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Billions in taxpayer money wasted, and government and media yawn

David Axelrod former senior adviser President Barack Obamshrugged off news thIRS had targeted tax returns from conservative groups.  |

David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, shrugged off the news that the IRS had targeted tax returns from conservative groups. | Chris Usher~CBS News via Getty Images

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Updated: August 17, 2013 6:22AM

It hardly got reported, but the head of the Government Accountability Office told Congress last week that the federal government made $107.7 billion in improper, inappropriate, excessive or otherwise bogus payments last year, and that doesn’t include one of Washington’s big spenders, the Defense Department. Here is yet more evidence of big government out of control and unaccountable to the taxpayers.

The federal watchdog organization has been unable to audit the Pentagon for 20 years because the military is so decentralized that no one source is in charge of preparing records for financial review, GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, according to a report in the Washington Times. The GAO says the Army doesn’t even know if soldiers are getting the correct salaries. What’s more, 40 percent of all federal managers couldn’t say whether any financial review of their agencies had been done in the last five years.

Some might argue that $107 billion doesn’t add up to more than a hill of beans for a federal government with $3.5 trillion in outlays last year. But another way to look at it is that the wasteful spending — and remember the figure doesn’t include Defense Department squandering — was the equivalent of 10 percent of the $1.1 trillion federal deficit in 2012.

But I guess we’re so inured to reports of waste, fraud and abuse in government spending that any new disclosure of it doesn’t register on the mainstream media’s radar.

Ho hum, we got a big government, these things happen. Whadda ya gonna do?

That pretty much summed up the attitude of one of the architects of the Obama presidency to the ugly scandal of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups for harassment over their tax-exempt status. David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, adopted the White House line that the IRS outrage was the non-political misbehaving of a few lower level apparatchiks in the IRS Cincinnati office.

“You know we have a large government,” Axelrod said, and asserted that the White House had no knowledge or role in the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups because “part of being president is there is so much beneath you that you can’t know because the government is so vast.”

Whadda ya gonna do?

The government sweeps up records of Americans’ phone calls and emails to protect us from terrorists. This controversy about the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices touches so many lives that it has eclipsed the IRS scandal in media coverage. I still think it’s yet to be proved that the NSA data mining amounts to an unconstitutional intrusion into our privacy. But we can’t be sure because the government won’t tell us the legal rationale for its surveillance practices. Washington says: Trust us, we’re protecting you.

Whadda ya gonna do?

The Tea Party movement, though scorned by the elites, liberals and the mainstream media, rose up to stand up to big government. Look what it got them: IRS intimidation.

Obama likes to tell us that government is benevolent, helpful, trustful, and that talk about any potential for tyranny is baloney.

Well, a government that doesn’t know how it spends taxpayer money, that claims it can’t know when the tax collector abuses taxpayers, that asserts it can collect our communications records and doesn’t have to tell us the legal justification to do it, is a government grown too big and unaccountable.

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