The Inspector General of the Energy Department, Gregory Friedman, has been investigating the fate of the $35.2 billion his department received from the Obama “stimulus” disaster in 2009. Today he submitted his report to the House Oversight committee.
As the Washington Post reports, Friedman concluded that shoveling out $8 billion more than DOE’s annual budget “was more challenging than many had originally envisioned.” This was, in no small part, due to the unfortunate discovery that while “the concept of ‘shovel ready’ projects became a Recovery Act symbol of expeditiously stimulating the economy and creating jobs,” it turned out that “in reality, few actual ‘shovel ready’ projects existing.”
Sorry about that, America. No, you can’t have your trillion dollars back. Or the interest you’ve been forced to pay on the trillion dollars you were forced to borrow so we could learn Barack Obama has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to “job creation.” Instead, you need to pay more taxes, so he has more money to spend on history’s most expensive, and least successful, course in remedial economics.
The Post offers this gem of darkly comical analysis:
Most of the delays in distributing stimulus spending stemmed from local, state and federal entities unable to quickly spend the money — in some cases because state government personnel charged with distributing the federal dollars had been furloughed as part of state budget crunches, Friedman said.
In several of his investigations, Friedman has noted that the political push to quickly create jobs and spur economic development didn’t match up with economic realities on the ground. And while he credits the department for making significant progress in distributing the federal aid, 45 percent of stimulus dollars distributed by Energy still hadn’t been spent by state and local government as of Oct. 22.
Hey, cut Obama some slack! How was one level of government supposed to know that another level of government wasn’t ready to handle a tidal wave of taxpayer money, because budget crunches had forced them to cut staff?
Let us pause to appreciate the business acumen displayed by the statists who paid years of interest on sixteen billion borrowed federal dollars they haven’t even spent yet.
Besides having insufficiently large armies of bureaucrats ready to spend the money, state governments also ran afoul of federal regulations that clogged their stimulus plumbing. “One state had only spent 30 percent of its State Energy Program funds two years after they had become available,” explains the Inspector General. “We found that this was due to the time needed to comply with regulatory requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Davis-Bacon Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act – issues that affected other jurisdictions as well.”
The Davis-Bacon Act forces the government to pay union-scale wages to contractors, even if they don’t employ unionized workforces. It’s supposed to prevent non-union shops from stealing all those tasty government construction jobs from union shops that can’t compete with them on labor costs.
When work did get done, the results were not impressive. The Weatherization Program enjoyed a one thousand percent increase in funding, but Friedman reports that “weatherization work was often of poor quality,” and “9 of the 17 weatherized homes we visited failed inspections because of substandard workmanship.” Loans were not documented properly, money was wasted left and right, and one weatherization recipient “gave preferential treatment to its employees and their relatives for weatherization services over other applicants, thus disadvantaging eligible elderly and handicapped residents.” Nice!
You’ll be delighted to know that more than a hundred criminal investigations were launched into Energy’s handling of its mere 4% of the Obama stimulus. Friedman says “these involve various schemes, including the submission of false information, claims for unallowable or unauthorized expenses, and other improper uses of Recovery Act funds.” Five criminal prosecutions have resulted, and over $2.3 million in stolen “stimulus” loot has been recovered.
Even when it wasn’t beset by scam artists, the “stimulus” mandarins found themselves so paralyzed by bureaucracy and paperwork that they couldn’t effectively give money away. Their “efforts were complicated by the nature of the bureaucracy,” Friedman explains, including the burden of dealing with “literally thousands of state and local jurisdictions, community action organizations in every state and territory, universities and colleges, contractors, and other private sector entities.” Furthermore, recipients complained about “overly complex and burdensome reporting requirements.”
Whew! That sounds a lot more complicated, wasteful, abuse-prone, and inefficient that letting people keep and spend their own money, on whatever products and services they desire. But we can’t have that, can we? Clearly, what we really need is a much larger government bureaucracy, which can more efficiently spend the huge amounts of money it seizes from the private sector.