Fiscal Leaders Don’t Fire Inspectors General

Originally published by American Issues Project
By K. Daniel Glover

Two months ago, while celebrating his first 100 days in the White House, President Obama portrayed himself as a fiscal leader when he urged his Cabinet to cut $100 million from their budgets. “We have an obligation to make sure that this government is as efficient as possible, and that every taxpayer dollar that is spent is being spent wisely,” Obama said.

The rhetoric was an empty gesture even then, but this month, Obama confirmed just how little he cares about making the federal government budget-conscious and efficient. He fired an inspector general for doing exactly what Obama says he wants.

The White House dismissed Gerald Walpin, the IG who oversees the AmeriCorps community service program, after he exposed the misappropriation of funds from the program by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The situation was bad enough that Walpin tried to stop Johnson from getting any more money.

A president committed to efficient government should have seen that as a good thing, especially in light of the fact that Obama, a former community organizer, wants to boost the budget for community service by 29 percent in fiscal 2010. Even Vice President Joe Biden has acknowledged that the more money the government spends, the more likely waste will occur.

But Johnson is one of Obama’s political allies. Instead of giving Walpin a pat on the back, Obama pushed him out the door — and worse, his administration smeared Walpin’s good name.

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The Era Of Gizmo Government

Originally published by American Issues Project
By K. Daniel Glover

When I served as the managing editor of National Journal’s Technology Daily, I spotted an apparent trend in federal spending — more money going toward tech-related pork projects.

A time-intensive search of keywords in several editions of the annual “Pig Book” produced by Citizens Against Government Waste confirmed my suspicions. There were only a handful of tech-related earmarks in the mid-1990s, but the numbers started climbing in fiscal 1999 and soared in subsequent years.

That initial investigative research ultimately led to a series of stories in 2004 about Congress’ newfound obsession with tech pork — everything from “business incubators” and data-sharing systems to technologies for law enforcement and schools. Oh, and don’t forget the $16,000 that Uncle Sam spent for interactive displays at the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by an entity now partially owned by the taxpayers, General Motors.

Five years later, lawmakers haven’t whetted their appetite for tech-related pork. The proof is in the 76-page list of proposed earmarks for fiscal 2010 recently released by the House Appropriations Committee (hat tip to The Club For Growth).

The list is chock-full of tech goodies for major metropolitan areas and small villages alike, as well as for large universities and small colleges.

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