As America celebrates this week’s 237th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the federal government deserves a Declaration of Incompetence. Agree or disagree with Washington’s policies, it seems to get almost nothing right. Money flies in every direction as programs flop daily. Subjected by monarchic tyranny in 1776, America now suffers the abuses and usurpations of bureaucratic ineptitude.
Obama’s signature achievement has become a scrawl. Obamacare premieres in six months. But after three years of rehearsal, this morbidly obese program is not ready for prime time. On Tuesday, Team Obama postponed the employer mandate one year — to January 1, 2015, conveniently past the 2014 midterm elections.
Obamacare’s health-insurance exchanges are due October 1. Good luck! The Government Accountability Office reported in June that, among the federally facilitated exchanges in 34 states, “on average, about 85 percent of their total key activities” required by October “were not completed.”
Manhattan Institute scholar Avik Roy compared existing health insurance with coverage planned for California. “Obamacare has actually doubled individual-market premiums in the Golden State,” he explained in Forbes. “For the typical 25-year-old non-smoking Californian, Obamacare will drive premiums up by between 100 and 123 percent.” For a male non-smoker in California, “Obamacare will increase individual-market premiums by an average of 116 percent.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Louise Radnofsky explored Virginia’s exchange. It “offers a fairly typical picture,” she wrote on June 30. A male non-smoker in Richmond, age 40, can buy a modest health plan today for $63 a month. Under Obamacare, his cheapest option will triple — to $193.
In February, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that “in 2019, an estimated 12 million people who would have had an offer of employment-based coverage under prior law will lose their offer under current law.”
Accused spy Edward Snowden is America’s most wanted fugitive. So, surely, federal prosecutors filled their extradition papers with extra care.
Hong Kong’s records listed Edward Joseph Snowden. However, Justice Department documents demanded Edward James Snowden and Edward J. Snowden.
“These three names are not exactly the same,” Hong Kong justice secretary Rimsky Yuen told the Associated Press. “Therefore, we believed that there was a need to clarify.”
Washington also failed to include Snowden’s passport number or, for days, invalidate his passport.
“Up until the moment of Snowden’s departure, the very minute, the U.S. Department of Justice did not reply to our request for further information,” Yuen said. “Therefore, in our legal system, there is no legal basis for the requested provisional arrest warrant.” In its absence, the “Hong Kong government has no legal basis for restricting or prohibiting Snowden leaving Hong Kong.”
So, off Snowden flew to Moscow, in whose Sheremetyevo Airport he now languishes.
How did Snowden get his top-secret security clearance anyway? He may have slipped past a federal contractor called USIS. After completing initial background checks on job applicants, USIS was required to re-scrutinize such candidates. However, as the Washington Post reported, from 2008 through 2011, USIS allegedly skipped up to 50 percent of these secondary checks while claiming to federal authorities that they had completed them.
Federal officials exquisitely have drone-killed Islamofascist terrorists overseas. They also quickly identified and neutralized the Muslim Tsarnaev brothers, who allegedly bombed the Boston Marathon. However, Washington’s handling of terrorists in the federal witness-protection program is . . . terrifying.
According to a House Judiciary Committee statement, the Justice Department’s inspector general “found that the number of known or suspected terrorists admitted to the Witness Security Program is unknown, that DOJ has lost track of two suspected terrorists in the program, and that critical national security information is not being shared with other agencies,” including the FBI. Such confirmed or assumed terrorists previously on the federal No Fly List did not have their new names added to the list. Thus, “several known or suspected terrorists have been able to board commercial airplanes in the United States.”
A Judiciary Committee statement added, “This is especially problematic since . . . terrorists admitted to the program include persons who have been trained in aviation and explosives and individuals who have been involved in bombing attacks.”
The U.S. Park Police were supposed to destroy some 1,400 guns. Instead, they are intact. Another 198 guns that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives donated to the USPP are stored in Washington but appear on no official documents. Similar problems identified in 2008 and ’09 have gone unfixed. The Interior Department’s inspector general denounced the USPP’s “decade-long theme of inaction and indifference.”
