GAO Report: United States Government Made $125 Billion In Improper Payments In Fiscal Year 2014

Image Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Improper payments by the federal government totaled nearly $125 billion in fiscal year 2014, according to a newly released report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO said the waste was spread across 124 programs in 22 agencies. “This taxpayer money was not spent securing our borders, it was not spent on national defense, and it was not spent contributing to safety net (sic) for those in need,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Affairs, in a hearing Monday.

This is a problem that is going to get worse year after year if we do not get a handle on it now. As the federal government becomes even more involved in our healthcare system, outlays will continue to grow, and so will improper payments.

One of the most startling examples of improper payments was Medicare’s payments to doctors and hospitals totaling $46 billion, along with Medicaid’s at $17.5 billion.

Other examples include:

  • Earned Income Tax Credit – $17.7 billion
  • Medicare Advantage (Part C) – $12.2 billion
  • Unemployment Insurance – $5.6 billion
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – $5.1 billion
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – $2.4 billion
  • School Lunch – $1.7 billion
Government Accountability Office

Government Accountability Office

Government Accountability Office

Government Accountability Office

You can read the full report here.

An article composed in The Associated Press Tuesday got to the heart of the matter:

Social Security has no death record for 6.5 million people who would be at least 112 years old, according to a report by the agency’s inspector general.

In reality, only a few could possibly be alive. As of last fall, there were only 42 people known to be that old in the entire world.

Only 13 of the people are still getting Social Security benefits, the report said. But for others, their Social Security numbers are still active, so a number could be used to report wages, open bank accounts, obtain credit cards or claim fraudulent tax refunds.

“There is one root cause that is easily identified, but for reasons that defy logic, has been incredibly difficult to solve,” Johnson contended. “The federal government has wasted billions of dollars over the last few decades giving money to dead people.” 

h/t: Fox News

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

What Did My Parents Ever Do To The Federal Reserve?

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In September 1993, President Bill Clinton reassured his radio audience that “if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll be rewarded with a good life for yourself and a better chance for your children.” Picking up that theme over 18 years later, President Barack Obama affirmed that “Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same.” The trouble is neither the government nor the financial system backed by the Federal Reserve rewards people like my parents, who have worked hard and played by the rules their entire lives–only to have their savings wither away.

Instead, Federal Reserve officials and the intelligentsia who support them are continuously working to make their lives more difficult, frightening the masses of what shoppers look for every day—lower prices. Price deflation, the cry, is disastrous for the economy. They worry that lower prices will reduce profits, leading to shutdowns and lay-offs, and that lower prices make it harder for people to pay their debts. Sound economic theory and history, however, both indicate that price deflation is nothing the social economy needs to fear. If prices fall because the economy is more productive, this is unambiguously positive. However, if prices fall because people spend less, their desire is for larger real cash balances. Falling prices help them achieve their goal, which precisely is the purpose of economic activity.

Lower prices and wages can make it harder to pay fixed debt. This, however, serves as an excellent incentive to stay out of debt in the first place, as my parents have done as a result of significant sacrifice. Before creating even more money out of thin air to ward off lower overall prices, we should at least consider some of the ethical issues involved.

Many men from my father’s generation are not unlike John Adams, who wrote to his wife that he “must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” My father embarked on 20 years of hard labor in a meat packing plant providing for his family until he lost his job due to his union pricing him and his fellow workers out of a job. When his plant closed in the mid-1980s, he embarked on a second successful career with my mother, operating their own barbecue business for another 20-plus years. I saw firsthand the challenges they faced trying to keep quality up and costs down, while producing top-drawer barbecue meat and sandwiches for a demand that was always uncertain. I saw the stress on my mother’s face one week in the early days when they netted a mere $15 before taxes. My father indeed “studied” meat packing and barbecue, in part, so I could go to college and become an economist and college professor.

