SpinTech: November 12, 1999

How Can You Tell When a Politician Is Lying?
Part II
by Leon Felkins

Lies about budgets and spending

This is one area in which it is essentially impossible to determine anything close to the truth! The government financial structure is so complex and intentionally obscure that no one knows for sure what we are spending in any particular area.

A good example, discussed elsewhere in this article, is how much does the government spend for its employees? Since the shadow labor force (contract employees) is nearly 10 times the actual count of civil servants (see the excellent book by Paul C. Light, The True Size of Government, Brookings Institution Press, Washington, 1999) but are not clearly identified in the budget, no one can precisely determining how much they cost or how many there are.

And every government agency has a propensity to delve into fields that properly belong to another government agency. For example, the Army is funding Breast Cancer Research. In the budget, is this classified as military or health?

The Navy funds research in genetics. The ATF is fighting church fires. And while the DEA would seem to be the honcho for the drug war, the FBI, the ATF, the U.S. Marshals, the military, all have to have a piece of the action.

    Why is there a surplus but the national debt continues to climb?

    How can it be that there is supposedly a surplus -- with Congress and the President frantically trying to find a way to spend it -- and at the same time the national debt continues to rise? Simple, you declare some things off budget and you claim to have "trust funds" when there are none! Rather than go into this here, I will just point you to a highly recommended information source for this subject, Michael Hodges' "Government Trust Fund and Deficit/surplus Report" at http://mwhodges.home.att.net/deficit-trusts.htm. For the actual status of the debt, look at http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/budget/budget.htm and the government site, http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/opd/opdpenny.htm.

    Why do we have to be lied to about the funding for the Black agencies?

    Most of the spending for the "Black" agencies (CIA, NSA, DIA, and about 10 others -- see this link) has traditionally been (and still is) hidden from the public. With the exception of a select few, even our congressmen do not have access to this information. It is estimated that these agencies spend around $30 billion per year, nearly all of which is hidden from public view. Why? No good reason and there are some good reasons why it shouldn't be. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) has filed suit against CIA to force the public disclosure of their budget. See this link.

    The tax, grant scheme

    In this small community that I live in we have an excellent water system, first class police equipment and top notch medical emergency equipment. Some time ago I inquired as to how all this was possible in a community with such a small tax base. I was told, "Oh, there's nothing to it. Nearly all this stuff was funded by grants from the federal government. Didn't hardly cost us anything!" Free stuff from the government? How can this be?

    Simple, you make the taxing and the funding very remote from each other. That makes it quite easy to trick people into thinking that government services are free.

    For a moment imagine that there was no federal involvement. In that case, we in the community would have to take a hard look at our budget to see if we really could afford putting all those computers in the police cars and maybe just letting private enterprise take care of the water. We might decide we just couldn't afford it.

    Now consider the modern way of doing it. Instead of paying taxes locally for these things, we pay our taxes to a national fund. Then when we need something we just get grants from the federal or state government (which receives block grants from the feds). By doing it this way, there is no discernible connection between the taxes and the grants. That is, the grants really are, for all practical purposes, free because whether we partake or not, we will still pay the taxes. And along that line of thinking, we might as well get all we can since it will not cost us any more!

    A brilliant piece of subterfuges by our politicians!

The various domestic "wars"

Domestic "wars" serve various purposes:

    They establish greater control and authority over the citizens.

    They provide opportunities for spending huge quantities of cash and employment for hundreds of thousands of government and sub-contractor personnel.

    They take the attention of the citizens away from other issues.

    Rarely do they accomplish their publicly stated goals.

Some examples:

    War on Communists (a domestic adjunct to the Cold War)

    Way back in 1950, Senator McCarthy managed to get the country in a dither about the evils of Communism and to look for them under every rock. The public readily accepted that we would have to give up a few of our Constitutionally promised liberties in order to save our children from "Uncle Joe" Stalin.

    Saving us from a Nuclear Holocaust

    Since our government and the Soviets were rapidly building up stockpiles of nuclear bombs enough to blow the world apart 17 times, someone got the idea that a few could survive if they built fallout shelters and school children held their heads between their legs. After awhile, we got bored with this and it all went away except the nuclear threat which is worse today than ever since the USSR broke up, a lot of stuff went missing, and third-world countries now have their own arsenals.

    War on Organized Crime

    Senator Kefauver from Tennessee and his committee start investigating organized crime in the early '50s. From this effort would evolve a raft of laws, most notorious being the RICO law, which further suppressed the freedoms of the ordinary citizen while making no significant dent in organized crime.

    War on Poverty

    Desperately looking for something to spend money on, President Johnson declares the War on Poverty and Congress supports him by authorizing billions to be thrown at the problem. But most of the money never got outside the Beltway, so the poor remained poor while politicians and contractors got fatter.

    War on energy waste

    In the late '70s the government declared that the world's oil reserves were nearly depleted with predictions saying that we would be totally out by 1985 (see the Cato report). Based on this, the government and others started to hoard oil and the government used the opportunity to fix prices, to stifle the free market process. As a result of this we had a short panic, a depression and great inconveniences. But when the panic was over, so was the oil shortage and we have had plenty ever since.