Such casual disregard for weapons safety defined the Fast and Furious scandal. Justice flooded the southern frontier with some 2,000 high-powered rifles (such as AK-47s) and hoped to track them back to Mexican drug lords. Then federal officials lost those firearms. Drug traffickers eventually turned those guns on three U.S. law-enforcement agents, two fatally, and used those weapons to kill some 300 Mexicans.
Meanwhile, in 2011, the IRS mailed 23,994 tax refunds totaling $46,378,040 to “unauthorized” aliens — all supposedly at the same Atlanta address. That year, according to a Treasury inspector general’s report cited by CNSNews.com, the IRS sent 2,507 refunds worth $10,395,874 to one address in Oxnard, Calif., and 2,408 such checks equal to $7,284,212 to an address in Raleigh, N.C.
“Leave aside the question of who got the refunds. Couldn’t someone, or something, at the IRS have recognized that when almost 24,000 refund checks are going to one address in Atlanta, there just might be a bug in the system?” asks Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union. “The IRS brags about its DIF program for scoring and spitting out tax returns for possible audits. So the agency can’t, or won’t, perform a simple audit of outgoing refunds?”
DIF stands for “Discriminant Function System.” Naturally, it’s DIF, not DFS.
Also, the IRS assigns taxpayer-ID numbers to illegal aliens, even though they are not supposed to be here. As a 1999 IG report noted: “This IRS practice seems counter-productive to the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s (INS) mission to identify undocumented aliens and prevent unlawful alien entry.”
At least these illegal aliens are alive. That evidently is not a requirement to receive federal money.
According to the Social Security Administration’s inspector general, at least 1,546 dead people were receiving benefits, totaling $30.9 million through May 2012. Some had been receiving checks for almost 20 years. A 2009 audit discovered 6,733 Deceased Americans who had been paid $40.3 million. As the IG learned, 91 of them “remained in current payment status” and still are getting Social Security checks, four years later.
As CNSNews.com explains, the SSA’s Death Alert, Control, and Update System is designed to inform the agency when beneficiaries have expired. Unfortunately, it fails 80 percent of the time.
As if its anti-conservative political profiling and harassment were not bad enough, the IRS’s bungling and lavish self-pampering have tarnished this outfit’s reputation even further. IRS agents spent some $108 million on official credit cards over the past two years. An internal audit showed that this bought “multiple lunches, dinners, and related alcohol purchases” as well as “diet pills, romance novels, steaks, a smart phone, and baby-related items, such as bottles, games, and clothing.” One revenue officer’s taxpayer-funded card financed subscriptions to pornography websites.
Even worse, the Washington Times editorialized, “the IRS didn’t bother to cancel credit cards of employees who quit or retired, meaning the party could continue long after the government ‘service’ ended.”
Amid such gross mismanagement, and still-emerging evidence that it politically persecuted 100 percent of tea-party groups that sought tax-exemption, IRS employees will share some $70 million in bonuses.
Sequester? What sequester?
The overarching problem here is a government that, at worst, hammers the freedoms and rights of the American people — as do the IRS and Justice Department with increasing relish. At best, Washington is so busy attempting everything (from fixing sugar prices to banning incandescent light bulbs to subsidizing bird-killing windmills) that it barely accomplishes anything.
Hapless bureaucrats blunder upward. Among them, only serious criminals ever face accountability. Federal employees do pretty much what they please — for life.
America now is subjected by “an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency,” argues George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a mainstream liberal. In the Washington Post, Turley described a callous, hulking fourth branch of government. “Today, we have 2,840,000 federal workers in 15 departments, 69 agencies and 383 nonmilitary sub-agencies,” he wrote. To these 467 executive-branch units, add the legislative and judicial branches. Is it any wonder that Uncle Sam’s left hand does not know what his far-left hand is doing?
In a perfect world, Obama would take ownership of this massive federal enterprise and, at least, make it set priorities. But even that may ask too much of him. Sounding like the late, great free-market hero Milton Friedman, Obama’s consigliere David Axelrod recently got to the heart of the matter: “Part of being president is that there’s so much beneath you that you can’t know, because the government is so vast.”
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.