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Amateur Hour Continues In Washington D.c. – No Issue Ever Gets Resolved

If a private company had been around for over two hundred years, we would probably hold it in pretty high regard. For any human institution to exist that long means that the institution is flexible, creative, efficient, and well managed. If not, they would not have been around so long.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the political class in this country that runs our government at all levels. Although our governments have also been around for over two hundred years, it is highly doubtful that many of us would describe any level of U.S. government as flexible, creative, efficient, and well managed. If they were in the private sector, they would have disappeared long ago. Some days one has to step back and wonder: our politicians have been at this government thing for a long, long time, you think and hope that they had gotten some of the kinks worked out long ago and could do at least some things efficiently and effectively.

Try to list all of the functions that our political class runs efficiently and effectively. If you are honest, it is very difficult to do:

* Social Security – going bankrupt
* Medicare and Medicaid – going bankrupt and infested with fraud.
* SEC – never saw the biggest economic disaster of our lifetimes coming until it hit them in the face and became the Great Recession. I will throw in the overlooking of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme as a bonus.
* FHA, HUD, Congressional Housing and Banking Committees – see SEC.
* Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – see SEC above and also remember that it is costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars a month to keep these two entities solvent.
* NASA – no long term strategy or goal but still with an annual budget.
* The Nation’s Infrastructure – falling apart
* National Energy Policy and Strategy – nonexistent
* Federal Tax System – overly complicated and inefficient and also infested with fraud and tax dodging.
* Border Patrol – given that there are over 10 million illegal aliens in this country, no need to go further.
* Public Schools – overall failures relative to other nations’ students in all areas of learning including Math, Reading and Science.
* Financial Responsibility – heading for insolvency as a nation because the political class continues to pile up trillions of dollars of debt.
* Management Of The Economy – rife with failed intitatives including the overall economic stimulus program, TARP, Cash For Clunkers, Cash For Appliances, Cash For Caulkers, First Time Home Buyer Rebate Program, Mortgage Adjustment Program, etc.

But, alas, that does not seem to be the case. It is hard to find things that any level of government does well and cost effectively. This should not be the case, these government institutions have been around forever, but it looks like they are still managed by the amateurs from our political class, that learn, or not learn, as they go along. As a result, our wealth, our time, our safety and most importantly, our freedoms, erode over time as the amateurs muddle through problem after problem, really never solving any of them.

Consider:

– An Associated Press article from January 15, 2011 reported that the Federal government was going to scrap the high tech fence that it tried to build along the U.S./Mexican border to stem the flow of illegal aliens into this country. Some highlights/lowlights of this effort include:

* About a billion dollars of taxpayer money has already been spent on the fence with virtually no success in stemming the flood of illegal immigrants.
* Only 53 miles of the fence were completed which means the Federal government spent about $19 million per mile of completed fence. Atrocious.
* At this rate, if the Federal government had continued and fenced the entire length of the border with Mexico, just the construction cost would have been almost $40 billion, not a really efficient solution to the problem.
* Senator Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate committee responsible for Homeland Security, was quoted in the article as saying the decision to ditch the fence “ends a long troubled program that spent far too much of the taxpayers’ money for the results it delivered.” Gee, Senator, maybe you should have thought through the problem a little more to begin with, maybe about a billion dollars ago.
* Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told members of Congress that an “independent, quantitative, science-based review made clear” that the fence “cannot meet its original objective of providing a single integrated border security technology solution.” As with Senator Lieberman, maybe Homeland Security should have done a “science-based” study BEFORE you spent a billion dollars.
* Problems with this high tech, virtual fence included the fact that the radar used had trouble telling the difference between vegetation and people in windy weather, cameras moved too slowly, and satellite communications were too slow. All of these technical problems should have been measurable and quantified prior to spending a billion dollars.

Amateur hour. If the political class cannot even build a simple fence, can really expect them to operate heavy machinery like health care reform, education reform, etc.?

– A very sad article from the Associated Press was reported on January 16, 2011. It covered the horrendous financial shape that the city of Camden, New Jersey finds itself in. Camden is a long time city on the banks of the Delaware river, sitting opposite Philadelphia. It should have a lot going for it including easy access to a major metro area, waterfront property for business development and shipping, it once had a thriving industrial base, and it is also close to the state capital of Trenton. However, the AP reported that:

* The city may have to lay off 383 city employees which is about 25% of the entire city payroll in a desperate attempt to fix its budget deficit.
* The layoffs would cut the police force in half and the fire department by one third.
* These police force cuts would be happening in a city with the second most dangerous rating in the country, with a violent crime rate five times the national average.
* The city also has high rates of drug dealing, prostitution, and many other violent crimes.
* Three out of Camden’s last seven mayors have been convicted for corruption.
* The Camden schools are partially under state control due to nonperformance.
* Although the state has given the city about $175 million for city upgrades and to expand the state aquarium, a hospital, and a unit of the state university, nothing has helped revitalize any aspect of the town. In other words, $175 million wasted.
* More than half of is operating budget comes from the state government, which itself is under heavy financial strain and is likely to reduce that support going forward.

What a waste and disaster. Talk about mismanagement. Too much overhead, not enough foresight to plan ahead, total dependence on outside agencies to exist. Sounds like General Motors and Chrysler a few years ago. And this is a place that has the geographic advantages listed above but has been so mismanaged by the political class that it has dug itself a hole that it may never get out of. One would have thought that politicians would have had some sense of how to run a city government after all of these years. Amateur hour.

– More disturbing news from the Associated Press on January 17, 2011. An AP article reported that former Presidential candidate and North Carolina Senator John Edwards is under intense Federal investigation to determine if he knew that some of his campaign funds were used to cover up his extra marital affair and out of wedlock child and whether other financial practices violate campaign laws. A Federal grand jury is going through records and testimony to determine if and what laws were broken.

Apparently this is not a causal investigation since it has been going on for over two years by the U.S. attorney in Raleigh. The article lists out an extensive and interrelated web of campaign practices, finances, and political organizations.

Now, let’s be very clear that no indictments or accusations have been made, Mr., Edwards needs to be considered innocent until proven guilt. However, the facts are the facts and even if there were no campaign finance laws broken, we know that he did have an extra marital affair and a baby out of wedlock, all, by the way, while his wife battled cancer. Seems like we go through something like this on a constant basis, from Spitzer to Ensign to MacGreevey to Sanford to Clinton to many others. Political class members that would rather do the easy and fun stuff, have an affair, than do the hard important stuff, run an efficient and effective government operation. Amateur hour.

– Another example of amateur hour comes from an Associate Press report from September 22, 2010. The article reported on an interview that Zeituni Onyango gave to WBZ-TV in Boston. Highlights of the interview include the following:

* Onyango came to the United States from Kenya in 2000 and was denied asylum by an immigration judge in 2004.
* She stayed in the country illegally, living in Boston public housing where she still receives $700 per month in disability benefits despite having never contributed into the system.
* She had no trepidations about accepting government assistance despite being here illegally (she has since been granted asylum) for at least four years, given her following quote: “You people who preach Jesus Christ, almighty God, and the rest of it, you are here to help people, help the poor, help other countries and help women. That’s what the United States is supposed to do.” Talk about having outlandish and outsized, obnoxious entitlement expectations.

Any number of amateur hour, incompetent government operations in this case:

* Why did it take so long to determine her asylum status, four years? Hasn’t the Federal government being doing this kind of work for centuries, Ellis Island comes to mind, which seems to have been doing things much more efficiently and quicker without the modern technology of today.
* Once it was determined she could not stay, why was she not deported immediately?
* How in the word did she get public housing assistance and $700 a month without working a day for this country in her life? Unemployed Americans will eventually lose their unemployment benefits, Social Security is going bankrupt, Medicare is going bankrupt but we hand out $700 a month to people like Onyango?
* Oh, by the way, Zeituni Onyango is President Obama’s aunt. Takes a little luster off of the President’s image that he would allow his relative to live in public housing, given the success and wealth he has generated from his book sales and other sources. Also, wouldn’t it have been a grand gesture if he took care of his aunt’s living needs and not wasted $700 a month of the taxpayer’s wealth to do so?

Amateur hour here in so many ways. Inability to efficiently process asylum seekers, inability to actually deport someone who was refused asylum, inability to truly help American citizens in their time of need while diverting resources to illegal aliens, and the inability of a national political leader to take care of his own family member and relieve the care from the government’s strained resources. Disgraceful.

– And finally, one of the biggest failures of all time from our political class, the failed “War On Drugs” that was initiated over four decades ago. Rather than go into details of how this is a failure, listed below are some of the news reports headlines from the past six months or so, they speak for themselves:

“Seized Submarine Quantum Leap For Narcos” – Associated Press, 7/8/10
“Mexican Drug Cartel Hit List Of American Targets” – NY Daily News, 7/8/10
“Pot Tolerance Hits An All Time High” – Reason Magazine, 8/10
“Survey Shows It Is Easier For DC Teens To Get Pot Vs. Beer” – Cato Policy Report, 7/10
“Medical Pot To Be Okay In Some VA Clinics” – Associated Press, 7/24/10
“Gunmen Kill 17 At Party In Mexico” – Associated Press, 7/19/10
“Drug Wars See First Car Bombing” – Huffington Post, 7/17/10
“Mexican Journalists Stop Reporting On Drug Cartel Violence” – The Week Magazine, 8/10
“Mexico’s Police Chief Killed” – Washington Post, 5/4/10
“Police Arrested In Mayor’s Killing” – Associated Press, 8/20/10
“Drug War Sends Bullets Across Border” – Associated Press, 8/24/10
“Cartel Suspected In Massacre of 72 Migrants” – Associated Press, 8/26/10
“Mexico Fires 10% Of Its Police Force” – Associated Press, 8/30/10
“Huge Pot Haul In California” – The Week Magazine, 10/29/10
“Five U.S. Civilians Killed In Mexico” – St. Pete Times, 11/5/10
“Sophisticated U.S. – Mexico Drug Tunnel Found” – The Week Magazine, 11/5/10
“Police Officers, Doctor Killed In Mexico shootings” – Associated Press, 12/30/10
“Mayor Shot To Death In Southern Mexico” – Associated Press, 1/13/11
“Gang’s Terror Felt Far From Drug War On U.S. Border – Associated Press, 1/16/11

You get the idea. After forty some years of fighting a war on drugs, here is where we stand:

* International drug cartels will go to any length to get illegal drugs into this country including building long, high tech smuggling tunnels under our borders and even very sophisticated, fully functional smuggling submarines.
* Drug cartels will go to any length, including unspeakable violence, to protect their illicit trade with untold millions of dollars in drug profits they reap from that trade, violence that seems to grow daily just below our southern border and violence which threatens to replace the existing government structure in Mexico with a narco state.
* The United States is a hodgepodge of conflicting laws and priorities with medical marijuana legal in over ten states and the District Of Columbia, a legality not recognized by the Federal government. But that same Federal government has allowed limited pot smoking to go on in some of the VA hospitals it operates. All this goes on while marijuana tolerance is at all time high.

It does not seem like the war is going very well, given the above realities. Again, we get this kind of shoddy service at a very high price tag, with untold billions of dollars, if not trillions of dollars, having been ineffectively spent since the 1960s fighting this losing effort.

A recent Associated Press article from January 10, 2011 vividly illustrates how the lack of creativity, the inability to understand root causes of a problem, and the lack of foresight to see unintended consequences of their actions has probably made an existing illicit drug situation worse, the exact opposite of what our politicians intended.

The drug area we are talking about is the illegal drug trade in methamphetamine or Meth. Until a few years ago, the AP article reports that those that were involved in the Meth trade would buy up non-prescription, over-the-counter pills at the local drug stores and then use the pills in the manufacture of Meth. Apparently an ingredient in the pills, pseudoephedrine, was critical to the production process.

To attack this problem, in 2005 Congress passed the Combat Meth Act which set limits on sales of the pills the Meth manufacturers and dealers need for their Meth production. The legislation also set up electronic tracking processes and limited the amount of drug store products that one person could buy over-the-counter.

What has been the result of this political class answer to the illegal Meth market? According to the article:

* By 2006, the number of Meth criminal busts had started climbing again.
* Meth-related criminal activity (arrests, drug seizures, and the discovery of abandoned Meth production sites) was up 34% in 2009, the last year for yearly results are available.
Increased Meth-related activity was highest in the three states (Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma) that have electronically tracked sales of pseudoephedrine since at least 2008. Think about that for a minute. The three states that have the tracking have the highest increases in Meth-related activity.
* Worse of all, the new law created a new class of criminals, “mules” for the Meth labs. Since the Meth manufacturers can no longer go into any drug store to purchase what they need, given the new laws and tracking, they now recruit anybody who is willing to buy under their own name. These people then turn around and resell the pills to the Meth lab operators. *The article gave an example of college students buying a small amount of bills, enough to keep them under the tracking limit, for about $7 and then immediately selling them to the Meth criminals for $40 or $50. Other mule candidates besides students include homeless people.
* Law enforcement officials call this “smurfing,” previously non-criminal people buying small amounts for big Meth operations.

This last finding is really disturbing and is certainly an unintended consequence of our politicians passing the Combat Meth Act. According to a law enforcement official in the article: “Law enforcement was surprised. People that normally wouldn’t cross the line are willing to do so because they think it’s such a sweet deal and because of the economy.”

As a result of our Washington amateurs:

* They have created a new criminal class of Americans through their actions with the cute name of “smurfs.”
* They Meth trade apparently suffered a little slowdown as a result of the Combat Meth Law but quickly found ways around the law to continue to thrive.
* The inability of our political class to come up with an effective strategy in this area has also encouraged our friends the Mexican drug cartels to expand beyond pot and into meth, according to the article.

One new law, numerous new bad effects. Typical Washington amateurish behavior and thinking.

Maybe a different approach is needed to go about determining how to handle the drug problem in this country. One approach would create a panel of expert and very smart Americans, sans politicians and lobbyists, from a variety of subject areas (law enforcement, economics, sociology, drug treatment professionals, etc.), akin to the successful such panels in our past including the Manhattan Project, the Apollo program, the Grace Commission, and the Military Base Closing Commission.

This panel would do an in depth root cause analysis and provide the American people a set of comprehensive alternatives, each with an easy to understand list of pros and cons along with a cost, for this issue which we would then vote on. The most popular proposal would then become our national drug policy.

We can no longer wait for the political class to solve this problem. Forty years after they first addressed the issue we are further away from a rational and compassionate solution. The issue is now more widespread, more violent, and more out of control. Forty years is enough time, this Keystone Kops escapade needs to close down.

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