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Archive for November 13th, 2010

When politicians and bureaucrats spend our money, they rarely demonstrate any concern about waste and fraud. Why be conscientious, after all, if you’re spending other people’s money – especially if your real goal is to buy votes and get campaign contributions by providing unearned wealth to well-connected insiders?

I’ve always been more concerned about the negative economic impact of government spending and the failure of Keynesian fiscal policy, but it’s also important to focus on waste and fraud. The average taxpayer may not want to get into the weeds of economic theory, but you don’t need an advanced degree to get upset about $27 light bulbs.

Fortunately, auditors caught this example of waste and fraud, but one can only imagine all the nonsense that’s slipping through the net. Here’s an excerpt from a Bloomberg story:

Contractors billed New Jersey $27 for light bulbs, and ran up tens of thousands of dollars in other “unreasonable costs” on a $119 million weatherization program funded with U.S. stimulus money, the state auditor said. …One contractor sought $27 for light bulbs, while another billed $1.50 for similar items, according to the report and Assistant Auditor Thomas Meseroll. Another vendor charged $75 for carbon-monoxide detectors that it had provided to a different program for $22, the report said. Eells also cited $32,700 in auditing fees when “no services had been performed” and $69,000 in construction costs that couldn’t be verified.

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There is a famous statement attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller, who was imprisoned by Hitler’s National Socialist regime and barely survived the concentration camps.

They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Niemöller’s statement teaches us that we should guard against government oppression, even when we are not the target, because it may be just a matter of time before the goons of the state shift their attention to us.

Nothing can compare to the horrors of Hitler’s National Socialists or the brutality of various communist regimes, so I certainly do not want to imply any moral equivalence, but I can’t help but thinking about what Niemöller said as I contemplate the various hare-brained proposals being imposed on people by San Francisco’s nanny-state buffoons.

Last week, I put up a post about the city banning Happy Meals toys. That certainly seemed absurd, but the craziness is reaching new levels with a possible referendum on banning circumcisions.

One city resident is proposing a ballot measure that would ban circumcision in the City, according to the San Francisco Examiner. If passed in November 2011, the measure would change San Francisco’s police code “to make it a misdemeanor to circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18.” The punishment for those who choose to cut away anyway would be up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in prison.

What’s next, mandatory sensitivity classes? Morning calisthenics with the exercise police? Banning leather belts? Is there any limit once we acquiesce to the notion that other people have the right to tell us how to live our lives?

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