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Post Column: Redundancies abound in U.S. government

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was a prominent Egyptian politician and secretary-general of the United Nations from 1992 to 1996. He had this to say about bureaucracies: “The best way to deal with bureaucrats is with stealth and sudden violence.”

Fair enough. I applaud Mr. Boutros-Ghali for his gutsy forthcomingness.

And, like a bloated grub in a sack of wheat, the bureaucracies we all hate just keep getting bigger and bigger! There are numerous wastefully overlapping federal programs. A few examples: There are 72 federal programs ensuring water quality, 23 agencies providing aid to former Soviet republics, 12 food safety agencies, 27 teen pregnancy programs, 90 early-childhood development programs, more than 342 economic development programs and 11 “principal statistics” agencies. All of which could be consolidated to save money and improve efficiency.

Furthermore, the stereotype of the form-wielding bureaucrat is completely true. Just two months ago, a formal reprimand was filed against a Social Security Administration worker. The offense? He farted too much.

According to the five-page report, the worker’s “uncontrollable flatulence” made the environment “intolerable” and “hostile.”

The report included 17 dates and 60 separate times during which the man’s atmospheric pollution offended his colleagues.

The complaints in the report were gathered from the employee’s co-workers. Apparently, they didn’t have anything better to do than to fill out paperwork counting farts. All the red tape that the American bureaucracy imposes has manifested itself in direct consequences. The American Action Forum, headed by a former head of the Congressional Budget Office, has found that regulatory burden, or the costs associated with imposing and meeting new regulations, amounted to more than $105 billion in 2012 alone.

Waste from the giant U.S. bureaucracy black hole comes in even more egregious forms. Each year, the Department of the Treasury releases its financial report detailing its budget breakdown. And, each year, there is a section entitled “Unreconciled Transactions Affecting the Change in Net Position.”

In other words, “Money that Disappeared in Bad Ways.”

In just 2003, $24.5 billion were reported in this category, meaning that auditors could not trace who took out the money or on what and where it was spent. This is the equivalent of $9,000 of unaccounted-for money per federal employee. It is worthy to note that $24.5 billion is enough to fund the Department of Justice for the whole year.

Whoops.

In another instance, between 1997 and 2003, the Department of Defense bought and then left unused more than 270,000 commercial airline tickets, which cost a combined $100 million. Although the tickets were reimbursable, no one bothered to get America reimbursed of its $100 million.

Simultaneously, in 2001 and 2002, the Pentagon accidentally paid for plane tickets, and then “reimbursed” the employee that it bought the plane ticket for. In other words, the Pentagon would buy a ticket, and then pay its own employee that ticket amount. One employee received seven plane tickets and had a total of $9,700 deposited into his personal account. That cost American taxpayers $8 million.

In 2002, Senator Susan M. Collins tested the Department of Education by sending student loan applications with faked documentation for three imaginary students (including one named “Susan M. Collins”) wanting to attend the fictitious Y’Hica College. The Department of Education was easily fooled, and ended up signing off on disbursing $55,000 of student loans to the three imaginary people.

Ms. Collins did not comment on why she chose the name “Y’Hica College.”

Finally, more than 15 percent of Department of Agriculture employees were found to have embezzled a collective $5.8 million through government credit cards, which were used to buy tattoos, lingerie, bartender school tuition, and Ozzy Osbourne concert tickets, among other items.

America, rest assured that your taxpayer dollars have been put to good use. At least our hated bureaucracy has the good sense of seeing that America needs more underwear and bartenders.

Kevin Hwang is a senior at Athens High School who is taking classes at Ohio University and a columnist for The Post. Have you ever embezzled government money? Email Kevin at kh319910@ohiou.edu.

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