The Unsurprising Corruption of the VA
By Staff News & Analysis - October 03, 2012

VA Employees turned Orlando conferences into taxpayer funded vacations …. Events costs taxpayers more than $6 million while federal workers took free massages, limo rides, helicopter tours and Rockettes show tickets … Its budget and facilities already stretched thin, the Veterans Affairs Department wasted money on two summertime training conference to the vacation hot spot of Orlando, Fla., that cost taxpayers more than $6 million and let federal employees collect freebie gifts like meals, helicopter tours, limo rides, massages and show tickets from contractors, an internal investigation has found. – UK Guardian

Dominant Social Theme: We are shocked – shocked! – at the VA's profligacy. It won't happen again.

Free-Market Analysis: But it will! The US government is the largest or at least most powerful patronage machine in the world. And nothing happens in politics, generally, that does not benefit one or more people at the expense of others.

People act out of self-interest. In the PRIVATE marketplace, acting out of self-interest results in a commonality of interest. People negotiate what they consider to be best for themselves or their families.

But in the public sphere, people use the interests of vast slices of the population to accommodate their own self-interest. Big difference. In public markets, populations are bargaining chips used to help legislators line their own pockets.

At its penultimate level, politics is the advantaging of elite populations by passing legislation that can be used to advance the interests of the few over the many. Seen from this point of view, politics is the accretion of privilege and the building of barriers.

War, of course, is politics by other means. But it all comes down to the recognition that government legislates and others must obey or lose their liberty, fortunes or worse.

Are we overly cynical? The best government surely governs least and good government (or what passes for it) is to be exercised at the lowest levels.

From a government standpoint, the "lowest common denominator" is not a region or town but the clerical bureaucrats who government hires by the gross.

Top officials' compensation is not determined by the efficacy of their departments (it is virtually impossible to be efficient in government) but by the number of underlings under their direct or indirect report.

These lower bureaucrats engage not in top-level mercantile manipulations but in the broadest form of corruption, which is petty chiseling. Here's more from the article:

The VA's inspector general concluded top agency officials failed to be good stewards of taxpayer money throwing conferences last year, including spending nearly $50,000 to create a parody video featuring the late Gen. George Patton. In all, federal investigators concluded about $762,000 of the money [was} spent on the two events.

The VA medical system is stretched thin by increasing demands and tight budgets, but its employees wasted more than $700,000 on conferences in the vacation hot spot of Orlando and collected illegal gifts from vendors.

"The issues described in this report and the lack of processes needed to control and track expenditures negatively affected the results of these HR conferences," Inspector General George Opfer wrote in the report released this week.

"As VA moves forward, this report should serve as lessons learned that all VA management officials and staff share responsibility and accountability for meeting program objectives in an economical manner and reflect proper fiscal stewardship of taxpayer funds."

Adding to the vacation-like atmosphere of the events, the watchdog found at least 11 VA employees accepted illegal gifts from hotels and other vendors seeking their business in connection with the conferences. VA officials toured three cities before choosing Orlando as the conference destination.

The gifts they accepted during the selection process and subsequent conferences ranged from free lodging, room upgrades and limo rides to meals, gift baskets, gift cards, spa massages, Rockettes show tickets and a helicopter ride, the inspector general reported.

The report made public this week is the latest to raise questions about the government's travel practices, which first came to light earlier this year when the General Services Administration acknowledged it spent nearly more than $800,000 on conference in Las Vegas that featured a clown, a mind-reader and rap video.

Lawmakers in both parties expressed outrage at the VA's handling of the conferences in Orlando, which is the gateway to the Walt Disney World resort.

The idea that congressional lawmakers expressed "outrage" at VA practices is especially rich. Congressmen are well known for their own junkets abroad – inevitably characterized as "fact-finding" trips.

The idea purveyed to the electorate that government is in some sense "necessary" for the proper functioning of a republic or that its departments can ever work free of corruption strikes us as something of a dominant social theme.

"Democracy" as of 500 years ago was conceived of as an alternative to the royal reign. But we have advanced the idea that democracy is in danger of outliving its usefulness to the elites in this Internet era.

What we call the Internet Reformation is regularly exposing corruption in government just as it is documenting police brutality in the States, especially.

For this reason, as we have noted in previous articles, politicians like Mike Bloomberg and others have begun advancing alternative government plans. These include various methodologies of "transparency" and bringing together competing parties to rule as a coalition.

We live in tumultuous times. One of the reasons is because the exposure of previous methodologies of elite control is causing a rethink of how the ruling classes want to disguise their supervision

The inevitable exposure of the Way the World Really Works is certainly damaging the memes of the elite. But until these elites can fully control the reporting of the Internet, the drip-drip-drip of genuine journalism will continue to plague the status quo.

After Thoughts

Ironically, the Internet has had an impact on mainstream reporting, making some of it more aggressive and truthful. We do not expect an end to these kinds of revelations any time soon.

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