SAVING THE COUNTRY: Helping “Sheriff Joe”

Vice President Joe Biden L'68

Sheriff Joey B. Image via Wikipedia

I’m on The President’s email list, and while I’m offended at how they use it most of the time for empty propaganda, it does occasionally give me some interesting food for thought. This email came today “from the VP”:

Good morning,

Did you know that the government spends millions to maintain buildings that have sat vacant for years? Or that your tax dollars pay to needlessly ship copies of the Federal Register to thousands of government offices across the country even though the same information is available online?

And I bet you didn’t know that your tax dollars pay for a website dedicated to the Desert Tortoise. I’m sure it’s a wonderful species, but we can’t afford to have a standalone site devoted to every member of the animal kingdom. It’s just one of hundreds of government websites that should be consolidated or eliminated.

This kind of waste is just unacceptable. Particularly at a time when we’re facing tough decisions about reducing our deficit, it’s a no-brainer to stop spending taxpayer dollars on things that benefit nobody.

That’s why President Obama asked me to head up the Campaign to Cut Waste—a new effort to root out wasteful spending at every agency and department in the Federal Government.

Like millions of American families, the Federal Government has to take a hard look at spending and live within its means…

…And that’s exactly what I intend to do with the help of a new Government Accountability and Transparency Board, a group composed of independent inspectors general and high-level agency officials who will help me root out waste, fraud and abuse across the government. Helping me ensure that your tax dollars are being spent on things that matter, like investments in education, innovation and improving our infrastructure.

Sincerely,
Vice President Joe Biden

P.S. If you’re interested in keeping up with our progress in hunting down wasteful spending, you can sign up for regular email updates.

Here’s the reply I sent back that he’ll never see:

Dear VP/Sherriff Joe:

Put me on the committee and mail me a copy of the accounts. I’ll be happy to red-line until I run out of ink. For starters, how about we combine resources and scale back the 10+ levels of law enforcement we have watching over every American?
Maybe we could get rid of lifelong pensions for senators that only serve for a couple years as well. That job was never intended to be lucrative, it was intended to be a service. The burden that paying for elderly statesmen that spent their tenure gouging their constituency puts on the US income is gross and borderline treasonous.
Seriously, I’d be happy to help, just give me a ring.
Mat Weller
Reading, PA
matweller.com

My question to you is this: what programs or other government funded ventures do you know of that we could do without? I’m not talking about the urban legend-y $5 Million study to find out why kids fall off bikes, I mean things you actually know about.

My favorite part of the movie Dave is when the fake President and his friend stay up all night red-lining useless waste from the budget. I have often fantasized at how different this world would be if I could do that.

I’m going to keep this post open and add more things I think about as they come to me, and I welcome you to do the same.

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5 comments so far

  1. Ralph Maughan on

    You might want to consider this article on Biden’s news release.

    What does the Desert Tortoise Website actually cost?
    http://faultline.org/site/item/what_does_the_desert_tortoise_website_actually_cost

    I think he made a very poor choice of web sites to try to make his point. This web site is needed and well done, consolidating many potential agency specific sites on the tortoise. It has no full time webmaster and probably takes about 8 hours a year to maintain.

    I think the problem with government web sites is not the sheer number, but failure to have rational deployment of them.

    • matweller on

      Well, he did say, “It’s just one of hundreds of government websites that should be consolidated or eliminated.” And he’s right, if you were going to have a government-sponsored animal archive, it would be cheaper and make more sense to operate as a collected site than as a standalone tribute. I also think it’s safe to say that it was mentioned less as a way to accuse unworthy tortoises than it was an example of the poor thinking that goes behind such programs. To blow the analogy out, though, another reason the tortoise site is wasteful is that there are probably already 10 other government-sponsored tortoise resources online between major museums and universities that get funding from our taxes. If that adds $1 extra to the tax pot, it’s $1 not feeding a homeless person or working to get him a job.

      But you’ve missed the point. Save your tortoise if you like, what budget item do you consider a misappropriation of funds and recommend cutting?

