Journal reported that Better Place Ltd. has filed for liquidation over the weekend.  This Israeli-based company had investors that included French automotive giant Renault, HSBC Holdings PLC, General Electric Company and Morgan Stanley.

Better placeBetter Place’s business strategy was to sell battery-operated electric cars, which instead of having batteries recharged at stations, would have them exchanged for fully-charged ones quickening the process.  Sound like a great idea?  Sure, but only if you are a crony capitalist chasing governments’ favored programs.

The reason Better Place failed involve a minor problem; lack of consumer demand.  According to its current CEO, Dan Cohen: “Unfortunately, after a year’s commercial operation, it was clear to us that despite many satisfied customers, the wider public take up would not be sufficient and that the support from the car producers was not forthcoming,”

Better Place joins a lengthy list green energy companies that have failed in recent years that include

A123 Received $249 million from the Department of Energy (DOE)  to produce batteries for electric cars.

Abound Solar Received $400 million DOE loan guarantee to build thin-film solar panels.

Beacon Power Received $43 million DOE loan guarantee to build flywheels for energy storage.

Ener1Received $118.5 million grant to produce batteries for electric cars.

Solyndra: Received a $535 million loan guarantee to build a factory for producing solar panels.

Nevada Geothermal PowerReceived a $98 million DOE-backed loan for a geothermal power plant.

Fisker AutomotiveReceived a $529 million DOE-backed loan to produce electric cars.

In 2009, Time magazine named Better Place’s founder and president Shai Agassi one of its top people of the year.  This was in keeping with the mainstream media’s promotion of Barack Obama and his green energy policies.  They, like the rest of the mainstream media, owe the American people an apology for unprofessional and biased reporting.  But we should not hold our breath.

Who is responsible for this waste of taxpayer money?  Who is being held accountable?  The answer to both questions is a telltale sign of a government out-of-control and uneducated electorate.

The same knuckleheads that decided to invest taxpayer dollars in the above listed failures have also created Obamacare.  If history is a reasonable judge, the results will be ugly.

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