"The war against illegal plunder has been fought since the beginning of the world. But how is... legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish this law without delay ... If such a law is not abolished immediately it will spread, multiply and develop into a system." ~ Frederic Bastiat
Eliminating Waste, Fraud and Abuse
Column by R.K. Blacksher.
Exclusive to STR
There has been a lot of political grandstanding lately about the need to eliminate "waste, fraud, and abuse." The U.S. government’s official “economic stimulus” website has a page where people can report instances of “waste, fraud, and abuse.” There are similar “waste, fraud, and abuse” hotlines on the War Department’s website, the HUD website, and a multitude of other federal, state, and local government websites. During the 2010 campaigns, this nefarious trio of budgetary bugaboos was regularly trotted out by “fiscally responsible” political candidates attempting to establish their budget-cutting bona fides.
Many people view this crusade against “waste, fraud, and abuse” as a charade used by politicians to appear fiscally responsible while avoiding the risk of offending members of the tax-feeding class by proposing actual budget cuts. This view is largely accurate. Denouncing "waste, fraud, and abuse" is indeed a favorite tactic of political charlatans (but I repeat myself) everywhere.
However, this view overlooks a much more important point. Politicians use these descriptions as though "waste, fraud, and abuse" are aberrations from the norm, minor kinks to be fixed in an otherwise well-oiled statist machine.
They are not. Waste, fraud, and abuse are the defining characteristics of the government. Everything the government does can be accurately characterized as waste, fraud, abuse, or some combination of the three.
Here is how the government of San Diego defines "waste, fraud, and abuse":
Waste: The intentional or unintentional, thoughtless or careless expenditure, consumption, mismanagement, use, or squandering of City resources. Waste also includes incurring unnecessary costs because of inefficient or ineffective practices, systems, or controls.
Fraud: Any intentional act or omission designed to deceive others, resulting in the victim (City of San Diego) suffering a loss and/or the perpetrator achieving a gain.
Abuse: Intentional destruction, diversion, manipulation, misapplication, maltreatment, or misuse of City resources. Extravagant or excessive use as to abuse one's position or authority. Abuse can occur in financial or non-financial settings.
There are a number of serious problems with these definitions. The references to “City resources” and the designation of the City of San Diego as “the victim” are particularly problematic. The resources actually belong to the tax-cattle from whom they were stolen, and the victims are actually the people afflicted by the government of San Diego. But these definitions will still provide a useful framework for determining which actions of the state constitute “waste, fraud, and abuse.”
Consider, for example, the cabinet-level executive department responsible for managing government-owned land, natural resources, national parks, and administering programs designed to "assist" Native Americans. The department in question is, of course, the Department of the Interior, and it is a colossal waste. In its “mismanagement” of the land and national parks that it owns, the government certainly incurs “unnecessary costs because of inefficient or ineffective practices, systems, or controls.” The land and the parks would be much better managed if they were privately owned. In addition, it is pretty safe to say that Native Americans would be much better off without the government programs that have supposedly been designed to “assist” them.
Social Security is a state-run Ponzi scheme that functions by stealing money from people who are currently working and transferring it to prior victims of state-theft (i.e., retirees). In return, the state promises to partially reimburse the victims of its theft by stealing money from future tax-victims. This is a very clear example of fraud. People have been deceived into believing that their money is safely stored away in a Social Security Trust Fund, and millions of people are going to suffer losses when the system goes broke.
And, of course, we are all familiar with the routine humiliation that airline passengers suffer at the hands of TSA functionaries. These "extravagant" and "excessive" uses of "one's position or authority" are blatant and egregious examples of abuse.
Other examples abound:
Waste: The Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation
Fraud: The Federal Reserve, Medicare, the Department of Education, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy
Abuse: The Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS, the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, the EPA
As this non-exhaustive list indicates, waste, fraud, and abuse are not aberrations from the norm. They are not unfortunate byproducts of otherwise well-functioning government programs. To the contrary, the government produces nothing but waste, fraud, and abuse.
By all means, then, let's eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse. To do so would be to eliminate the entire government.
 Most of these examples actually fit into all three categories. This is, needless to say, a non-exhaustive list.