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President-elect Donald Trump finds “tremendous waste, fraud and abuse” in the federal government,” and proclaims “we’re going to get it.” That will be a tough task because, as one recent case confirms, waste, fraud and abuse are inherent in the system.
When he applied for a job with the EPA in 1989, John Beale claimed he had worked for former senator John Tunney of California. He didn’t, and nobody bothered to check. Beale said he served in Vietnam, where he contracted malaria and therefore needed a handicapped parking spot. He didn’t serve in Vietnam, and didn’t contract malaria. But nobody checked those claims either and Beale got his handicapped parking spot.
In 1994, Beale claimed he was a secret agent for the Central Intelligence Agency but the EPA failed to check out that claim. That enabled Beale to take more than two years off, with full pay, and kick back at his vacation home in Massachusetts. Beale pulled off his CIA ruse for nearly 20 years, flying first-class all the way.
Hearings turned up no evidence that “policy advisor” Beale did anything of value for the EPA. Even so, the agency eagerly ponied up “retention bonuses,” authorized by, among others, the EPA’s Robert Brenner, who co-owned a vacation home with Beale. The secret agent man continued drawing paychecks 19 months after his retirement dinner and bilked taxpayers for nearly $1 million. He had to pay it back, but still draws his generous federal retirement, so in a real sense he got away with it. Many others are doubtless doing likewise, and despite the bold rhetoric, the new administration will have a tough time tracking them down and trimming the size of government.
As the New York Times noted, “the one-time real estate mogul has largely avoided specifics about cuts he might make, and much of his agenda imagines changes that would require huge increases in federal spending: tripling the number of border patrol agents; supplying the military with more warships and fighter jets; increasing spending on infrastructure; undertaking new efforts to confront cyberterrorism; and aggressively working to remake trade policies.” Taxpayers and waste-watchers should not drop their guard.