Sunday :: Mar 28, 2004

Oh Those Fiscally Responsible Republicans Show Where Their Hearts Are At: Ripping off the American Taxpayers

by Mary

Remember the days when Democrats were slandered with the label "Tax and Spend"? Well, these days we can see that the Republicans are outstanding at the spending part; they just like to do it on somebody else's dime. In fact they are happiest doing in on our descendents' dime, because someone is going to pay for it, but not them and not today. And remember when the role of the government was to spend the taxpayer dollars wisely? And to make sure taxpayers got value for their money? Perhaps it's because this gang hates taxes that they figure spending it like drunken sailors is okay? Or perhaps it is because public money is considered to be less valuable than their own money that it is okay to give massive amounts to their campaign contributors? Whatever the motive, our elected representatives in the Congress and the White House seem to be competing with the Kremlin for seeing who can spend the most dollars for the least gain to the taxpayers, but with the corresponding best deal for their friends.

Let us count today's stories of fiscal probity. First there was that report released by the Defense Department's inspector general that showed the early contracts awarded in the Iraq war were a very bad deal for the US taxpayer with almost no oversight and in many cases the equivalent of handing a blank check to the contractor without even caring whether the job got done.

Experts on contracting said Wednesday that the Pentagon report shows a disturbing, but not surprising, institutional problem with spending in Iraq that's probably far worse than the Department of Defense indicates.

Although auditors are combing through the books of defense contractors, they only can inform the government of their concerns; it's up to the government agencies to do something about their findings. Yet when the auditors cautioned the Defense Department about not giving anymore contracts to Halliburton until some of the problems were addressed, they were ignored.

On Jan. 13, in a special "flash report," Texas audit agency branch manager William Daneke, who oversees the Halliburton investigations, wrote that Halliburton's cost-estimating system was inadequate, questioning its ability to produce services at "fair and reasonable prices." He told the Army Corps of Engineers "we recommend you contact us to ascertain the status of (Halliburton's) estimating system prior to entering into future negotiations."

Two days later the Army Corps gave Halliburton a $1.2 billion oil contract for southern Iraq, then caught hell from Congress for ignoring the agency's advice.

Next up is the continuing Boeing saga, which if you remember was a special deal setup to lease new tankers which would cost the American taxpayer significantly more than buying them outright. Such a deal it was, and one enabled by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Now it turns out that the Air Force allowed Boeing to rewrite the specifications for the tankers, eliminating 19 out of 26 of the capabilities the Air Force requested. One capability eliminated was the requirement that the new tankers would be as efficient and effective as the tankers they were replacing. Although Airbus' bid promised to deliver 20 out of 26 (rather than the paltry 7 Boeing promised) and would have done it for less, documents and email obtained from Boeing about this deal show that the the process was rigged to make sure the deal would favor Boeing.

The deal was so bad for the country, it was almost derailed in the Senate by John McCain, but the White House stepped in to help by putting Andrew Card in charge of driving it through.

White House spokesman Claire Buchan said Card sought to mediate the contract dispute without taking sides.

"There were disagreements among the Air Force, the DOD (Department of Defense) and the OMB. His role was to ensure that all sides were heard, and that the military's needs were met, and that the taxpayers got the best value for their money," she said Saturday. (emphasis added)

McCain is having to fight the White House in getting to the bottom of this deal and once more the White House thinks that letting the Congress look at their internal records should be prevented because this will hurt the executive branch's ability to work.

Sambur said that the decision to withhold the internal documents "is taken at a much higher level than the Air Force. It is a very serious decision. If everyone knew that their e-mails were subject to this kind of scrutiny no one would use it to debate with their colleagues and develop positions. They would watch every word they write."

Isn't it terrible that transparency in government and having the Congress have real oversight of how taxpayer money is spent is a threat to the executive branch doing it's work? Why did the authors of the Constitution hate America so?

Finally, let's not forget the glorious prescription drug card that the Republicans have devised to help seniors cover their prescription drug costs. As befits the Republican philosophy, the drug companies have a free hand at deciding what is covered and what is not, what is the starting price, what the discount will be and have the flexibility of changing the rules weekly if they want. Seniors on the other hand can change which card they want to use only once and are cautioned to be savvy shoppers and pick the right one for them. If they get it wrong, too bad - it will be their fault. Isn't it nice to have the government on your side?

Mary :: 11:14 AM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!