If there is one thing conservatives know, it’s that government is great at using money efficiently and getting the job done properly, in a timely manner, and for a reasonable price. Right? But even so, let’s just examine an example here.
A few years ago, the base and the beltway goons (and people like Chris Christie) got into it over disaster relief to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Among other things, conservatives argued the aid was bloated with pork. The establishmentarian response was “conservatives want people to linger in water-logged buildings with no power” or something. Surely the word racist appeared somewhere. But then Chris Christie hugged Obama and ultimately, after a bunch of outcry, Congress passed an aid package and everybody moved on to the next thing.
Now, three years after Hurricane Sandy hit, people in affected areas remain ired and mired, Trump has made waves saying there is still a ton of work to be done and George Bush caused 9/11, and – now this is the part that will shock you – a report has come out that shows the amount of waste and inefficiency in the government’s spending on Sandy aid has been its own kind of catastrophe.
Some choice excerpts—your tax dollars have been appropriated, but not spent, with the federal government just holding onto the cash to do… whatever, and to do it pretty badly:
[T]he Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board was authorized by Congress to “develop and use information technology resources and oversight mechanisms to detect and remediate waste, fraud, and abuse” in the awarding and spending of the funds as a part of the Sandy Supplemental. Since the Sandy Supplemental became public law in January of 2013, the RATB has issued six quarterly reports to Congress with the Board’s findings.
In its final report to Congress, the RATB found $26 billion of the $47.9 billion in funding appropriated by the Sandy Supplemental had been awarded as of March 21, 2015, with a total of $15 billion of those funds having been paid out. As shown in Figure 6, the Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Fund and Department of Transportation’s Public Transit Emergency Relief Program hold the overwhelming majority of unspent funding from the Sandy Supplemental. Of the $15.2 billion designated to the Community Development Fund, only $2.79 billion has been paid out. The Public Transit Emergency Relief Program holds the second largest reserve of unspent funds, with only $0.91 billion of $10.35 billion having been paid out. In fact, of the $36.99 billion in non-FEMA funding designated to government programs in the Sandy Supplemental, only $6.93 billion has been paid out.
Where money has been paid out, you’ll be shocked to know it’s been paid out on “questionable” items, with lots of misspending going on:
Since January 2013 the office of Inspector General has opened 225 investigations and initiated 72 audits across various agencies. From those investigations, the various OIGs identified $226.9 million in questioned costs and recommended $76.7 million be reprogrammed for better use of funds.
Inefficiencies were found in the use of disaster funds by cities large and small. The Department of Housing and Urban Development OIG completed an audit of the New York City Office of Management and Budget’s administration of the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Assistance (CDBG-DR) funds awarded to the city as a result of damages caused by Hurricane Sandy, and found that funds designated for the city went to a subrecipient without adequate objectives or monitoring for its use. As a result, city officials could not assure HUD that the CDBG-DR funds were disbursed for eligible, reasonable, and necessary program expenses in compliance with HUD rules and regulations. Further, the remaining allocation of $40 million would be considered funds put to their intended use only if city officials establish adequate monitoring controls.
A similar review of Minot, North Dakota’s CDBG-DR program determined that the city did not fully comply with federal and local procurement requirements.
The bottom line here: A bunch of your money was appropriated when it didn’t need to be. A lot of your money that was appropriated hasn’t actually been spent, (and should therefore be clawed back and put to better use), and a lot of your money that has been spent has gone to relatively pointless, small-ball stuff. Oh, and there has been a veritable buffet of alphabet soup government agencies purportedly involved in the Sandy response which were ignorant of key information and made bad decisions throughout.
As it turns out, government wasn’t super efficient and wise and benevolent when they asked for and used millions of dollars in the name of “helping.” Whaaaaaat?
By the way, one thing the report highlights that is just typical is how smarter pre-disaster spending to ensure better preparedness would be a much better use of funds. So even if you’re all gung-ho let’s spend limitless federal money all the time, they STILL didn’t manage to do what would have been the smartest thing for the people who live in those areas. Namely, prepare for the worst so they don’t have to deal with the worst.
So big barrels of government money managed by dozens of competing self-interested government bodies failed to do the most good for the most people for the least amount of money? SHUT. UP.