Expansion of federal government – mission creep

Familiar with the term mission creep? In business, a project starts with specified business requirements and after the project gets rolling, new requirements – or change orders – are added after the fact increasing costs and sometimes destroying the project. Nick Gillespie over at Reason TV talks mission creep in government projects.

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In Connecticut, state employees retire – get rehired

It’s bad enough the public perception of state employees is that they have easy gigs with great benefits, but now – even after Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R-Conn.) said she would investigate and halt double-dipping – we find more than 500 employees who retired in June are back on the payroll.

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Public opinion on government size and budget – big and wasteful

Granted, the information comes from a poll with subjective questions, but Gallup released a couple of polls early this week concerning the perception of the waste at the federal government level and over-regulation of business. Perception is reality, and I argue their is now a consensus.

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Expense accounts for House and Senate members add up

The salary for United States Senate and House of Representatives members is currently set at $174,000 which for just about anywhere in the country is very respectable, but are you familiar with the expense accounts available to Senate and House members? As is with government workers, it’s not always about the salary; you need to review the benefits.

Today, the Wall Street Journal has an oh-so-perfectly-timed Saturday story on House and Senate member government expense allowances which range between $1.3 million and $4.5 million per year. If they don’t use the allocated funds, they do not get to keep the money for the next year.

Of course, a significant portion of the allowance goes to staff salaries and travel, but read the full story in the WSJ to learn about some of the other big expenses.

Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings spent $24,730 in taxpayer money last year to lease a 2008 luxury Lexus hybrid sedan. Ohio Rep. Michael Turner expensed a $1,435 digital camera. Eni Faleomavaega, the House delegate from American Samoa, bought two 46-inch Sony TVs.

The expenditures were legal, properly accounted for and drawn from allowances the U.S. government grants to lawmakers. Equipment purchased with office expense accounts must be returned to the House or the federal General Services Administration when a lawmaker leaves office.

But as British politicians come under widening scorn for spending public money on everything from candy bars to moat-dredging, an examination of U.S. lawmakers’ expense claims shows Washington’s elected officials have also used public funds for eye-catching purchases.

If your wondering if expenses “increase” in the forth quarter of the year, you’d be barking up the right tree. Get this, staffers get bonuses.

The review showed that the increased year-end spending went not only toward equipment but also to fund year-end “bonuses” to aides. The average House aide earned 17% more in the fourth quarter of the year, when the bonuses were paid, than in previous quarters, according to an earlier Journal analysis. Payments ranged from a few hundred dollars to $14,000.

As Jim frequently notes, this does not seem like the definition of public service to me.

Profiles in spending, John Murtha

Perhaps no single individual can exemplify the profligate spending and massive ego that is Congress better than John Murtha. And what better monument to his ego than the airport that has been named for this poltroon.

“The John Murtha airport sits on a windy mountain two hours east of Pittsburgh, a 650-acre expanse of smooth tarmac, spacious buildings, a helicopter hangar and a National Guard training center.

Inside the terminal on a recent weekday, four passengers lined up to board a flight, outnumbered by seven security staff members and supervisors, all suited up in gloves and uniforms to screen six pieces of luggage. For three hours that day, no commercial or private planes took off or landed. Three commercial flights leave the airport on weekdays, all bound for Dulles International Airport.

The key to the airport’s gleaming facilities — and, indeed, its continued existence — is $200 million in federal funds in the past decade and the powerful patron who steered most of that money here. Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) is credited with securing at least $150 million for the airport. It was among the first in the country to win funding from this year’s stimulus package: $800,000 to repave a backup runway.”

Three commercial flights a day between Dulles and nowhere… a 34 passenger plane that flies for *four* people.   Now, business does occasionally pick up during election season, when Mr. Murtha flies home to campaign.

What hath John Murtha wrought?

“Murtha, dubbed the King of Pork by critics, consistently directs more federal money to his district than any other congressman — $192 million in the 2008 budget. His pattern of steering millions in earmarks to defense contractors who give to his campaign and hire his allies as lobbyists is being scrutinized by the FBI as part of an investigation of a lobbying firm led by one of Murtha’s closest friends.

The lawmaker, who uses the airport frequently during his campaigns, has steadily steered millions of taxpayer dollars to it to build a new terminal with a restaurant; a long, concrete runway sturdy enough to handle large jets; and a high-tech radar system usually reserved for international airports.”

So, we have an over-appointed, under-utilized airport that, for most practical purposes, amounts to a private convenience for Murtha so he can parachute in during election season and get re-elected.  A runway that will never see a large jet, a radar that is overkill for a regional facility and a terminal with a restaurant that will like as not be subsidized, since the numbers of travelrs just aren’t there to support it.  So, what have we got for our tax dollar?

“An $8 million radar system for detecting weather problems more than 100 miles away spins on the southern edge of the property. Murtha had said that the system would create at least a dozen air traffic control jobs, but the state Air National Guard, which was supposed to staff it, said personnel reductions have left the radar unmanned.

A $17.8 million earmark in 2006 from the Defense Department replaced the airport’s 7,000-foot-long asphalt runway with a reinforced concrete bed capable of handling larger civilian and military jets, but it is not being employed for that purpose.

A $6.5 million, three-story National Guard and Reserve training center, resembling a rustic ski lodge, is perched on Airport Road.

A new air traffic control tower was built in 1999 for $6.8 million, after Murtha persuaded Congress to add the project to the federal budget. He also got the funds that year to build the new terminal, where his portrait graces the entrance.

In 1998, at Murtha’s urging, the Marine Corps agreed to move a helicopter unit to Johnstown and constructed a $14 million hangar and training facility at the airport’s southeastern edge.”

Expensive radars with no one watching the screens and a monument to one monstrous ego.  This is our tax dollar at work — $200,000,000 over ten years.  But, hey — at least the parking is free.  It better be — we’ve paid enough for it.

Compassionate conservatism equaled big government

We all knew it. Bush 43 tried to define his presidency by bringing new tone to Washington D.C., and called his politics compassionate conservatism. By reaching across the aisle and letting Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) write the No Child Left Behind in 2001, propping up the U.S. steel industry with tariffs in 2002, and dishing out billions in pork creatively identified as national defense spending, he failed conservatives around the country.

In the end, what did that new tone get us?

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Commuters to get state sponsored traffic information

Unbelievable waste of cash. I just turned on WVIT – the local NBC affiliate – and they reported Connecticut was planning to introduce the state-wide 511 system that I mentioned back in February. It appears that the state government – at a cost of $3 million – thinks that they can provide better traffic information then all of the radio stations, TV stations and Internet services combined.

The talking head on tube indicated that the system would be rolled out in 2010, but reminded watchers that they can already get traffic information for free from WVIT. You can even have live video sent to your phone by the station; they have more than 100 cameras to choose from. Read more