Additionally, mom and dad had the foresight and character to make the sacrifices necessary to stay out of debt. Indeed, they are Paul Krugman’s worst nightmare—a family determined not to live beyond their means. Now retired, like many in their generation, they are enjoying life the best they can on an almost fixed income. Because they have no debt, they have been able to live without tremendous economic hardship thus far. The Federal Reserve’s inflationism, however, increasingly makes life for them more difficult as steady price inflation daily chips away at their livelihood. Since 2009, for example, the Consumer Price Index has increased over nine percent. This masks, however, significantly larger price increases for important necessities. Prices of dairy products are up almost 17 percent since 2009. Gasoline prices are up almost 11 percent despite the recent decline. Prices for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs have increased a whopping 26 percent since 2009. Higher overall prices do not help people like my parents at all. They instead act as a thief, snatching wealth away from them in the form of diminished purchasing power. What they long for is to see the value of their savings increase. Far from creating economic hardship for them, lower overall prices would be a boon.

Both sound economics and ethics, therefore, demand that we give up the anti-deflation rhetoric and the inflation it fuels. Charity demands that we cease striking fear into the hearts of the masses, softening them up for ever higher prices. The Federal Reserve should stop punishing people like my parents who have worked hard and played by the rules their whole lives. After all, what did they ever do to Greenspan, Bernanke, and Yellen?

Dr. Shawn Ritenour is a professor of economics at Grove City College, contributor to The Center for Vision & Values, and author of “Foundations of Economics: A Christian View.”

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Don’t ‘Audit The Fed’ – Abolish It

Photo credit: International Monetary Fund (Flickr)

In recent remarks to the Senate Banking Committee, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen (pictured above) was her typical evasive and non-committal self when the topic of interest rate hikes were broached. When the subject of potential oversight of the Fed came up, however, Ms. Yellen became quite forthright in her response.

When asked about a bill introduced by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to “Audit the Fed,” Ms. Yellen declared: “I want to be completely clear: I strongly oppose ‘Audit the Fed.’”  Ms. Yellen defended her position on the grounds (which have been given by every previous Fed Chairman) that oversight would lead to politicized monetary decision making, thus compromising the central bank’s “independence.”

Senate Banking Chairman, Richard Shelby, R-Ala., countered the Chairwoman, saying “there is an even greater need for additional oversight” of the Fed since the onset of the financial crisis in 2007.

Ms. Yellen, her predecessors, and every other Fed apologist are simply wrong when they assert that the central bank is an independent agency that is free of political influence. The Federal Reserve System was created by an act of Congress (1913) and can ultimately be “reformed,” altered, and/or abolished by Congressional fiat if so desired.

That Congress does not oversee Fed policy is a result of its charter, which was originally crafted by the Big Banksters of the time (mostly the Rockefellers and Morgans) in concert with their bought-and-paid-for politicians. The lack of oversight was a deliberate part of their plan to give bankers and financers free reign to conduct monetary policy for their own benefit.

The Federal Reserve is and has always been a political creature designed for the benefit of financial elites. It is a highly privileged cartel with monopoly control of the nation’s money supply. Unlike the propaganda that emits from Fed officials, the central bank was instituted to protect banksters from financial collapse and bank runs. Fine-tuning the economy, reducing unemployment, or fighting inflation are all ancillary concerns for the Fed.

These are the simple facts that are deliberately kept from the public at large by the political establishment, academia, and the media.

The Audit the Fed movement, which began in earnest with Ron Paul’s first presidential run, is a wrongheaded approach to solve the nation’s ongoing financial crisis. Senator Rand Paul’s bill is mostly grandstanding to bolster his status among the Republican Party’s populist contingent in his anticipated race for the nomination.

In fact, instead of meaningful reform, greater public oversight of the Fed would most likely lead to worse results. Every Congressman and Senator would be pressuring the central bank to fund their pet projects. Can one imagine what the growth rate of the money supply would be if 535 ravenous politicians had a say in the conduct of monetary policy?!

Those who want to reverse the nation’s economic malaise should seek the Federal Reserve’s abolition and advocate its replacement with a de-politicized monetary order free of central banking. Such a system would most likely be based on a commodity (gold and/or silver) where “money producers” are free to engage in the creation of the “best money” and banking services to satisfy customers’ needs.

In such an order, banks would function as any other enterprise by profit and loss. If banks loan funds wisely, they will succeed; if not, they will fail and go out of business, replaced in the marketplace by more savvy entrepreneurs. There will be no bailouts at taxpayers’ expense for reckless financial speculation. Money and banking would become a sound and honest undertaking.

