The Problem With Throwing Money At Problems

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Well in today's ode to the obvious, the AP is reporting that a GAO study shows that quite a sizable sum of the money Congress threw at the Katrina disaster was misspent and that some people used fraud to obtain the money.

Well, duh. When you throw money around like a drunken sailor, there will be someone around to pick that money up. Call it a civic duty to clean up litter.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Houston divorce lawyer Mark Lipkin says he can't recall anyone paying for his services with a FEMA debit card, but congressional investigators say one of his clients did just that.

The $1,000 payment was just one example cited in an audit that concluded that up to $1.4 billion – perhaps as much as 16 percent of the billions of dollars in assistance expended after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita – was spent for bogus reasons.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also was hoodwinked to pay for season football tickets, a tropical vacation and a sex change operation, the audit found. Prison inmates, a supposed victim who used a New Orleans cemetery for a home address and a person who spent 70 days at a Hawaiian hotel all were able to get taxpayer help, according to evidence that gives a new black eye to the nation's disaster relief agency.

Obviously there was too much money in the kitty and too much political pressure to DO SOMETHING (driven by outright false media reports). This kind of result is inevitable. In fact, this kind of result is almost certain in any Federally run program of any kind whatsoever.

FEMA spokesman Aaron Walker said Tuesday that the agency, already criticized for a poor response to Katrina, makes its highest priority during a disaster "to get help quickly to those in desperate need of our assistance."

"Even as we put victims first, we take very seriously our responsibility to be outstanding stewards of taxpayer dollars, and we are careful to make sure that funds are distributed appropriately," Walker said.

FEMA said it has identified more than 1,500 cases of potential fraud after Katrina and Rita and has referred those cases to the Homeland Security Department's inspector general. The agency said it has identified $16.8 million in improperly awarded disaster relief money and has started efforts to collect the money.

The GAO said it was 95 percent confident that improper and potentially fraudulent payments were much higher – between $600 million and $1.4 billion.

I'm going to guess that the higher figure is probably going to turn out to be greatly exaggerated and that the lower figure will be closer to the truth. Is it a good thing? No. Is this going to happen again? You bet. When Congress gets it into their collective head to DO SOMETHING, this will always be the result.

UPDATE: Joe over at The Moderate Voice also has a post up about this. And we get the exact same commenter making the exact same comment!

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5 Responses to The Problem With Throwing Money At Problems

  1. Shawn says:

    And, of course, the answer to this problem will be to throw even more money at it. At one point Ronald Reagan called for the disolving of the Dept. of Education. In hindsight, and billions upon billions of wasted dollars later, he seems to have been right.

  2. Notice that Clinton-era FEMA never had any of these problems.

    If you don’t believe in the government, you’ll install incompetent administrators who will very swiftly prove your point.

  3. Gaius says:

    Two words, Sol. Hurricane Floyd.

    Go look it up.

  4. Mr. K. says:

    Meanwhile, there are people’s whose homes were blown apart and they get a few thousand bucks from their insurance companies.

    The feeling I’m left with is that some people have no concept of common decency. They think, hey, if I can get away with it, it’s okay. If someone’s handing out free money and I just tell a few white lies, it’s perfectly fine. After all, everyone else is doing it, and if I don’t screw someone first, they’ll screw me. Sounds like some of the politicians in office right now, by the way.

  5. Gaius says:

    Oh, it’s reprehensible conduct. It’s also, sadly, not really news, is it? There are always vultures.

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