No doubt howls of feigned outrage will erupt over recent USDA admissions of fraudulent payments to farmers.
WASHINGTON - The Agriculture Department on Wednesday acknowledged making improper payments to farmers worth more than $2.8 billion last year. [More]We don't do outrage well any more, so it will soon pass. But the point most people will miss is what level of fraud is tolerable. Oh sure, we could all rant on and demand ZERO, but you really wouldn't want a system that was that good, trust me. The administrative costs would spiral out of control. The only way to have zero waste is to have zero payments.
I think the government should be able to handle money only slightly worse than the average citizen. After all that's who works for the government, right? And after spending all day counting up "my profits and my costs", I would have been satisfied with an 11% waste figure this year.
Replanting 200 acres was a waste, so was one herbicide I used and two highly-touted hybrids. I could have saved on fuel as well. And on and on...
My point is we need realistic expectations. Farm payments are found money, so all kinds of schemes will sprout in farmer minds to get more than what they have coming. You know that and I know that and little kids in the schoolyard know that. Moreover, by Iraq or Katrina* standards the USDA is in the minor leagues.
So the next time a politician yelps about government waste, ask him what percentage it should be. If he/she says zero, you'll know he/she is clueless.
(*Strangely about 11% waste again - maybe a law of nature?)