Thursday, February 26, 2009

Regulation: Wall Street versus Back Streets

Many of my friends often complain of how wasteful public spending always turns out to be.

I expect they have a point about how some public dollars are expended.

Who can forget the thousand dollar toilet seats installed on some battleship somewhere via a contract that didn't go out to bid in proper or competitive fashion?

More recently, recipients of the first round of federal "bail out" money evidently used some of it to fund luxurious retreats, underwrite lucrative retirement packages and purchase state-of- the-art corporate jets.

I think I can suggest a remedy.

Move the overseers of public grants, like the ones we receive and administer here at Central Dallas Ministries, to Wall Street and turn them loose on those who must now manage and spend public dollars. Once the crisis is over, leave these regulators there!

Every single dollar we receive from AmeriCorps, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the City of Dallas, Dallas County, the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). . .take your pick!--must be accounted for in triplicate. Auditors show up unannounced to investigate our books and records and program sites. There is no room for fraud or rip off.

People who blast government and public spending don't seem to realize that much of the work funded via public sources is done by community-based organizations like ours. And we are accountable, believe me, we are held, gladly held accountable.

What I realize is that we are the government.

Now, if we could just get the Wall Street crowd under this same intense scrutiny. What works on the countless Back Streets of the nation ought to work on that short span we know as Wall Street.



Frank Bellizzi said...

My father is a locksmith. He frequently does work at a nearby military installation. One time, I went with him and helped out with some work he was doing on the base. When he presented the bill, an NCO handed him a government credit card. From what I understood, as long as the bill was under something like $1000 my father could charge what he wanted to for the work and it would be paid, on the spot, no questions asked. If you can be honest to a fault, that's my dad. So he charged what he normally would have. But someone without any scruples could have charged three times as much would and have gotten away with it. How many times does that happen every single day?

Anonymous said...

Rank-and-file Republicans are generally fiscal conservatives, as opposed to the party's higher-ups, who, I think, are either (1) wealthy people who are conscious of their cynical manipulation of the rest of the party for their own benefit or (2) people --- wealthy or not --- who have uncritically drunk the supply-side Kool-Aid and think that they are genuinely helping people by funding F-22s and handing big, stringless checks to bankers.

The rift between the leaders and the led is now very apparent: consider the ostensible contrition expressed by the likes of Bobby Jindal for the party's failure to rein in Bush's spending. As a result, I think that now is a great time to tell people the successes of regulated government spending. Moderates who have little trouble supporting a public safety net can be assured that costs are being contained. Fiscal conservatives who hate government waste can see evidence of beneficial spending --- something that you've repeatedly done, Larry, in your appeals to Dallas business leaders to look at the bottom-line case for spending on social services.

Maybe these kinds of stories can help to shape a new consensus on social-program spending that still leaves room for dialogue between those who think "welfare" first and those who think "thrift" first.

Jeff W

Anonymous said...


Amen! I am a lifelong registered Republican who had had enough by 2004 and voted for both Kerry and Obama. Reagan said of his change of parties that "I did not leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me." I feel like Reagan-in-reverse. I didn't leave the Republican party I used to know - it left me.