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

in Liberator Online Archives, wasteful spending by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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

vacation hot spotsSome 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.”

They Said It… Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Conor Friedersdorf, And More!

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Conor Friedersdorf

LIBERTARIAN VICTORIES: “If fewer people are caged for inhaling the smoke of a plant, that’s a libertarian victory. If fewer people’s doors are kicked in late at night by police officers dressed in combat fatigues, that’s a libertarian victory. If more cancer patients can legally obtain a substance that alleviates their suffering, that’s a libertarian victory. If fewer assets are seized by police without proof of guilt, that’s a libertarian victory.” — Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, “Libertarians Can Be a Significant Force for Good in U.S. Politics,” refuting critics who charge that libertarianism is not changing U.S. politics.
REFUTING THE LATEST PROGRESSIVE LIE ABOUT LIBERTARIANS:

Elizabeth Nolan Brown“There seems to be a meme going around that libertarians don’t care or aren’t talking about what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri. And like most things mainstream left/right pundits say about libertarians, it has almost zero relation to the truth. … If you don’t think libertarians are talking about (and outraged over) Ferguson, you’re clearly not reading or talking to many libertarians.” — Elizabeth Nolan Brown, “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” The Dish, Aug. 14 2014. Her article provides many examples of libertarian activists and organizations fighting against police militarization now and in the past.

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY BY… BLEEDING: “Police in Ferguson, Missouri, once charged a man with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him.” — Michael Daly, “The Day Ferguson Cops Were Caught in a Bloody Lie,” The Daily Beast, Aug. 15, 2014.

OBAMA VS. FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: “He [Obama] is the greatest enemy Jim Risento press freedom in a generation.” — Jim Risen, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist facing imprisonment for his investigation of the Bush-Obama surveillance state, quoted in “Where’s the Justice at Justice?”, New York Times,  Aug. 17, 2014.


OBAMA AS BIG BROTHER: 

Maureen Dowd“Obama is channeling Orwell.” — Maureen Dowd, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, protesting Obama’s crackdown on freedom of the press and other invasive policies in “Where’s the Justice at Justice?”, New York Times, Aug. 17, 2014.

OOPS: “The U.S. Postal service has lost $2 billion this Conan O'Brienspring. Postal officials are busy emailing each other wondering how this could happen.” — Conan O’Brien, Aug. 11, 2014.
Noted and Re-Quoted
GOV’T FAILURE:

Matt Ridley“Economists are quick to speak of ‘market failure,’ and rightly so, but a greater threat comes from ‘government failure’. Because it is a monopoly, government brings inefficiency and stagnation to most things it runs; government agencies pursue the inflation of their budgets rather than the service of their customers; pressure groups form an unholy alliance with agencies to extract more money from taxpayers for their members. Yet despite all this, most clever people still call for government to run more things and assume that if it did so, it would somehow be more perfect, more selfless, next time.” — Matt Ridley from his 2010 book The Rational Optimist. Quoted by Don Boudreaux at Café Hayek, August 14, 2014.