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I See Dead People and They Have Stimulus Checks

Senator Tom Coburn (R-O K) put out a report this morning titled “Federal Programs to Die for: American Tax Dollars Send Six Feet Under” showing rampant waste, fraud and abuse in government programs.  This report has put together programs totalling $1 billion in federal monies given to the dead.  For those to say that cutting waste, fraud and abuse is an empty slogan, this report shows that stopping checks to the dead is a means to save one billion of your tax dollars. 

Delaware Republican candidate for Senate Christine O’Donnell was stopped from citing “waste, fraud and abuse” as a means to lower the estimated $13.6 trillion national debt during a debate aired on CNN.  According to a Daily News transcript published on October 14, 2010:

Arguably the toughest moment for O’Donnell came when she was asked to outline what programs she would cut to slash government spending and reduce the national deficit, two major themes of the Tea Party platform.  Before she responded, Blitzer told her she could not simply say cut waste, fraud and abuse because “everybody says that.”

This report shows that the elimination of waste, fraud and abuse is an important element of a comprehensive program to reduce the federal debt.  According to the Coburn Report, dead people received checks from the federal government in the form of Stimulus, aid to cool and heat homes, housing, prescription drugs, and medical supplies.  Dead people are receiving checks from Uncle Sam and you are paying for it.

Coburn writes that:

Over the last decade, Washington sent over $1 billion of your tax dollars to dead people.  Washington paid for dead people’s prescriptions and wheelchairs, subsidized their farms, helped pay their rent, and even chipped in for their heating and air conditioning bills.  In some cases, these payments quietly gather in a dormant bank account.  In many cases, however, they land in the pockets of still-living people, who are defrauding the system by collecting benefits meant for a now-deceased relative.

This is a one billion dollar problem and it shows the rampant incompetence of individuals running the federal government.  This report exposes two problems.  The first is that our government has not implemented an effective means to control the issuing of checks to deceased individuals.  We are not talking about a few thousand dollars of waste; we are talking big dollars.  The second problem is that people are defrauding a system that is easy to game.  When a politicians or talking heads argue that the problem of waste, fraud and abuse is a drop in the bucket with regard to the massive federal debt, the proper response is to cite the Coburn Report as evidence of rampant government incompetence and fraud.

Coburn wrote in this report that:

Since 2000, the known cost of these payments to over 250,000 deceased individuals has topped $1 billion, according to a review of government audits and reports by the Government Accountability Office, inspectors general, and Congress itself.  This is likely only a small picture of a much larger problem.

Thank you Senator Coburn for pointing out this fraud.  Now let’s see if President Obama puts out a statement of intent to tackle this problem.  Maybe he will form yet another commission to study the problem.  If nothing is done on this issue, then we the people will lose and pay higher taxes to enable bureaucrats to continue business as usual in Washington, D.C.  If nothing is done, then this Administration is guilty of executive branch financial malfeasance.

As Coburn documents specific instances of waste, fraud, and abuse.

  • The Social Security Administration sent $18 million in Stimulus funds to dead people;
  • The Department of Health and Human Services doled out checks of $3.9 million in assistance to pay heating and cooling costs out of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to dead people. See GAO Report of June 2010;
  • The Department of Agriculture cranked out checks for $1.1 billion to deceased farmers. See GAO Report of July 24, 2007;
  • The Farm Services Agency (FSA) provided 171,801 deceased farmers subsidies;
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development cut checks for $15.2 million in housing subsidies to the dead.  See HUD IG’s Report of November 10, 2009;
  • Medicaid payments of over $700,000 in prescriptions for 1,800 dead patients and prescriptions for drugs written by 1,200 deceased doctors. 
  • Medicare payments of $92 million in medical supplies prescribed by dead doctors and $8.2 million for medical supplies prescribed for non-living patients; and,
  • Congress has also mismanaged the HIV/AIDs funding distribution method that slows care to those in the most need.

Candidates who get critiqued for citing “waste, fraud, and abuse” as one means to cut the deficit have an ally in Senator Coburn.  The Senator’s efforts expose the fact that our federal government is an inefficient allocator of resources.  This is yet another indictment of the so called Stimulus Plan and other government centered efforts to redistribute wealth from taxpayers, through government bureaucrats, to dead people.

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