By Mark Blackney
When I saw the headlines that the federal government had made $100B in overpayments in 2013, I sighed, folded the paper and went about my business, just as I have done in past years over similar headlines. But this year I couldn’t shake the sense of despair that eventually turned to anger.
I am furious as a taxpayer to be constantly disrespected by the federal government and the people working for it.
We all work so damned hard for our money. Then it’s taken from our paychecks and turned over to an institution that abuses it, wastes it and never feels it has enough of it. To add insult to injury, government representatives are never gracious or say “thank you”. Instead they lecture that we’re not doing enough.
Just look at the recent report about the overpayments.
Medicare overpayments accounted for over $50 billion of the total. The IRS blames mistakes and lack of verification. Of course there are mistakes. The rules regulating Medicare payments are tens of thousands of pages long. Every doctor has to “code” their procedures to receive the proper reimbursement. The coding books are close to 4 inches thick and have expanded under Obamacare. Many times it’s difficult to differentiate between certain codes so errors are made.
The next major source of overpayment is fraudulent income tax refunds. The IRS practically invites people to commit fraud. For some reason, it decided to expedite refunds within 3 weeks which means there is no verification of information. Employees receive their W-2’s in January but employers don’t submit their information until February 28th. People learned real quickly that they could create phony W-2’s and dependents and send in fraudulent tax returns in January using identity theft to make fake information. And true to form, the IRS rushes those through, cuts the check and sends the money out.
If the money being sent out was refunds of money that people actually earned, it would be one thing to expedite it. But with the advent of refundable tax credits – the Earned Income Tax Credit that gives a low income family of 5 up to $5,500 – and the refundable $1,000 per child credit, the money being sent out is right out of our pockets. To make it worse, the IRS doesn’t catch these for years when it’s too late to recoup the money, our money.
I am fed up at the wasteful spending of our dollars by Congress. We’ve all gotten inured to the reports about the $99,000 Alaskan outhouses and the $1 million bus stops in Virginia. That’s what the government wants. It pours so much bad financial news on us that we eventually just shrug our shoulders, just like they do.
The government is incapable of making realistic budgets for major projects. Although it involves the state of California, there are still problems with bolts and welding on the Oakland Bay Bridge that was damaged 25 years ago in the 1989 earthquake. Its budget is almost triple the original.
Estimates for Obamacare have already almost tripled in costs and its barely functioning yet. In addition to the wasted money on the website, we now learn that they project over $150 billion in overpaid subsidies to individuals for their coverage. Oh sure, the IRS will try to collect those overpayments at tax time but we all know very little will be recouped.
The VA scandal is inexcusable. Putting aside the treatment of our veterans that is a tragedy, the sheer amount of the funding is scandalous. With a budget that has increased by over 35% since 2009, the quality of the treatment of our veterans has not improved. It could possibly be due to the fact that they spent over $500 million on office makeovers, conference rooms and draperies. Or perhaps it’s thanks to the tens of millions spent on commercials and surveys. I’m sure a lot of veterans got better health care thanks to those expenditures.
The list goes on and on – unemployment and disability funding, all the “safety net” revenues, extravagant salaries and benefits and perks. It seems that whenever Obama comes to the podium, he’s asking for more money to solve our problems He wants more for education, more for infrastructure, more for “green” jobs, more for the migrant children and more to pay down the debt created by all the spending.
Here’s what’s going on. The revenues handed over to the government are not earned – they are confiscated from unwilling consumers. There is absolutely no incentive for government types to do a good job, provide good customer service or adhere to budgets. Generous union contracts provide virtual lifelong job protection. Although there are thousands who are diligent workers, it’s still basic human nature to let yourself work at the lowest requirement of a job.
Another source of wasteful spending in the government is the sheer complexity of their programs. Excessive numbers and layers of departments filled with people creating their own rules and regulations makes any interaction with the government so complicated that valuable time is wasted due to duplication and “analysis” by too many employees each with their own agenda and opinion.
Then you can throw in their arrogance and deflection of responsibility.
The IRS commissioner John Koskinen smirked as he reported that they are improving their collection efforts on overpayments. He was proud that last year they actually recovered $22 billion out of $100 billion overpaid. Never mind the $75 billion of our money that is still out there. Then, of course, Koskinen said they need more money.
The whole selling and implementation of Obamacare showcases the absolute worst of the federal government. Nancy Pelosi’s “We have to pass it to see what’s in it” is the height of irresponsibility. The first rule of financial planning is to know what you’re buying. There have been no apologies about the specious sales job about premiums going down or patients keeping their own doctor. We’re all just supposed to forget the con job pulled on us.
The VA scandal is the most, well, scandalous. The workers on the front lines in the hospitals are heroes, but none of those handling appointments and benefit requests should still have their jobs. They cavalierly ignored disabled and dying veterans and none have been fired. In fact, we learned that people on the front lines who have brought up these issues have been punished by supervisors who have received generous bonuses.
The VA offers no apologies, just excuses. They want more money, $18 billion, but offer few changes in its culture, behavior or procedures. Worst of all, they have shown little shame about how our veterans have been treated.
I love this country but I am fed up being the cash cow for our government. Of course we need national defense, infrastructure, a safety net, etc. but we also need common sense and respect for the revenues they receive. Although we’re still a democracy, it seems that our government has gotten away from its duty of responsibility to the people it represents in favor of the whims and actions of a chosen few in Washington who suffer no consequences for those actions.
Elected officials are in the middle of campaign season where they throw out all sorts of empty promises including the concept of “fairness” in America. Wouldn’t it be nice if they’d actually fulfill that fairness promise by cleaning up the expensive mistakes they’ve made in Washington?