There isn't much about dysfunctional government that shocks me anymore, but this story did.
According to a report by the Office of Personnel Management and reported in Ed O'Keefe's "The Federal Eye" column in the Washington Post, our government has been sending checks to dead people. "In the last five years," O'Keefe writes, "the Office of Personnel Management has made more than $601 million in payments to dead federal retirees, according to the agency's inspector general. Total annual payouts range between $100 million and $150 million."
This isn't something new. Inspector General (IG) Patrick McFarland had urged OPM in 2005 and again in 2008 to more closely monitor such payments. It appears his advice has gone unheeded.
"Improper payments to dead retirees are up 70 percent in the last five years," cites the OPM report. In one outrageous case, the son of a deceased annuitant kept receiving federal benefits for 37 years after his father's death. OPM didn't learn about the improper payments until after the son died. Of course, the agency never recovered any of the money. Could this be why the government has no qualms about spending other people's money?
Senator Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, conducted an investigation and reported last October on his findings. Coburn discovered that "the federal government had paid nearly $1 billion to at least 250,000 dead people since 2000. That same month, a watchdog reported that the Obama administration's economic stimulus program had made 89,000 payments of $250 each to dead or incarcerated people," writes O'Keefe.
I wonder how many of the dead and incarcerated got to vote and for whom?
As congressional Democrats and Republicans play another round of "chicken" over what, if anything, can be cut from the bloated budget and engage in phony theatrics over another possible government shutdown, those members who wish to be more responsible with other people's money ought to make the issue of wasteful spending central to the upcoming campaign.
After removing the dead and incarcerated from the federal payroll, they can go after an agency that touches all Americans: the United States Postal Service (USPS). According to Citizens Against Government Waste (www.cagw.org), "The USPS has 600,000 employees and is the second largest employer in America behind Wal-Mart. The USPS Office of Inspector General reported that employees were paid $21.9 million for 875,540 hours of 'stand-by' time in FY 2010, and $4.3 million for 170,666 hours in the first half of FY 2011. The USPS also has a 24 percent vacancy rate in its 284 million square feet of interior office space."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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