Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Washington: too fat to function

Express Staff Writer

Among Americana's more shocking images in recent years was that of Patrick Deuel, the fortyish Nebraska man who was so fat—1,072 pounds—he virtually was a prisoner in bed, like a beached whale, unable to move until a hole was cut in a wall so he could be moved by heavy-duty ambulance to a hospital for gastric bypass surgery.

This drastic procedure blocked his ability to stuff himself with food. Thereafter he lost some 700 pounds.

Applying the same principal to Washington's bloated bureaucracy seems to be the only cure for a federal government literally too fat to function. The political appetite to spend more must be blocked.

Another shocker about federal obesity came this week with a Washington Post series, two years in the making, about homeland security run amok.

The brilliant, astonishing Post series cites:

· At least 1,200 federal agencies and 1,900 private firms work on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence projects.

· These operations are conducted at 10,000 sites around the country.

· An estimated 854,000 people hold top-secret clearances (more than 1.5 times the population of Washington, D.C.) to produce 50,000 reports a year -- far too many to be read and acted upon.

· At least 33 buildings totaling 17 million square feet -- the equivalent of nearly three Pentagons -- are in use or under construction in the Washington area to house intelligence operations.

· 10,000 of the CIA's workers are private contract employees.

Costs of this mushrooming empire are unknown, since the total intelligence budgets of the Pentagon and CIA and other agencies are secret. However, tens of billions of dollars seem reasonable.

Even as Democrats and Republicans bravely claim they want to shrink the federal government, the overkill of homeland security and intelligence continues to be out of control.

Two reasons are responsible.

First, every new contract and every new work site means jobs for some congressman's home district. Who among these political animals dares call for cancellation of multi-million dollars for the local economy?

Second, since the Cold War days when "soft on communism" was used as a political damnation, congress and presidents have been timid about slashing spending on the military, intelligence, homeland security and counterterrorism programs, less they be smeared as unpatriotic, soft on terrorism or bleeding heart anti-military liberals. Funding so many programs is good for campaign boasts about protecting America.

But the nation could be just as secure with a far smaller bureaucracy and far less spending.

So much for the politics of "smaller government."

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