Thursday, August 11, 2016

Government Fraud & Deceit!

By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, August 11, 2016

A perfect example of how governments ignore common sense and the will and best interests of the people!

The Causeway Commission plans to raise the tolls on the 26-mile long Causeway Bridge between St. Tammany Parish north of Lake Pontchartrain and Jefferson Parish to the south of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana that take travelers to the city of New Orleans to the south and to communities to the north of the lake.  On the surface a very simple case could be made that the cost of living and the cost of maintenance has risen over the last decade and the increase in tolls may be the right thing to do.

That is not the reason given by the Commission.  On the contrary, they want to raise the tolls to fund “safety” improvements along the Causeway.  I put safety in quotes because it is a buzz word that by itself is a word that most people would find hard to argue with.  The same applies to cuts in government spending when they claim that any cuts will adversely affect police, fire and education – all buzz words.  Why not politician’s salaries or government vehicles they drive?  They, the government, uses these buzz words to trigger emotional responses that they, the government, want from you the tax payer.

The real question should be, what does the Causeway Commission do with the massive amounts of money it CURRENTLY collects every year?  Do they spend it on maintenance of the bridge, salaries for bridge employees, and/or improvements to the bridge?  The simple answer is YES, yes they do.

But wait…there is more.  As it turns out, according to recent reports, the Causeway Commission distributes some of the funds collected to seven area Parishes (a local word that defines what would be Counties in other parts of the country).  Why?  What do those Parishes have to do with the maintenance, salaries and improvements to the Causeway Bridge?  The simple answer is NOTHING!   One such example is that money is actually being given to the New Orleans Recreation Department.  What does that department have to do with the Causeway Bridge?  Again, NOTHING!

I am not a financial genius, nor am I a structural engineer but I like to think that on occasion I exhibit some common sense.  Foolish me to think that I would use 100% of the money collected in the form of tolls on the bridge to pay for maintenance, salaries, and improvements on the bridge plus the establishment of a “rainy day” fund for unexpected and unplanned emergencies on the bridge.  Before I would ever approve an increase in bridge tolls I would want a detailed explanation of the current distribution of funds collected and THEN listen to arguments for increasing the funds.  I would NEVER permit an increase IF the funds already being collected were being redistributed to other government agencies that had nothing to do with the bridge.  But…THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE COMMISSION APPROVED.

I write this Nugget because this is not an isolated incident of government waste and deceit.  This is just one Commission in Louisiana and you have to believe that there are other government agencies spread all across America doing similar things with the money of American citizens.  In this case, in my opinion, this is fraud AND deceit!  Just so everyone knows, yes, I live in Louisiana.  St. Tammany Parish to be exact.  But I may travel the Causeway Bridge once a year if that.  I have no skin in this game when it comes to tolls being collected.  The issue is simply symbolic of the failure of our governments and the fraud and deceit that seems to go hand-in-hand with government agencies and government employees both of which are suppose to be working in the best interests of the general public; it is obvious they are not.

To demonstrate how fraud is rampant in our governments I need to explain how I personally handled hundreds of thousands of dollars while serving in the U. S. Coast Guard.  I would buy recreational and morale equipment for the various Coast Guard units within the Third Coast Guard District.  A unit would place a canoe on their annual budget.  I was required to go to the General Service Administration (GSA) catalog to purchase the canoe if it was included in the catalog otherwise I could purchase it locally; it was included.  The catalog indicated the canoe like the one the unit wanted cost over $800 through GSA.  I could purchase the canoe from Sears for under $400.  That is a $400 total waste of tax payer dollars yet that is exactly what I was required to do by law – BY LAW.  That is until I realized there was a way around the law.  I would fill out a form and submit it to someone in a government job that reviews such forms along with a check list to make sure it was filled out properly.  It didn’t matter what it said, only that it was properly completed.  On the form I would make the statement that the GSA canoe did not meet the requirements of the unit that requested it.  They would approve the exception and then I would purchase the item locally even though the two canoes were identical.  Problem solved at least for this one canoe but I had thousands upon thousands of dollars to spend for the units.  Think about that for just one moment.  I demonstrated that I could save $400 on just one canoe so that meant that I could actually buy TWO canoes and help out TWO units instead of just one for the same amount of money.  My local commanding officer was thrilled that we were able to provide better service to the actual men and women in the field doing their jobs for America.

Then there is the rest of the story.  For demonstration purposes, let’s say that my annual budget was $200,000.  The spoken rule was that I was to spend 100% of that money even if the District’s units only submitted budgets that totaled $175,000 meaning I had $25,000 in excess funds.  Every year the District would submit its morale budget to Washington DC for approval.  Every year we would use the various units budgets they submitted to compile one overall budget for the entire District.  Every year we would indiscriminately add extra money to the request because that is what you did.  So if the requests totaled $175,000, we would ask for $225,000 and typically receive it or maybe a cut to $200,000; no questions asked.  Washington would look at what we spent last year ($200,00) and think that a $25,000 increase is not unrealistic.  What they did not know or if they did they ignored it, was that I would spend 100% of the money I was given, EVERY YEAR!  If I didn’t, my fitness report would reflect that I was doing a poor job.  If I spent ALL of the money the report was much more favorable.  In other words, I was rewarded with good fitness reports IF I spent all of the tax payer dollars instead of frugally working my authorized budget and save money whenever I could.  If I didn’t spend all the money, Washington would never approve an increase even if it was justified for the next year.  Last year’s budget and money spent determined what you would get the following year.  What you actually needed had nothing to do with it.  Nothing!  It was a game that EVERY entity in the U. S. Government played every year.  Multiply that across the entire U. S. Government and you can understand how deep the fraudulent expenditure of tax payer dollars really is in America.  I never worked for a state government but I think it would be safe to assume similar activities are ongoing within each state like the Causeway Commission.

This is why Americans have to pay a lot more attention to what its governments, city, state and federal, are doing.  It is projected that America will soon be over 20 TRILLION DOLLARS in debt and it seems like no one is doing anything to stop the expenditure of money it DOES NOT HAVE.  America should follow the lead of Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty International.  “Lead with revenues; not with expenses!”  In other words, you DO NOT SPEND MONEY YOU DO NOT HAVE!  AND DO NOT BORROW MONEY TO SPEND IF YOU DO NOT ALREADY HAVE IT!  PERIOD!

It is sad that the country should require a Constitutional Amendment to demand that Congress and the President have a balanced budget every year and forbid the government to borrow money to pay for things it probably doesn’t need.  The amendment should also stipulate that no one in the Federal Government will be paid until they do pass a balanced budget every year.

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