July 22, 2009


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

One can hardly blame the average American taxpayer from being just a little bit skeptical when it comes to the federal government saying that it is looking for ways to reduce government spending and save the taxpayer money.
After all, American taxpayers have been stuck with the trillion dollar bill to bail out some of this country’s banks and insurance companies, and another trillion or so dollars for the economic stimulus package that so far hasn’t done much stimulating. And then there is of course, the billions of dollars that the taxpayer is on the hook for the auto industry bailout, and now President Obama is talking about pushing through his healthcare reform that will cost the taxpayers another trillion or so dollars.
The huge outlays of federal funds in the past six months and the associated IOUs that are being passed on to us as taxpayers, as well as to our children and grandchildren, is staggering.
While the President and members of the United States Congress seem to be giving a lot of lip service about trimming wasteful programs and containing government spending, the waste just keeps piling up.
Take the recent outcry over the Social Security Administration treating 700 of its top executives to a lavish three-day retreat at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix earlier this month. The price tag that we, the taxpayers, were handed tapped out at nearly $700,000.
And the criticism of the Social Security Administration for funding this kind of junket is richly deserved.
First, isn’t the Social Security Administration the agency that is predicted to go bankrupt in the next 30 years unless it gets more taxpayer money? So if this agency is financially strapped, what is it doing spending $700,000 of taxpayer money to entertain its staff?
Second, the purpose of the retreat had nothing to do with better serving the American public. It had everything to do with treating some 700 government workers to a paid holiday.
Peter Spencer, SSA Regional Commissioner for San Francisco, defended the conference (junket) as being necessary because “We received threats against our employees by people who are in the American public. There is a tremendous amount of stress involved in the job that we do.”
So how did these 700 federal workers learn how to deal with the stresses of their job? They enjoyed a performance by a motivational dance company in which they were invited to dance. And they had the opportunity to take an excursion to a casino. Plus, to really learn how to relieve stress, they were invited to bring family and relatives along with them.
I’m sure that the top brass at the Social Security Administration felt completely justified with this training program and that this particular $700,000 charge to the American taxpayer is nothing but “chump change” to an agency that works in billions of dollars annually.
The President and Congress may buy into that old “song and dance” routine, but you can bet that the average American taxpayer isn’t buying into it.
And that is precisely what is wrong with our federal government today. We have federal employees who treat the taxpayers’ money as if it was their own money. We have federal agencies wasting huge sums of money without any oversight. And then, if and when Congressmen do start asking questions, nothing happens.
The Social Security Administration’s little junket at taxpayer expense is just another example of everything that is wrong in Washington, D.C.