  2. matweller on

    As I mentioned in my somewhat terse reply to the VP (it’s easy to be terse when you know nobody’s going to read it…), here are some things I would cut/reduce, given the opportunity. Also, let me just say in advance that I don’t take firing anybody from their job lightly. In fact, I think I take the value of employment much more seriously than any politician I have ever seen. However, I firmly believe that there are hundreds of billions of dollars to be saved in updating and streamlining government agencies that were allowed to fatten for no reason in more prosperous times. I also believe there are many opportunities for investment that would create more than enough jobs to make up the difference and create profits at the same time.

    1) Law Enforcement. I’ve been led to believe that there are a lot of resources (databases, training facilities, etc.) that the various levels of law enforcement could be sharing that they do not. And how many levels of enforcement do we need anyway? Think about it. Name all the ones that come to mind, and then realize there are at least a couple more that you are leaving out. Local police, sheriffs, constables, code enforcement, state police, Texas Rangers, US Marshals, DEA, ATF, FBI, NSA, CIA, Homeland Security — and that doesn’t begin to cover the “police” for specific industries like the TSA, SEC, FDA and more. Of course, some of these have to remain specific and separate, but are you telling me that local police, sheriffs, constables, and code enforcement couldn’t all be rolled into the state police with an office in every city? And couldn’t Texas Rangers, US Marshals, DEA, and ATF all really fit under the guise of the FBI? Couldn’t NSA, CIA and Homeland Security all really be one agency or possibly rolled into the military? There’s a couple hundred billion saved. You’re welcome.

    2) Private Contracted Military. There are so many reasons a privately contracted military (aka ‘mercenaries’) are abhorrent, but let’s leave all that aside for this discussion. The fact is that it costs more to run the military this way, and — financially speaking — the only reason to do it is to filter money to friends in private companies. In a broader sense, as far as I am concerned, this is a crime against the American people, which makes it treasonous, and any government official that sponsors it should be put on trial.

    3) Switch All Government Employee Pensions to 401k Plans. I’m not against pensions, but for some reason pension managers and other government agencies can’t seem to help themselves from embezzling money from them, and somehow they seem to pay out more than they earn in the best of scenarios. For this, taxpayers pick up the bill. Forget pensions, government jobs are the only ones that get them anymore anyway. Get those folks on 401k plans with 100% contribution matching — the employees would still get better retirement plans than 95% of the country and the private sector gets the business.

    4) Let’s cap senator and representative salaries right now and be done with it. The founding fathers were senators and reps while maintaining full time jobs. Many of them took no payment at all for their service. Obviously, things have changed, but with that history in mind, let’s get things more to a reasonable level. $150k is a very nice salary in the private sector, so let’s make that the salary for any first-year senator, and then allow cost of living increases every year after. Any changes to the base should have to be done by national referendum — everyone has to ask the boss for a raise, the public is their employer. End of story. And let’s be honest, their housing, transportation and food are all provided, so their salaries are all profit. If you can’t fit your clothing and vacation budgets into $150k annually, you have no business making budget policies for a country.

  3. Phil fischer on

    The bigger the organization the easier it is to hide waste and corruption. You are right, we have way too many levels of law enforcement (as well as all other government functions). I couldn’t help thinking of all the wasted tax dollars while watching thousands of law enforcement in Boston this week. Consider federally managed information exchange but sherif-level management for law enforcement for maximum efficiency. Redlining the budget is a massive job, it would be better to think about what functions the government should perform and starting over funding only those functions. The system is too far gone to fix.

    • matweller on

      The unfortunate truth of that attitude is that it’s completely fatalistic. Yes, there’s a lot wrong and the task of fixing would be daunting, but I think we would all agree that the megalomaniacs in power would sooner burn the whole place to the ground than submit to a complete reconstruct from the bottom up. The nice thing about megalomaniacs, though, is that they can be manipulated if you can make them think a change is their idea and in their best interest. Along that path there is hope.


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