A patriotic Southerner once called Paul Revere “that Yankee who had to go ride for help” when he saw the British coming.
Author Martin Gross probably thinks of the supercommittee members as “those clueless congressionals who can’t cut the budget even with one another’s help.” Gross has been “cutting America’s budget” all alone for years. He’s testified at congressional hearings half a dozen times, winning applause from members of both parties. And yet Congress has never acted on Gross’ advice!
His latest book is “National Suicide: How Washington is Destroying the American Dream from A to Z.” You can’t put an aircraft carrier into a Dixie cup; I wish I could give you more of Gross than a column’s-worth. Pretend you’re in the greatest restaurant in the world, but all you can have is a thimbleful of caviar, unless you give a book retailer a few bucks. Here goes!
A banker in Des Moines once told Stanford Research, “I want a report on all federal programs targeting rural areas.” He got his money’s worth. They discovered 1,069 federal programs for rural areas, mostly duplicating one another. Martin found 60 federal job-training programs, averaging a cost of $25,000 to train each individual. Most wound up without a job, or flipping hamburgers, for which McDonald’s has a much cheaper training program. The several dozen overlapping federal programs to fight teenage pregnancy and drug abuse seem to feel almost normal when Martin hits us with early child development for which we’re paying for 90 different programs.
We’ve got, according to Gross, 28 programs spread over 15 federal agencies on telecommunications, 50 programs for the homeless, 20 different moderate- and low-income HUD programs, 75 programs across 16 federal agencies devoted to cultural and foreign affairs development, 131 programs for juvenile delinquency and 313 labs, including 175 in the Department of Agriculture alone. There’s no limit to this kind of federal “caviar,” but space limits us to that one tiny thimbleful.
Somebody in government discovered that taxpayer money could be saved if the appropriate federal workers were just issued credit cards, to replace the old “expense account” system. So a half-million were handed out. Among the uses of those cards: a cruise to Alaska, breast enlargement for a girlfriend, home-closing fees and prostitutes. Aren’t superiors held accountable for all those expenses? That was “then”! Now they get their underlings to sign off on them.
We’re not even getting warmed up – and our cutting knives are already getting dull from overuse. And we haven’t touched an entitlement yet!
Martin bristles with brilliant ways to cut the budget. He admits his estimate is charitable, but he suggests 20 percent of the federal workforce is unnecessary. With benefits, the federal worker comes in at around $120,000 each. “Seven percent retire or die each year,” Gross observes. “Attrition them down. Hire 2 percent and don’t hire the remaining 5 percent.” Has anybody on the supercommittee thought of this? There’s no evidence indicating so.
Some Americans lust openly to see Barack Obama debate Newt Gingrich. I lust after the prospect of a public-workers’ union leader daring Martin to defend his charge that so many government workers are unnecessary. Warning: Martin will pull out his transcript of interviews with government workers explaining, as one example, their “flex time.” “I get to work at 6 a.m. and leave at 2 in the afternoon,” one told Martin. “And what do you do when you get there?” asks Martin. “Well,” explains our public servant earning double what the private sector pays, “Nobody else is there at 6 a.m., so I just do crossword puzzles.”
The IRS estimates a quarter of all unearned tax-credit claims are fraudulent. Martin insists it’s closer to half. “You can own a multi-million dollar home in Malibu,” he says. “You can drive a Bentley. And you can still claim unearned tax credit.” Is Martin some kind of tea-party extremist? (The tea party loves him!) Well, when’s the last time you heard of anybody being investigated, indicted, tried or jailed for that kind of fraud?
When President Obama recently rapped Americans for being lazy, he may have been referring to the globetrotting corps in the State Department who are supposed to travel in coach on overseas assignments. Guess what! They usually travel first class. The difference is huge. It’s your money. And since neither you nor the media are hugely interested, first class it’ll continue to be. Relax. It’s only many millions a year; not even a billion. Shall we yawn in unison?
Martin Gross does not deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. He deserves the more important American prize for disturbing the peace, which booms out of every single page of this book. This book shames every American leader, beginning with Congress. The House is America’s paymaster.
In the mid-1950s, when everything was fine, bench-sitting philosopher and advisor-to-presidents Bernard Baruch warned, “If America ever crashes, it’ll be in a two-toned convertible.”
And I’ll bet Bernie thought it would be an American car!