What if you were told there is a corrupt dictatorship on the other side of the world where government officials are using U.S. foreign aid to build palatial mansions for themselves, diverting money intended to feed poor children and spending billions with no oversight or accountability?

Unfortunately, these examples are not from a remote foreign land, but from right here in California. And you, California taxpayers, are footing the bill.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation has just released “Follow the Money 2013,” a report chronicling some of the highest profile government waste, fraud and abuse uncovered this year. Added together, the examples in this document amount to tens of billions of dollars.

There seems to be no limit on the irresponsible behavior of some politicians and bureaucrats when it comes to spending OPM (Other People’s Money). “Follow the Money 2013” shows they are paying millions to drug rehab clinics with histories of questionable billing practices, giving elected officials bonuses just for being reelected, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on outside consultants, and much, much more.

While the report profiles numerous high profile scandals discovered in 2013, it also raises an even more compelling question: if these examples were all exposed in the course of the last year, how much additional waste is still hiding in the shadows? Could the billions that we know were squandered just be the tip of an even larger iceberg of titanic waste?

Taxpayers can expect 2014 to bring new efforts by the Sacramento politicians to saddle our high-unemployment economy with billions in tax increases, including proposals to repeal portions of Prop. 13 to satisfy their insatiable hunger for more revenue.

They will say regular citizens need to sacrifice so that the state can afford to provide quality services we all care about, such as education and public safety. That’s why now is the right time to ask whether they’ve spent the money we’ve already given them responsibly.

In fact, over the last 40 years spending has doubled on a per capita, inflation adjusted basis. But 40 years ago, we had a thriving economy and some of the nation’s best schools and roads. People came to California from all over the country, drawn by warm weather, affordable homes and plentiful jobs.

Now, we’re spending more and getting less in return. Billions are being flushed down the drain, lost forever to waste, fraud and abuse. Misguided policies have hobbled the state’s economy, sent energy costs through the roof and prevented the construction of important infrastructure such as roads, refineries and ports.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but the first step to restoring a more fiscally responsible government and a more prosperous economy is to start a conversation about whether the current state of affairs is acceptable. We can and must do better.

Concerned citizens can read the “Follow the Money 2013” report for themselves by visiting www.hjta.org.

 

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

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