June 5, 2012
What Is Obama Hiding?By Ed Lasky
There has been plenty of conjecture regarding Obama's biography. Clearly, he has a penchant for fiction and does not care to fact-check his own life. Nor does he care for others to fact-check or scrutinize what he has been doing as president. Has this been why he has been decimating the taxpayers' best friends in Washington: the inspectors general?
Inspectors general are investigative officials charged with monitoring government programs for waste, fraud, incompetency, corruption, and the like. They are the taxpayers' first line of defense against a rampaging, out-of-control, and corrupt government. Unlike many if not most government programs, inspector general programs have a sterling return on investment. For example, Daniel Levinson, inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department, has been an unheralded hero for taxpayers. Since he took his job a few years ago, his investigations have led to more charges for health care fraud than ever before, and his office has returned about $11 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund (see this glowing profile in Business Week). Even in Obama's Washington, that is serious money: those billions that will be available to care for our nation's seniors. Levinson certainly is as deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom as Bob Dylan.
Inspectors general are a natural enemy of, let's say, a politician who hails from Cook County and who likes to spend with abandon. This is particularly true when the beneficiaries of the spending are donors and supporters who can be paid back for their support with other people's money. Didn't Barack Obama define politics as a way to punish enemies and reward friends? Such is politics done the Chicago Way.
Looking at the past three years of Barack Obama's presidency, there appears to have been a plan all along to blunt the effectiveness of inspectors general. This has been done by a variety of ways: by trying to force through Congress new and richly funded programs akin to "slush funds" without providing for the oversight that comes from the inspector general program; by stonewalling and attacking Darrell Issa, who as chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee (the two words "reform" and "oversight" are anathema to Barack Obama) has called for expanding the power of inspectors general; brutal public personal attacks on various inspectors general that are meant to drive them from office and chill the investigative efforts of others; and by deliberately failing to fill vacancies in the ranks of inspectors general -- a dereliction of duty on the part of Barack Obama that earned the president a stinging rebuke in a recent Washington Post editorial ("Where are the inspectors general?").
When Democrats were in control of Congress, President Obama was on a rampage: pushing through various programs that have gone down the memory hole because they have been judged failures and have become unpopular. Foremost among these have been the stimulus boondoggle and ObamaCare.
Another program Obama attempted to get passed was a $30-billion small business lending program, shielded from being subject to oversight by inspectors general. The inspector general who would have overseen the spending noted that this would leave the program "vulnerable to potential fraud." Republicans, led by Darrell Issa, were outraged. Small business lending programs have been a big loser for the federal government over the years, and the potential for this program to dole out dollars under a friends and family program was self-evident. This program never made it, but the agenda was clear.
Few congressmen have been as diligent in defending the taxpayer and ensuring the integrity and efficiency of the federal government as has been Congressman Issa. He has bedeviled President Obama's administration by launching hearings on a wide variety of government operations --foremost among them are his investigations involving Attorney General Eric Holder's Department of Justice and the scandalous Fast and Furious program.
But that is just one high-profile investigation he has launched. Issa has been looking into spending under the stimulus program, uncovering waste and fraud. Once he assumed the chairmanship after GOP victories in 2010, Issa called for expanding the power of inspectors general by granting them expanded subpoena powers. He has been leading the criticism by House Republicans of Barack Obama's failure to staff inspector general posts. He most assuredly has earned a place on Barack Obama's enemies list.
Since Issa has been a thorn in Obama's side, the Democrats have not only stonewalled his inquiries, but also maneuvered to have Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) win the election as the ranking minority member on his committee -- a result that surprised other Democrats, as the spot normally would have gone to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Political pros realized what had happened. There was a belief that Cummings would be far more effective in blocking Issa's investigations into the Obama White House than Maloney would. Cummings has been running interference for Barack Obama.
But those have not been the only attempts to derail Issa. He has been subject to fierce attacks in the media in liberal outlets such as The New Yorker and the New York Times -- obvious attempts to intimidate him into silence.
However, Darrell Issa is unlikely to fold; he has a safe seat and is one of the wealthiest members of Congress (he was a very successful entrepreneur). He can brush these politically motivated attacks away. This is not true, however, when the administration tries to bully inspectors general or outright fires them for doing their jobs all too well.
