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Contempt for taxpayers
April 4, 2016
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by Ivan Raconteur

I don’t recall ever hearing anyone say they were happy about paying taxes, but it might be slightly less painful if the people we have entrusted to manage those tax dollars weren’t complete morons.

Stories about government waste are not new, but the problem never seems to get better. In fact, it seems to get worse.

I can’t help thinking there must be some requirement that a person need to be a special kind of stupid to work in any capacity that involves handing out our tax dollars.

One of the recent examples, reported by BBC News, involves an $86 million spy plane that the US developed to combat the drug trade in Afghanistan.

The BBC reported that, according to the Inspector General’s Office of the US Justice Department, the plane has never been used, and the program for which it was purchased ended in 2015.

According to the report, the ATR 42-500 plane was to have been used in a program led by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Pentagon. The cost of the plane and the hangar that was built for it in Kabul rose to four times the original estimate, and the plane remains inoperable.

The BBC also reported on the US government wasting millions of dollars on “ill-conceived” reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. A total of $800 million was spent over a period of five years.

Last year, for example, the US spent $43 million on a vehicle refueling station in Afghanistan – a price that is 140 times the cost of a similar station in Pakistan.

John Sopko, inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, said fraud and corruption may have increased the cost.

Really?

If a private enterprise experienced that kind of cost overrun, there would be consequences and repercussions, and it is likely the people responsible would soon be at liberty to pursue new occupational opportunities.

When the government experiences this kind of thing, it is considered business as usual, and it isn’t even mentioned until some outsider draws attention to it.

Government accountability is a fictional concept.

Government overspending is contempt for taxpayers, and yet, the perpetrators rarely face negative consequences.

My favorite example from this particular report involves a program in which the US spent $6 million to import a small herd of rare blond Italian goats in an effort to help the Afghan cashmere industry.

I don’t know much about goat pricing, but that seems a bit steep.

Oversight of the program was so ineffective, according to Sopko, he could not be sure the goats were not eaten.

We have organizations in the US that claim they can feed families in other countries for pennies per day, but when the US government gets involved, it is apparently serving up gourmet goats at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per plate.

There are a lot of farmers in McLeod, Wright, Carver, and Meeker counties, and it has been my observation that these folks are pretty shrewd when it comes to getting value for money.

I’m confident that if we were to hand a local farmer $6 million to acquire stock, he would end up with something to show for it.

Give the same $6 million to government employees, and they can’t even say with certainty what happened to it.

This is a prime difference between how government operates, in contrast to how private businesses operate.

We haven’t even touched on why the US government is buying planes, building refueling facilities, or purchasing goats in Afghanistan, rather than addressing problems here at home, but perhaps that’s a subject for another day.

The BBC noted the Pentagon has disputed some of Sopko’s findings. However, I can’t think of any good reason to believe anything the Pentagon has to say.

Even if the government knows where all the money is going (which I doubt), the last thing it is likely to do is admit it to the taxpayers.

I don’t doubt that someone is benefitting from the taxes Uncle Sam is extracting from our pockets, but based upon reports like this, it isn’t Joe Taxpayer.


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