Featured Column
Week of 3.13.2006
Those billions add up to real money!
          If you get upset when your husband takes five bucks and heads down to the local convenience store and plunks it down on a lottery ticket that has as much a chance of winning as getting me on a roller coaster - join the crowd.
          If you think the wifey is being wasteful when she buys another little jar of fancy, schmancy facial cream for thirty dollars – welcome to the club.
          The club is the “Suckers Club.” If you pay taxes, and who doesn’t, then you’re a member of the not-very-exclusive “Suckers Club.” We’re all members.
          This is the club that permits our government representatives to spend insane amounts of money on insane things.
          Take for example “The Case of the Missing $25 Billion.” Buried deep in a recent Department of the Treasury Financial Report of the United States Government is a short section titled “Unreconciled Transactions Affecting the Change in Net Position.” This concise report explains that there were unreconciled transactions that totaled 24.5 billion in 2003. This means that $24.5 billion are funds for which auditors cannot account. Our government knows that the $24.5 billion was spent by someone, somewhere, on something, but the bean counters do not know who spent it, where it was spent or on what it was spent!
          We’re talking about $24.5 billion. Get enough of those billions and we’re talking “real money.”
          Is the $24.5 billion too much to picture in your mind? Okay, let’s try a lesser amount.
          An audit a couple of years ago revealed that between 1997 and 2003 the Defense Department purchased and then didn’t use 270,000 commercial airline tickets at a cost of $100 million. To the “suits” in the Defense Department this was such a piddling amount that they didn’t even bother to get a refund on these unused, fully refundable tickets. There’s more…During the same time auditors found that there were 27,000 transactions in which the Pentagon paid twice for the same airline ticket. Seems the Department of Dumbosity (Defense) would purchase the ticket directly and then (ready for this?) reimburse the employee for the cost of the ticket. This double dipping cost us (we taxpayers) an additional $8 million.
          In a move to save us tax payers money the Department of Agriculture issued official credit cards to its employees. A recent audit found that 15 percent abused their government credit cards at a cost to us of $5.8 million. Hold your nose while you read what they spent those millions on: tattoos, lingerie, bartender school tuition, car payments and Ozzy Osbourne concert tickets.
          The USDA is in the midst of an investigation regarding the credit card scandal. Their problem is there are still 55,000 USDA credit cards in circulation, including 1,549 that are held by people who no longer work at the USDA!
          Our Defense Department recently uncovered its own credit card problems. During one 18-month period, Air Force and Navy Personnel used official government credit cards to purchase admission to entertainment events, gambling, cruises, exotic dance clubs and prostitutes. Total for the 18-month period - $102,400.
          Basic Medicare payment errors, the results of deliberate fraud and errors cost $12.3 billion each year. Over $7 billion owed to the Medicare program has gone uncollected or written off. It is estimated that a reform of the Medicare program could save taxpayers $20 billion to $30 billion a year – without reducing benefits.
          As of today $21.8 billion worth of student loans are in default.
          The earned income tax credit provides $31 billion in refundable tax credits to 19 million low income families. The IRS estimates that $8.5 billion to $9.9 billion of this amount is wasted in fraud and overpayments.
        During the last five years our tax money has gone to subsidize the spring break style trips of federal government employees and representatives. Spending on this bureaucracy boondoggle has increased 70 percent recently. The five year total - $1,401,104,263.
          There have been estimates that the government will spend approximately $100 billion in response to Hurricane Katrina. That’s what we spend each year on the Iraqi war. It’s roughly twice as much as America spends each year to operate all its colleges and universities.
          Latest report from the federal government shows that they doled out nearly $20 billion in health, housing, food and other benefits to people and companies that were not entitled to them. Social Security payments were sent to people long dead and welfare checks were cashed by crooks and murderers in prison.
          Big (Giant) government is here with us today and it is pushing us down the path of bigger and bigger budget deficits. Our politicians will say anything to get your vote. They talk about fiscal responsibility, but few have the guts to make the tough decisions.
Our government is treating billions as if they were pennies.
          How much is a billion? Well, if you sat down to count to one billion it would take you 95 years to reach a billion. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive. A billion seconds ago it was 1959. A billion dollars ago was 8 hours, 20 minutes at the rate of the Federal Government spending.
          If you feel adventurous and want to sit down on your favorite recliner and count to one trillion. Be sure to take your vitamins because it would take you 190,259 years (you should live so long!).
          In the meantime, write your senators and congressmen and women and tell them to take better care of your tax money. What they’re doing will be hurting our grandchildren and their grandchildren.
Running up our debt
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger