May 16th 2011
Are our heros taking advantage of us?
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2 trillion for the war on terror!
Trillion. Not million, not billion. $2,000,000,000,000 Sunday's paper held an unpleasant number. The U.S. Government spent $2 trillion on its war on terror for the past decade, more than 20% of our national debt of $9.68 trillion. (Bloomberg News)
Yes, I know that my last article praised the military for doing a great job of finally ridding us of Osama bin Laden. But two trillion dollars? I mean, really!
Last night I had dinner with an unusually frank ex-Airforce Sargent, who said the waste and fraud that goes on in the military is intolerable. The 'use it or lose it' mentality of budgeting causes military leaders to spend like there is no tomorrow at the end of the year. Because if they don't spend it, they will lose the funding next year.
He said that he brought this wasteful behavior up to his superiors who were surprised he was complaining. Wasn't he benefitting from having a military job and pension? "Don't mess with a good thing," was their attitude.
I saw this in state government, too. Early in my auditing career, checking for excessive spending in the last quarter was a standard part of our audit procedures. One small court had purchased so much paper and office supplies, that they consumed an employee's office with storage and the employee had to share with another staff person for half of the year.
But back to the military. The Department of Defense is unable and unwilling to prepare a financial statement describing what they do with the money they are appropriated. This refusal means that the federal government financial data will never be accurate. The reason we hear so many different numbers on what our deficit actually is is in part due to this lack of transparency and truth telling.
Yes, I love and appreciate our men and women in uniform. But love doesn't mean they get to run loose with my pocketbook. I see the same 'they are beyond questioning' approaching going on with emergency services and police departments on the local level. Yes, their function is important. But NO, they don't need that additional toy. Just because an expensive high tech toy exists to fight crime and enemies doesn't mean we must have it. Politicians mistakenly treat these guys as untouchable.
Yes, I know everyone else in the world feels this way about government waste. But the big question is, if everyone knows this and everyone dislikes it, why does everyone just shrug their shoulders and play along?
I am reminded of a book I read on forgiveness. This book begins with horrible stories of natural disaster and war and human rights attrocities. But when the aid workers began their counseling with the victims – the victims weren't focused on the big picture and the politics and the desire to change the situation – they were worried about their girlfriends, children, and families. Does the day-to-day in-our-face concerns keep us from making or demanding big changes?
I visited my mother in Poland a decade ago. She was living there for a year teaching English. The Poles have been invaded and mistreated by the communists and the Nazis. The current government system is so oppressive that they don't have time to innovate or think of change or doing anything different. Their day-to-day life is still about basic survival. I left Poland realizing how lucky I am to be in a country that doesn't completely squash me down and take away any motivation I have to achieve.
But as you have seen in prior blog posts – this deficit thing is really worrying me. Our government is consuming more and more and more every time I turn around. This morning, I heard on NPR that the military is going to get $15 billion more in the next budget cycle.
Is the government now working against me. Will I work my ass off so that my children will end up with less than I have? Are we all too busy trying to survive to handle the bigger issues?
Those that we revere and hold up as heros are ripping us off and working the system. That is a big issue - now what are we going to do about it?