Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Time To Call Them Out...Again.

I was looking for an interesting topic today and, yet again, the government does not disappoint.  Just when you thought it could not get much worse with our elected officials, and just when you thought they might have developed some sense of doing the right thing, they jump in and prove us wrong.  I'm merely pointing this out because, well, it's an election year.  I know, I know...it's only April.  Hasn't anyone else received the toll-free calls begging your support of one candidate or another.  Right.  We get another seven months of this, too.  Yeah...can't wait.  This year, however, maybe it's time we did something drastic.  This year, let's make sure we send a message that is heard from coast-to-coast and across the.....who am I kidding?  Even if we elect none of the incumbents, we're going to have people in office that are romanced by their own ability to dig deep into our pockets and spend freely the tax dollars we've worked so hard for.  Don't believe me?  Let me cite two small examples:

First, let's talk about the GSA (General Services Administration).  Their Administrator resigned, as most of you probably know, yesterday after a report on their regional training conference surfaced.  The conference was held in Las Vegas in 2010.  Seriously, LAS VEGAS???  Okay, it was a 'regional' meeting, so I'll give them that one.  I'm sure this agency needs to train their employees, don't get me wrong, but they should use a bit of discretion when spending our money, don't you think?  So, here it is (if you have not yet heard) - 300 attendees and the cost of the meeting was in excess of $822,000.00.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I can even provide a little 'breakdown' for you.  $6,000 for keychains, canteens, and t-shirts.  Another $6,000 for commemorative coins.  $75,000 for 'team-building' exercises.  That little project (or one of them, anyway) was putting a bicycle together.  Hey, I (along with many of my friends) are dads.  That exercise takes place every Christmas eve in one home or another.  "Here's your bike.  Give me $75,000."  Don't we wish?  So let me continue sharing this joyous news.  They paid an outside company a $12,000 finder's-fee to book the resort for the convention.  Well, yeah, the GSA does have people on their staff that have that as part of their job...but it's apparently easier and less stressful if you pay someone to do it.  To justify a catered event, the GSA listed it as an "Awards Dinner."  In reality, the Inspector General found that this was nothing more than a talent show of the meeting attendees.  Shocking?  Yes.  Surprising?  I think most of us will say, "Note really, no."

Another little story that arose today was that of pork-barrel spending or, in this case, the gift that keeps on hurting.  For this little nugget, I turn to my place of birth, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  We all remember Congressman John Murtha, right?  A Marine war veteran that came home to become the first Viet Nam veteran elected to Congress where he remained for 36 years.  Well, at one point, Rep Murtha was able to steer $150 million (yes, with an "M") to an airport in Johnstown, PA.  it has a $7million air-traffic control tower.  Certainly something an airport needs, right?  It also has a $14 million hangar and a $18 million runway on which any plane in North America can land.  Yes, that would be critical to an airport, too, I agree.  The only thing this gleaming airport does not have?  Airplanes.  Flights in and out, to be exact.  There are three daily flights that arrive here, all from Washington, DC.  Better still (that was sarcastic, obviously) is the fact that about half of the cost of each ticket is subsidized by...you guessed it...US!  yes, the American taxpayer is subsidizing the cost of tickets to this airport.  Don't ask for specifics, please.  NONE of this make sense to me.  The problem is, the money continues to roll in.  The government voted to renew this subsidy only two months ago.  Shocked yet?  We should be.

All of this stems from the fact that our elected officials are too worrying about keeping their jobs rather than what is best for their constituents.  I have yet to have anyone ask me in one of them there fancy-schmancy town hall meetings what I would like to see done in our area and how they should vote.  To allow the GSA to get away with their convention scam would have been disturbing, however I wonder what we DON'T know about.  What agencies are doing these things and keeping them secret?  Had it not been for one concerned citizen employed by the GSA, this story might never have been told.  I applaud them.  The airport is another story entirely.  Our lawmakers apparently do not read the bills on which they vote, are absent, or allow so many other line items to be added to good legislation that it costs all of us.  None of this is new, granted.  Still, that does not make it right.  This is the time when every government employee, regardless of which agency or branch they work for, should be asking if they really need to spend certain monies and, more importantly, how they can save it.  Yes, we need to send a message in November.  It's time we truly get involved and hold those in office accountable.  I always remember the saying, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."  Right now, our government is certainly not part of any solution I see helping us.  I think many, if not all, of us could have found a better, more effective way of spending that cash.  Drinks anyone?

Until next time............

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