    Nevertheless, the government used this opportunity to set a lot of rules on automobiles and spent billions on a lot of goofy energy schemes. As of this date, no new energy schemes has become noticeably successful, and we hardly ever whine about the air pollution anymore.

    War on Drugs

    With the hot war in Vietnam coming to a close, Nixon frantically looks for something to spend money on and comes up with the "War on Drugs". In the subsequent 30 years we have poured billions and billions of dollars down this rat hole with nothing to show for it but a huge debt, the loss of respect for our justice system, hatred from countries we have abused around the world, and the largest incarceration rate in the world. Of course, it has made no impact on the flow of drugs. But the real and important result is that it has allowed the government to essentially destroy all of the Bill of Rights, with nary a whimper from the public (in fact, it is reported that over 50% of the public support the elimination of some rights if it will help in fighting the drug war!).

    War on Terrorism

    The fact that there is always some revolutionary activity (which is called terrorism if we don't approve, "freedom fighting" if we do) going on in the world has given the government an excuse to further restrict the freedom of law abiding citizens and to monitor their every action, particularly their phones, computer communications, and their bank accounts.

    To see just how far the government has moved in the public spying area, read the report on the "Echelon" project at this link, wherein it explains how the government is now monitoring virtually every phone call, fax transmission and email made anywhere in the world! This was all made possible by the public's apathy and and unconcern about the government spending billions of dollars every year without any auditing.

    War on Money Laundering

    The hot government interest right now is "money laundering" which allows them to arrest anyone at any time because nearly every one has something to do with money (or its relatives such as checks and wire transmissions). Almost any financial activity can be alleged to be money laundering based on the alleged "intent" of the accused. The government made sure that "intent" was mentioned in the law, for intent is only in a person's mind and it is difficult to prove that it was never there. The "money laundering" laws and agencies that implement them, may be the ultimate tool for controlling the citizens!

The true size of government

Surely you are aware that under the Clinton regime, the size of the Federal government has been cut drastically. You've heard of Al Gore's "Reinventing Government", right? Big government is over, right? Would it surprise you to find out that the total number of people working for the government has increased since 1992 when this regime took over? While it is true that the number of civil servants has declined somewhat (about 10%), the true size of government, which is about nine times the civil servant count according to Paul Light (see link) has increased somewhat. The true size of government includes civilian contractors, state workers created by federal mandates, Postal Service, military, and others.

And one other thing: the reduction in the civil servants that Mr. Gore takes credit for, came mostly in the lower GS levels according to Light's book, The True Size of Government. It is what one would expect. The lower working levels are easier to dislodge from the government jobs. They were also easier to replace with contract workers.

The Black agencies

How much do you know about what our "black" agencies -- CIA, NSA, and so on? Nothing, right? There are two main areas that we know essentially nothing about: what they do, and how much they spend. They tell us that for anyone outside their baliwick to know either of these would seriously hamper their performance and, therefore, world peace. I doubt that that is true but giving them the ability to work with out scrutiny and with an unlimited budget is insanity.

As P.J. O'Rourke said: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

But, what about the claim that we are "representative republic"? How can I do my job as a good citizen if I don't know what they do, how much money they spend, or how I can do anything about it? Well, it's even worse. Most of your representatives know nothing about them either! Only a few select congresscritters are supposedly on the inside of what is going on. I wonder if even that is true.

I have a friend who works for the CIA. Well, actually he works for a contractor that is under contract to the CIA -- now that he has retired from working as a civil servant. I asked him how we citizens could find out what they are doing. He said, "You can't". I said how can we be assured that you are doing the right thing. He said, "You will just have to trust us".

Hmm. Do you know any normal, out in the open, government agencies that you would dare to trust without any supervision (or with for that matter!)? Knowing what you do about government agencies that operate in the clear, can you imagine the waste and corruption going on in those that have no watch dogs? Scary.

Is it really necessary in these times for these agencies that are estimated to spend 30 billion or more per year, to operate without normal controls?

Campaign promises

Even politicians must be astounded at how easy it is to make promises, get elected, break those promises, and come right back 2 or 4 years later, make the same promises, and get elected again! It is incredible to watch the public during an election get taken in by the same old garbage, time and time again. It would be easy to overlook this example of political duplicity, but you should not -- the consequences are very serious. Let me explain.

Many still believe that we have a functional representative republic, pointing out that we still have elections and our voice is still heard. Not if politicians lie to get elected.

First off, we should remember that any representation we have is through the politicians we elect and not through the laws themselves for -- with the exceptions of a few states -- we are not given the opportunity to directly vote on the laws. We can only vote on the politician who will enact the laws -- not the laws themselves. The conclusion is that we can only impact the selection of laws if the messengers we elect deliver the message they said they would. There is ample evidence that they cannot be counted on to do that. Then that nullifies the claim that the voting process instantiates the process of representation.

Part I of this series (October 1999)

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Leon Felkins is a retired Engineer, Army officer and former teacher of Computer Systems. He now maintains a web page on political philosophy, "A Rational Life", and a "Political Almanac."

Copyright 1999 Leon Felkins. All rights reserved.