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Supposedly Sick Coast Guard Members Took Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Vacation Hot Spots

in Economic Liberty, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Every fall, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) publishes an annual report, known as the Wastebook, highlighting dozens of the worst examples of wasteful spending by federal agencies.

Some of the items in the report may sound unbelievable, but this is the federal government, and one should never underestimate bureaucrats with tax dollars at their disposal. More ridiculous examples from the 2014 version of the report include the $387,000 the National Institutes of Health spent on Swedish massages for rabbits (yes, seriously) and the $200,000 the Department of Agriculture spent to help a New York-based brewer build a beer farm.

Coburn, who earned a reputation as a hardcore fiscal hawk, resigned from Congress last year after a second cancer diagnosis, leaving a need for transparency in federal spending. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is stepping up to fill the void left by Coburn’s departure.

On Wednesday, Paul rolled out a new feature on his official Senate homepage, dubbed The Waste Report. According to a press statement, the periodical report “will identify egregious examples of wasteful spending throughout the U.S. government.”

The inaugural edition of The Waste Report focuses on medical waste, specifically a little-known U.S. Coast Guard program that costs taxpayers $1.2 million each year. The Travel to Obtain Health Care Program pays for Coast Guard members stationed in locations where there are no providers to seek medical care elsewhere. The program is available to members in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, though the latter two account for 7 percent of cases.

The Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security released an audit in February detailing the inefficiency and lack of oversight in the Travel to Obtain Health Care Program, which costs taxpayers $1.2 million annually.

“[T]he IG uncovered trips from Alaska to Vail, Colorado; Orlando, FL; Scottsdale, AZ; and Savannah, GA,” Paul’s report notes.

“Though a doctor’s referral is supposed to be required before travel is approved, only twelve percent of records had such notes. “

“In total, 94 percent of all records were missing key elements including travel requests, approval forms, cost estimates, and/or doctor’s notes,” the report continues. “This lack of basic documentation prevented the IG from substantiating whistleblower claims that trips – even to Anchorage – were more for shopping than medical care, while also preventing the IG from affirming the need for accompanying spouses (who also traveled at taxpayer expense) to assist patients.”

The Inspector General made three recommendations aimed at improving accountability and oversight in the program, including greater documentation requirements and training. But as The Waste Report explains, “one should not need special training to know that taxpayer funded medical travel should not be approved without a doctor’s note, especially if that travel is for couples’ trips to vacation hot spots.”

Rand Paul, Others: Demilitarize the Police

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“We Must Demilitarize the Police” is the title of a bold article by Sen. Cartoon Militarized Police OfficerRand Paul at

Written as the troubles in riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri were escalating, Paul says:

“The outrage in Ferguson is understandable — though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action. …

“There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement. Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

“This is usually done in the name of fighting the War on Drugs or terrorism. …

“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury — national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture — we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”

Paul quoted others who share these concerns:

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit): “Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.”

Walter Olson (Cato Institute): “Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? … Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that ‘We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone’?”

Evan Bernick (Heritage Foundation): “The Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment. … federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery. …

“Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country — tanks included.”

Concludes Sen. Paul: “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. … Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”

For more libertarian critiques on Ferguson, see “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” by Elizabeth Nolan Brown, The Dish, Aug. 14, 2014.

Radley Balko, a libertarian journalist who writes for the Washington Post, has a great recent book on the dangers of U.S. police militarization, Rise of the Warrior Cop. You can read a lengthy excerpt from it here.