Symposium 2015: Federal and state governments are rife with fraud and waste. How do we combat this? Is there any way to stop this?

Owatanna, MN Correspondent-The only way to reduce, if not eliminate, fraud and waste from governments is to reduce the size and scope of government. With the federal government in particular, its size has increased enormously in the last 100 years. State governments are less of a problem since most have some sort of regulations requiring a balanced budget. Nevertheless, state governments are just as liable to waste money or commit fraud with taxpayer dollars.

Watchdog efforts and oversight requirements sound like good solutions, but they don’t seem to be effective because accountability is often lacking due to there not being a sense of ownership. There isn’t as much motivation for an individual to monitor the spending of someone else’s money as there exists for that person to monitor his or her own money. Moreover, individual taxpayers rarely have the time or inclination to investigate where every single dollar of their taxes is deployed, and then determine if each of those dollars is being spent prudently and legally.

Some people say eliminate lobbying from government and all will be well because outsiders will no longer be able to buy access, influence, and inside favors. However, as the string of campaign finance reforms and Supreme Court cases such as Citizens United illustrate, those with enough money will always find a way to influence government.

Unfortunately, reducing the size of government will be nearly impossible. It will only happen when a fully educated electorate that understands government, civics, and basic economics gets tired of paying for an endless stream of $700 toilet seats, billion-dollar weapons that don’t work and are never deployed, and an endless supply of security and safety agencies such as the Transportation Safety Agency and the Department of Homeland Security that don’t keep us safer and erode our civil liberties. Then we can elect a quorum of politicians who will pass laws to restrict spending and dismantle government back to its constitutionally delineated size.

Cartwright—My friend here is exactly right that we need to shrink the size and scope of the federal government, and for that matter, all levels of government.  There was a bit of an uproar a couple years back when you had the picture of the guy from the GSA sitting in a bathtub at some Las Vegas Hotel; there were some resignation and righteous indignation from the left and the right, but at the end of the day, a few top people were sacrificed and nothing more happened.

The federal government is rife with wasteful and fraudulent spending just like this and everyone knows it but no one has the willpower to tackle the issue.  Billions of dollars are wasted with Social Security and Medicare fraud each year, but we let it happen and we will continue to let it happen. I think the solution lies in part with tax reform.  I’ve been an advocate of ditching the current tax code for a long time and replacing it with something like the fair tax or a flat tax.  Make it so that everyone can fill out their taxes on a postcard and mail it to the IRS each year with their check.  Then, you take the IRS agents and have them start auditing each and every department of the federal government for fraud and waste.  In addition, every member of the federal government would get audited each year, just to keep them all honest and to make sure there’s no graft or profiting from public service.  The auditors at the IRS are great people; they’re good at their jobs.  I don’t want to get rid of them; I want to keep them working for the people.  I want them to ensure that the people’s taxes are being put to good use and not squandered.

The politicians seem to forget that the federal government has no money of its own; all the revenue that the federal government has is derived from the people.  The politicians don’t care if the money is squandered; it’s not their money.  I bet the Congress would have a different opinion about their spending bills if the money was coming out of their pockets.  I wonder if some of the members of the Congress who are worth two, three, four hundred million dollars would approve of spending their personal resources in such a wasteful manner.  I bet they don’t run their businesses like that; I’m sure they keep a pretty tight rein on the purse strings of the companies

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