To actually believe that an Audit the Fed initiative would become law is beyond naïve. The political establishment will never voluntarily relinquish or allow any legitimate oversight of one of its chief pillars of power.

Instead of seeking change via politics, reformers must first change the climate of public opinion–which can only be accomplished when the prevailing ideology is debunked. Until the Federal Reserve is seen as an engine of inflation and the creator of economic disorder that needs to be eradicated, America’s financial woes will, unfortunately, continue.

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Would You Do What This Couple Did After Finding Something Unbelievable In A Fast Food Bag?

WCJ images BK cash

Talk about a whopper of a true story.

Late in the afternoon this past Friday, Janelle Jones went to a Burger King in Rochester, New Hampshire, where she ordered a spicy chicken sandwich and sweat tea at the drive-through window. She was already on her way home when she opened the bag to find that the restaurant had messed up her order — messed it up in a big and unbelievable way.

Instead of her sandwich and drink, Jones found a huge bundle of cash — $2,631. Apparently, she had been given a bank deposit instead of the meal she ordered.

Foster’s Daily Democrat newspaper reports that Janelle called her husband, Matthew, to discuss what they should do with the small fortune that had dropped into their laps.

Matthew Jones admitted, “We are not perfect human beings,” and said the couple had considered the possibility of keeping the money, adding they could have certainly used the cash. But he said he and his wife are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that “Jehovah sees everything.”

When the young couple returned the cash, employees of the Burger King were extremely thankful, especially since at least one of them reportedly faced the prospect of being fired if the money had not been returned.

And what was the reward for Janelle and Matthew Jones’ honesty — aside from their consciences being clear for having done a good deed?

Again, via Foster’s Daily Democrat: “A manager told me they would give me five free meals,” Janelle added. “The manager said he talked to the corporate office and they said to tell me ‘thank you.’”

h/t: KTLA

 

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

The News Of Russia’s Death Is Greatly Exaggerated

Photo credit: Timofeev Sergey / Shutterstock.com

The talking heads are all abuzz over the dramatic fall of the Russian currency, the ruble. Phrases like “financial collapse” and “full-blown currency crisis” dominate the headlines.  The leadership of Vladimir Putin has been called into question, with some news outlets saying he may be removed by those around him due to the economic losses they have suffered.

The downward spiral of the ruble, along with oil and sanctions, are definitely body blows to the Russian economy.  However, I think the world is underestimating, or maybe just doesn’t understand, Russia.

Stratfor put out a quote this week that I thought was especially enlightening: “The sanctions were designed to inflict more economic pain than the West could withstand.”  This in a nutshell is what we are facing with the situation in Russia.

One thing I can tell you is that this time, Russia will not be broken. The people support Putin, but what they really support is Russia. It’s kind of like that old saying: “I can talk bad about my family, but no one else can.”

Russians are used to enduring depths of pain that the West cannot understand. The Nazis killed twenty million Russians in World War II. We Americans can’t understand that depth of loss.

Stalin then killed another twenty million for good measure.  That was only seventy years ago.

Ukraine is near and dear to a Russian’s heart. It is the birthplace of Slavic civilization. White Russians hailed from Ukraine a long time ago.

It is where the Russian Orthodox Church was started under Vladimir the Great. Russia, especially under Putin, will never allow Ukraine to belong to the West, no matter how many sanctions we impose. Think of Texas being armed by the Russians, and you’ll get my point.

Putin will find a way out of this mess. It is rumored that China is preparing to bail them out. When this happens, the ruble will soar.

That’s why I’ve been counseling people to look at buying rubles, not selling. They still have hundreds of billions in foreign currency reserves and a whole lot of oil and natural gas.

Russia doesn’t make many; but they do make darn good weapons, and there are plenty of countries who don’t like us willing to buy them.

When Putin emerges from this crisis, he will be stronger than ever. He will be the man who saved Russia from the West’s conspiracy to destroy Russia. The people will love him even more.

Photo credit: Timofeev Sergey / Shutterstock.com

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom