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Things are getting tougher for those who believe the federal government can trim spending. Consider the case of the Alaska-based Denali Commission, a 1998 project of Senator Ted Stevens aimed at helping rural Alaskans by building power plants and providing job training and health care. As the Washington Post noted, the Denali Commission, “became the channel for a great river of pork,” with $150 million in 2006 alone. Stevens died in 2010, but the money kept flowing, despite “presidential efforts to cut its funding.”
Denali Commission inspector general Mike Marsh said the commission is an idea whose time proved wrong. It builds plants in tiny towns that don’t have resources to keep them running, and the commission is a middle man where one isn’t needed. Therefore Marsh told legislators to fire him and everyone he works with because the commission “is a congressional experiment that hasn’t worked out in practice.” Therefore, he said, “I recommend that Congress put its money elsewhere.” That is not likely to happen.
An Ohio congressman suggested cutting Denali and similar agencies in other regions. True to form, Congress preserved all the agencies, and at the request of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, the Government Accountability Office is auditing Mike Marsh. He is not the first to request the demise of his own agency.
Under President Reagan, Vietnam veteran Orson Swindle headed the Economic Development Administration, also a river of pork, for such projects as the Great Pyramids of Indiana. So Swindle asked Congress “to discontinue what we are doing” and dump the EDA. But Congress failed to do so.
Bruce Blair was a weather observer for the Federal Aviation Administration who relayed reports to pilots if machines broke down. He thought this was a useless post and urged the government to get rid of him. Government did not, and when he quit they duly replaced him.
These cases, and that of Mike Marsh, reveal that only a very few people in government are willing to take any action to reduce government waste. When they do make recommendations, the government ignores them, defies them, or as in the case of Mike Marsh, investigates the whistleblower. This confirms that much government waste is deliberate, and that politicians and bureaucrats remain hostile to accountability.