"Action is not a choice, it’s a necessity… every problem can be solved."
Last night, President Trump spoke to a joint session of congress about his strategic plan to "Make America Great Again." The process will be difficult because making America great again, means making America accountable again. The president will have to fight on many fronts.
Consider the following from our OpenTheBooks.com investigations during the past two-years:
- Farm subsidies flow into urban areas, where there are no farms.
- $14 billion in small business lending allocated for Main Street was detoured to Wall Street.
- Sick veterans are waitlisted to see a doctor. Calls to the suicide prevention hotline are answered by voicemail – all while the VA spent $20 million on its costly art collection.
- Rank-and-file regulatory federal agencies lawyered-up, armed-up, and spent billions of dollars on their public relations spin machines.
Here’s another way to think about the challenge facing the Trump administration: What government program is running well? Let’s look at ten examples:
- While toxic waste Superfund sites remained polluted for decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spent $92 million on high-end, luxury furniture including $800 pencil holders and $7,000 desks. A rehiring program for retired seniors cost taxpayers $1 billion since 2007.
- Over the last eight-years, the Department of Education doled out $689.14 billion in contracts, grants and direct payments. This included $70 billion in specially granted 2009 ‘Stimulus’ money. Yet, the test scores of America’s fourth and eighth grade students in math and reading are flat or declining.
- $27 billion in federal funding flows into America’s 106 ‘Sanctuary Cities.’ The mayors of these cities are undermining the rule of law. Will the courts allow punishment via congressional or presidential power of the purse?
- While the VA failed in its core mission to provide healthcare to veterans, the agency added 40,000 additional positions to payroll, but less than 3,600 were doctors. Today, 500,000 sick veterans still wait longer than 30 days to see a doctor.
- A federal ‘department of self-promotion’ emerged with 202 agencies spending over $4.4 billion on public relations. In just one egregious example, the EPA violated anti-lobbying statutes while spending $170 million to push additional regulations with outside public relations firms.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is supposed to fund mom and pop businesses on Main Street. However, we found that $14 billion flowed from the SBA to Wall Street firms since 2007.
- Over the past eight years, the federal government lawyered up. Today, the federal agencies employ 25,060 lawyers and only half work at the Department of Justice. So, what does government do after grabbing legal power?
- Armed federal government bureaucrats (200,000 ) now out-number U.S. Marines (182,000). In a nine-year period, 53 non-military, non-law enforcement federal agencies spent $342 million on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment.
- Ivy League colleges gamed the system – up to $6 billion per year in government payments, tax breaks, perks, special treatment and subsidies. This amounts to $100,000 on average per undergraduate student. The average state college receives $15,000 per student in total aid.
- U.S. Export – Import Bank (Ex-Im) gave $60 billion in lending to one corporation, Boeing, since 2007. In the 1970’s, Ex-Im "spun-off" a private bank empowered to trade on its guaranteed loan portfolio. Citibank, JPMorgan, Chase, Boeing, and GE – some of the largest beneficiaries of Ex-Im support, own the for-profit, private bank. Literally, it’s a license to print money for insiders.
Trump will learn that the vestiges of entrenched political power will not go timidly into the night. But light brings heat. Big data, coupled with the latest in technology, can help bold political leaders drain the swamp.
Last night, the new president closed his speech with a succinct summary of this historic moment. Trump said, "From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears –- inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past –- and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts."
The tools of transparency have given the American people and our political leaders the chance to see waste and graft like never before. We hope Trump takes full advantage of these new tools.
America, it’s time for a ‘Transparency Revolution.’
Adam Andrzejewski (say: Angie-F-Ski) is the founder and CEO of OpenTheBooks.com - the world's largest privately accessible database of public spending with over 3 billion expenditures online.