Even small government needs inspectors

While the Trump administration is still promising to combat government waste, the proposed cuts to SIGTARP, the group of inspectors general (I.G.s) that has jailed 36 crooked bankers in the wake of the financial crisis, should raise serious questions.  The administration has yet to appoint new I.G.s to a number of key government departments, even after withdrawing the nominations of four inspectors put forward by Obama.  The CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Department of Defense are all among the 12 major government departments currently operating without a permanent I.G. in place.

Why is this a problem?  Because not having investigators in place to pursue government waste and tighten purse strings doesn't save money.  Instead, it allows more mismanagement and fraud to go undetected.  A 2015 report from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency revealed that every dollar invested in I.G.s saves the individual taxpayer $14.  Government is big, bloated, and opaque; inspectors exist to look out for our interests.  With no effective oversight in place, waste and corruption have an opportunity to thrive unchecked.  

When I.G.s go astray

Without the right people in place, there is no mechanism to report wrongdoing or incompetence to Congress.  Waste and abuse are inherent in any bureaucracy, and the lack of oversight goes back decades.  Barack Obama left departments without official watchdogs for months on end, filling positions with temporary appointees susceptible to political pressures.  Even when the last administration did put I.G.s in place, Obama-era agencies reworked their rules to withhold information.

While neglecting proper oversight, the Obama White House collaborated with activists to advance its priorities on issues like the environment and organic foods.  With Obama out of office, some of the officials he put in place (including I.G.s) are carrying on the "good fight" in collaboration with Democratic lawmakers.  One of the latest examples involves EPA I.G. Arthur Elkins, who has a record of overstepping his bounds in pursuit of progressive priorities while letting the agency get away with unauthorized lobbying.

In the ongoing saga over glyphosate, which has come under fire over claims that the herbicide might cause cancer, Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) has leaned on Elkins more than once to shore up a flagging campaign by organic activists.  After the EPA deemed the substance safe, Lieu and his allies got Elkins to start an investigation into possible collusion between former high-ranking EPA officials and Monsanto.

With statements from luminaries like Moms Across America's Zen Honeycutt, who blasted glyphosate because "I am not a doctor but I have Mom common sense," activists have used a dubious study coming from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a taxpayer-funded U.N. agency.  The France-based body had issued in 2015 a study claiming that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.  This caught the scientific community by surprise, as nearly every other regulatory agency on the planet holds the opposite view.

Activists seized up on the controversy and used both IARC and the I.G. investigation as proof that something malevolent had happened with the EPA's study on glyphosate.  However, at the same time that this was unfolding in D.C., a judge in California got to the bottom of the story and exposed just how unfounded the criticism had been.

As it turns out, the American who chaired IARC's glyphosate working group intentionally left out one of the most important pieces of evidence.  Epidemiologist Aaron Blair, who led a meeting of IARC specialists in March 2015, decided not to alert his peers to a landmark study that disproved a connection between glyphosate and cancer.  Only days later, IARC published its decision.  Blair himself has since admitted that if IARC had known of the research, it would have altered its evaluation.  His fellow scientists, though hoodwinked, are sticking to their guns and refuse to modify their decision.

The perversion of oversight that has taken place with IARC and the EPA shows just how powerful I.G.s are and why Trump should take the issue seriously.  If the administration continues to leave inspector general roles at key government departments vacant, scandals such as the recently revealed errors at Medicare will look like small fry compared to the mismanagement, corruption, and criminality that could go unchecked for years.

While the Trump administration is still promising to combat government waste, the proposed cuts to SIGTARP, the group of inspectors general (I.G.s) that has jailed 36 crooked bankers in the wake of the financial crisis, should raise serious questions.  The administration has yet to appoint new I.G.s to a number of key government departments, even after withdrawing the nominations of four inspectors put forward by Obama.  The CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Department of Defense are all among the 12 major government departments currently operating without a permanent I.G. in place.

Why is this a problem?  Because not having investigators in place to pursue government waste and tighten purse strings doesn't save money.  Instead, it allows more mismanagement and fraud to go undetected.  A 2015 report from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency revealed that every dollar invested in I.G.s saves the individual taxpayer $14.  Government is big, bloated, and opaque; inspectors exist to look out for our interests.  With no effective oversight in place, waste and corruption have an opportunity to thrive unchecked.  

When I.G.s go astray

Without the right people in place, there is no mechanism to report wrongdoing or incompetence to Congress.  Waste and abuse are inherent in any bureaucracy, and the lack of oversight goes back decades.  Barack Obama left departments without official watchdogs for months on end, filling positions with temporary appointees susceptible to political pressures.  Even when the last administration did put I.G.s in place, Obama-era agencies reworked their rules to withhold information.

While neglecting proper oversight, the Obama White House collaborated with activists to advance its priorities on issues like the environment and organic foods.  With Obama out of office, some of the officials he put in place (including I.G.s) are carrying on the "good fight" in collaboration with Democratic lawmakers.  One of the latest examples involves EPA I.G. Arthur Elkins, who has a record of overstepping his bounds in pursuit of progressive priorities while letting the agency get away with unauthorized lobbying.

In the ongoing saga over glyphosate, which has come under fire over claims that the herbicide might cause cancer, Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) has leaned on Elkins more than once to shore up a flagging campaign by organic activists.  After the EPA deemed the substance safe, Lieu and his allies got Elkins to start an investigation into possible collusion between former high-ranking EPA officials and Monsanto.

With statements from luminaries like Moms Across America's Zen Honeycutt, who blasted glyphosate because "I am not a doctor but I have Mom common sense," activists have used a dubious study coming from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a taxpayer-funded U.N. agency.  The France-based body had issued in 2015 a study claiming that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.  This caught the scientific community by surprise, as nearly every other regulatory agency on the planet holds the opposite view.

Activists seized up on the controversy and used both IARC and the I.G. investigation as proof that something malevolent had happened with the EPA's study on glyphosate.  However, at the same time that this was unfolding in D.C., a judge in California got to the bottom of the story and exposed just how unfounded the criticism had been.

As it turns out, the American who chaired IARC's glyphosate working group intentionally left out one of the most important pieces of evidence.  Epidemiologist Aaron Blair, who led a meeting of IARC specialists in March 2015, decided not to alert his peers to a landmark study that disproved a connection between glyphosate and cancer.  Only days later, IARC published its decision.  Blair himself has since admitted that if IARC had known of the research, it would have altered its evaluation.  His fellow scientists, though hoodwinked, are sticking to their guns and refuse to modify their decision.

The perversion of oversight that has taken place with IARC and the EPA shows just how powerful I.G.s are and why Trump should take the issue seriously.  If the administration continues to leave inspector general roles at key government departments vacant, scandals such as the recently revealed errors at Medicare will look like small fry compared to the mismanagement, corruption, and criminality that could go unchecked for years.