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More Wasted Stimulus Tax Dollars, This Time In Michigan

David Williams on 2013-03-13 19:02:54

Although the current state of the federal government comes up short a lot of the time, there are a few redeeming glimmers of hope every now and then.  More times than not, those glimmers come from an entity of government that’s asked to check up on, monitor, and audit other components and arms of the federal government.  These beacons of fiscal responsibility are the Inspector Generals (IGs).

IGs are extremely helpful to taxpayers for a variety of reasons, and they certainly strike a fear in whichever agency that’s the one under the microscope.  For example, just recently the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) IG found that a “Michigan battery-maker that received a visit from President Obama spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in stimulus grant money for workers to do things like watch movies and play cards, according to an inspector general report that blames poor management by the Energy Department. The wasted labor is a system of more widespread mismanagement of the company’s $151 million matching grant…”

As POLITICO Pro (subscription required) explained, “In its review, the IG identified at least $1.6 million in ‘questionable’ third-quarter labor – some of which included ‘unreasonable and unallowable’ work hours spent volunteering in the community, playing board games and watching movies.”  How backwards does that type of “business” logic sound?  But why not when the money being spent to cover these costs is not your own and your company has nothing to lose from these egregious wastes of labor and capital?

The POLITICO article goes on to report that “LG Chem executives told investigators that to prevent layoffs as production remained idle, the company used a combination of unpaid furloughs and letting employees volunteer, play cards and engage in other leisure activities during work hours.  The purpose was ‘to help ensure that their investment in training employees was not lost.’”  Apparently the idea of the amount of taxpayers’ money that would be lost wasn’t a consideration.

No matter where one falls on the political spectrum, all should be able to agree that a good government should be transparent and accountable for the way it spends taxpayers’ dollars.  On one hand it’s beneficial to know about waste like this stimulus grant.  On the other hand, it’s frustrating to see the inherent inefficiencies and careless actions of the government’s bureaucracy as it spends taxpayers’ hard-earned money.  The question that sticks out is how many other similar wastes such as this one are going on, but are flying undetected under the radar and are never discovered.  After all, the IG can’t be everywhere, watching everything.

And that’s why Congress must work to eliminate programs and grants like the one that went to LG Chem.  Such “stimulus” grants do nothing to help the economy and instead are ripe for waste and abuse of all that’s offered.  The thing is there is only one way to ensure that completely unacceptable behavior like this example ends.  More regulations or even more oversight (both expansive, bigger government measures) are not the answer.  As this grant example shows, sometimes such additional oversight measures don’t even make a difference due to the reality that they occur after the harm has been done.  As the article reports “… the IG goes on to slam DOE for poor oversight of the grant disbursal, arguing that once the project hit choppy waters, the department should have acted to protect taxpayers’ money.  LG Chem ‘significantly underestimated’ labor costs and has completed only about 60 percent of the production capacity planned in the grant agreement despite having spent almost all the DOE money, the report says.”

The only way to totally prevent this is to get rid of these ill-fated programs that are founded on the extremely false premise that government infusing money into often otherwise economically unviable companies can somehow do the local economies or our nation any good.  If you need more proof spend some time studying all the boondoggles of Obama’s green stimulus pipe dreams here and here.

After all what good are IG reports unless Congress heeds its advice?

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