Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oversight Is Overlooked

As everyone is well aware of by now, Congress passed a massive $700,000,000,000.00 (the number looks as scary as it actually is if you use all the zeros) bailout program to keep the US financial system from suffering a catastrophic crash. In pushing through this emergency legislation, Congress insisted that officials be named to act as a watchdog for the taxpayer's money. 

Each House of Congress had its own version of this watchdog function and it's own unique way of selection. Now that we are fully two months into the full-scale "bailing" and with nearly half of the $700 Billion allocated, I thought that you might be interested in hearing how those Congressional watchdogs were doing in the performance of their duties.  

The Senate Monday approved the appointment of a federal prosecutor to be a special inspector general for oversight of the bailout. The vote on that appointment was delayed by two weeks by the anonymous hold of a member of the Senate, but even if this act of unadmitted cowardice had not occurred, it would have taken six weeks after the money was approved and was being handed out for the Senate to get around to the vote to approve a watchdog.  This doesn't mean that anyone has actually been appointed yet, that a staff has been assembled, data collected, or that the actual work had begun; only that someone can now be appointed to the position.  

The House on the other hand chose to appoint a five member special oversight panel in late November. This group of fiscal sentinels has met only once to date since being formed. Thus far, the only results of their meetings is that one of the five has already quit their job. Their first report on their efforts was due out yesterday, so we will have to see how diligent in their assigned task they have been.  

Update: The Congressional Committee has released its reports, querying 10 the Treasury Departments decisions and asking if its strategies are "an adequate response to the financial crisis". (Pretty good for two months and one meeting.)  

Let me repeat for those of you who missed it earlier, HALF OF THE MONEY HAS ALREADY BEEN HANDED OUT! As we now look forward to Congress passing their bailout of the automobile industry, and appointing a "car Czar" (Is anyone else concerned that we are naming this watchdog after a Russian ruler, whose title is taken from the Roman one of Caesar?) to be some part of the oversight of this $15 Billion, we have to wonder if they will do equally well in the assigned responsibility of guarding this money.  

Congress has proved itself a horrible watchdog of taxpayer money over the years, but has reached a new low in recent months. It is now little more than an fat and lazy hound, more worried about sleeping in the sun and its own food bowl than its responsibilities. Instead of removing our valuables from its care however, we seem intent on putting more of the family fortune in the care of this mangy mutt. Which forces me to ask the question:

How long will we overlook Congress's lack of oversight?

 

2 comments:

Antipelagian said...

How long will we overlook Congress's lack of oversight?

That's a very narrow view you have, Tim. Don't you know our politicians are working together, Democrats and Republicans alike? Let's not worry about what they do, let's just be happy they conspire together to ruin the nation.

Tim Higgins said...

Antipelagian,

If only my profile were as narrow as my view.

As for the picture you paint, it is that of the perfect storm, and we had better all buckle up, it's going to be a very bumpy ride.