A cure for government waste:
more government officials

October 18, 1990

The good people of the House of Representatives, bless 'em, are on the ball with this budget mess. They've recognized the problem of bureaucratic waste, and they now know what to do about it.

They're creating a post.

On Monday, the House approved legislation to create the job of chief financial officer for the government. The chief sponsor of the measure, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), said the lack of a watchdog official with a license to trim was one reason for a slew of financial messes "draining the federal treasury and undermining public confidence in government.

"It is almost inconceivable that an organization which controls almost one-fourth of the country's gross national product has incompatible and outmoded financial management systems," Conyers said.

What? Our government? Incompatible and outmoded financial management systems? Say it ain't so. I was under the impression that our nation's entire GNP was run from a smoke-filled room full of monkeys and typewriters hidden deep below Capitol Hill. I must have been mistaken.

We need someone in charge. Someone to keep the monkeys in line. For want of a better name, let's call him the fraud, theft and waste czar, or the mismanagement czar for short. "Chief financial officer" just doesn't do it. Wouldn't impress a monkey.

The mismanagement czar will have quite a job ahead of him. The government loses more money to fraud, theft and waste than most nations have for their entire budgets. To make the mismanagement czar's job more efficient, the Bush administration should create a Department of Fraud, Theft and Waste, so as to centralize and maximize our nation's wasteful potential. Our nation's mismanagement is much too important to leave to a single congressional committee, or even a roomful of monkeys.

Part of the czar's job will be the hiring and firing of non-essential government employees. These days, the administration is keen on firing these stones around the nation's neck, since the government can barely afford to pay such essential employees as congressional pages. Congress would shut down without its cup-bearers.

These are lean times now, but no one seemed to question why the government was paying these people during fatter days. Now they're getting pushed out like so many redundant drones. The mismanagement czar will hand out the pink slips with a short little speech, something like, "Sorry, old friend. You've been doing absolutely nothing for us for 15 years, and we appreciate every wasted second. We'll miss you. I hope you can find similar work in the private sector."

But it wouldn't be all trimming and pink slips for the mismanagement czar. He'd go out to our nation's schools and educate children about not eating the crusts of their sandwiches or slurping up the last few drops of milk in the carton. He'd talk to them about time management and the advantage of worksheets printed on only one side. The kids would be impressed.

Ronald Reagan could be coaxed out of retirement to help the czar. Reagan, a millionaire receiving a government pension as reward for getting us into colossal debt, could lend his expertise. He could explain to the kids that the money wasted, if stacked in pennies, would reach as high as the Empire State Building. The kids would be impressed.

The treasury department and the Army Corps of Engineers could get together and actually stack pennies that high, thus demonstrating the magnitude of government waste. The treasury would have its hands full gathering all the pennies, since millions of the coins are squirreled away in mason jars throughout the nation.

The task could be complicated. Someone in accounting may have missed a zero or two in his figuring, and instead of reaching to the top of the Empire State Building, the pennies would have to stack to the moon and back six times. Then they'd have to get NASA involved, and things would really go kablooey. NASA's budget, in pennies, would reach about as high as the average Children's Palace.

Perhaps the whole project would end up shuttled off to a committee where it would languish and die before someone got the idea of writing it up as an amendment to the Constitution. The Army Corps could get back to more important matters, like figuring out how many years it would take to carve in all the wrinkles in Reagan's face on Mt. Rushmore.

It'd take some time. Maybe by the time they finished up the neck wattles, people would forget about the whole thing and the Corps could plant ivy in the crevasses. Most of the people behind the Reagan's-face campaign have short memories anyway, if they think Reagan belongs up there with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Did Reagan help win the country's independence? Was he the architect of the Constitution? Did he save the nation in civil war? Did he wisely plan for the preservation of our natural resources? No, but he could tell a good anecdote.

This, I guess, qualifies him for a Nobel Peace Prize in some people's eyes. Yep, he forced Gorbachev to let Eastern Europe loose. Or at least the Nobel Prize for Medicine; after all, he was sick a lot.

Perhaps the Army Corps should carve his polyps on Mt. Rushmore.

© 1990 Randel Shard. First published in The Minnesota Daily on October 18, 1990