When one inspector general, Gerald Walpin, found that a political ally and basketball-playing friend of Barack Obama's, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, was abusing federal funds meant for a charity for political and personal uses, the White House shifted into its favorite mode: attack.
Not only was Walpin fired, but when he tried to alert the media to the scandal, various figures from the administration attacked him in the most personally destructive way -- all but publicly accusing him of mental illness.
Walpin has company.
Obama's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) threatened an inspector general for daring to tell Congress that the OMB was trying to slash his budget, crimping his ability to monitor spending and other actions by the OMB.
There are more victims of this type of fragging by the Obama administration toward career officials dedicated to watching out for the taxpayers.
Neil Barosfky (a lifelong Democrat, incidentally) was the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. He discovered serious flaws behind the administration's claims. He thrashed the Treasury for relying on self-reporting by recipients of TARP money. He wrote that the bailout was falling short of many of its goals, like preserving home ownership and stimulating the economy. He also reported that the Treasury had switched accounting methods in order to promote the view that taxpayers would profit from the AIG bailout. One analyst depicted the Treasury's new accounting method as "Enron-style" accounting.
As I wrote in an earlier column ("Obama's Ongoing War on Inspectors General"):
Barack Obama holds grudges and vendettas. He personalizes politics and does not like to be shown to be anything other than a superstar.
Barack Obama advised in 2008 that when others bring a knife to a fight, he brings a gun. He may have broken promises too numerous to count, but this implied threat has endured. He and his minions do not care how many people they harm in their goal to hide their actions from the people. This is especially so when these people are charged with being the watchdogs for taxpayers.
As the inspector general ranks have been depleted, there has been no movement by the White House to replace them. This is an unprecedented dereliction of duty by Barack Obama. Since he has grown the budget to astronomical levels, monitoring to prevent abuse, fraud, and incompetency is needed as never before.
And this is precisely the reason why Obama has stalled in replacing these crucial actors. He does not like to be scrutinized or graded; it may offend his sensibilities and ego, as well as his political future. This is a president who gave himself a solid B+ and declared himself one of the greatest presidents of all time.
What is Obama afraid to disclose to voters and taxpayers? What has he been hiding? What could embarrass him? We have plenty of examples that already have been uncovered by the IGs.
There's an inspector general's report that the number of green jobs generated by Obama's green schemes has been a figment of his and his campaign-spinners' imagination; that the drilling moratorium in the Gulf that has been subject to much scandal (the experts behind the report that was used to justify the ban denied that they had called for such a halt) was engineered at the last minute at the behest of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar; one IG has found that the Obama team and GM have been conspiring to create a rosy image (cooking the books) behind the purported success of the auto bailout, according to the IG reviewing the bailout; and the inspector general monitoring the tens of billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on green energy programs found that the money was directed to projects linked to big Obama and Democrat donors -- the inspector general said that they were steered to friends and family. Solyndra is just one example.
Inspectors general have lately been focusing a great deal of attention on Obama's spending on green energy projects. They will be busy.
Marc Thiessen recently wrote a superb column, titled "Forget Bain -- Obama's public equity record is the real scandal," which reviewed the disastrous waste of taxpayer money for which Obama and his team bear responsibility.
Amazingly, Obama has declared that all the projects received funding "based solely on their merits." But as Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer reported in his book, "Throw Them All Out," fully 71 percent of the Obama Energy Department's grants and loans went to "individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama's National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party." Collectively, these Obama cronies raised $457,834 for his campaign, and they were in turn approved for grants or loans of nearly $11.35 billion. Obama said this week it's not the president's job "to make a lot of money for investors." Well, he sure seems to have made a lot of (taxpayer) money for investors in his political machine".
There are surely many other examples of taxpayer abuse waiting to be plumbed, and hopefully Mitt Romney, if not the media, will enlighten voters. Romney's campaign does see potential, as shown by this commercial featuring Solyndra -- empty and bankrupt, a massive failure that will cost taxpayers a lot of money -- as a symbol for all that is wrong about Barack Obama and his agenda.
Barack Obama does not want anyone overseeing his actions as president. He does not want the incompetency and waste to see the light of day. He does not want fraud to be exposed. He does not want his ties to donors and their projects to be public knowledge.
He does not want the American people to realize they have been taken for a ride.
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