CONGRATS ON AFGE’s VA SCANDAL RESPONSE (How Scandals Are Planned In Advance)
Congress may not pass any laws, budgets, treaties or other legislation, but it sure does have a guaranteed way to generate scandals in federal agencies. Since the media seems to be ignoring the formula for whipping up Executive Branch scandals, we thought we would shine a light on it after reading a Huffington Post story entitled, “Here’s the Simple Reason Congress Hasn’t Fixed the VA.” It is a great piece that every fed should read when considering political action activity. But here is what it left out.
Whether it is the VA, IRS or some other target, a quick analysis of how the scandal happened and exploded into the headlines show the same thing.
First, Congress underfunds the government agency so it does not have the resources to get the assigned work done right.
Second, after a while of inadequate funding some Congressional rep asks the agency’s IG to look into certain things, usually things where he/she knows there is likely to be a problem.
Third, when the IG reports come in the Congressional rep can pick and choose targets. If the IG has not found anything wrong, Congress avoids publicizing that, although some committee leaders may use that to argue the agency is overfunded. However, if they find something wrong, the Congressional reps look around for some witnesses to testify, extreme examples of how the problem impacted one or two citizens, and schedules a hearing with great fanfare.
Fourth, as soon as the story breaks, the Congressional Rep or maybe even the Majority Leader or Speaker gets on TV to demand criminal prosecution of the federal employee responsible for the allege catastrophe.
Fifth, once the federal employee whose testimony is needed see that, he would be insane to testify. He has been told that a very powerful Washington politician wants to put someone in jail. So, the employee politely declines to testify taking the 5th.
Sixth, little does the federal employee know that the Congressional rep is delighted he took the 5th, no matter how outraged the rep looks before the evening news cameras condemning the agency. Why is the rep delighted? Because now he doesn’t run the risk of the public finding out that it was Congress’ lack of funding that caused the problem in the first place.
Seventh, the Congressional rep comes back to the issue every few weeks or months thereafter during the election cycle to stir up the political base by demanding whether the employee witness has changed his mind about testifying. They would be insane to do so and no one on the Hill is going to offer him immunity to testify because the truth will come out, the story will die, and the Congressional rep will lose the spotlighted, contributions, and face.
Eighth, when some Congressional rep tries to draw out testimony in a hearing that points the finger where it belongs, the Committee chair shuts down the hearing, turns off the lights, cuts the mics, etc. He does not want the public to hear that the VA staff wasn’t wasting its time on coffee breaks or gossip when the backlogs arose, but handcuffed by the fact that the VA did not have the money or flexibility from Congress to hire another 500 doctors to take care of the patients.
This is not McCarthyism, but it would not be far wrong to call it McCarthyism-lite.
To its credit, AFGE got out quickly after the VA problems started to grab headlines with material about how the real culprit was the inadequate budget Congress gave VA. Check it out. “VA Employee’s Union Blames Chronic Understaffing for Long Wait Lists.” Without that kind of counter-scandal journalism every local small town paper in the country is suggesting VA employees are laggards.
If you doubt us on this, checkout the report Congress issued in March 2000 entitled, “Report Of Investigation Of Allegations Relating To Internal Revenue Service Handling Of Tax-Exempt Organization Matters.” It involved the same allegations IRS is facing today and after months and millions in investigation the most common sentence in the final Congressional report began, “The joint committee staff found no credible evidence…” of anything.
Some scandals come from stupidity or crookedness by one or a handful of employees, such as the EPA employee who collected an EPA pay check for years without ever coming to work because he told his boss he was on an undercover mission for the CIA. But too many Executive Branch scandals are created by Congress planting the seeds of destruction years in advance.