"In this terrible situation, let's be very grateful that we had a well-funded, functioning government. It is very fashionable in America, and has been for some time to criticize government, belittle public employees, talk about their pensions, talk about what people think ... of [their] health care. Here we saw government in two ways perform very well. ... I never was as a member of Congress one of the cheerleaders for less government, lower taxes. No tax cut would have helped us deal with this or will help us recover. This is very expensive."
~Barney Frank on CNN via the Weekly Standard
So you see, it doesn't matter if Monday's terrorist act at the Boston Marathon was committed by an Islamo-fascist of Saudi descent or if this was the kind of homegrown terrorism associated with Tim McVeigh or the Unabomber. Either way, the message that the Democrats are looking to convey is that this never would have happened were it not for the sequester. If only conservatives would stop looking to curtail government spending, the world would be a safer place.
And before we get too far into our discussion, I just want to state this for the record. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not merely fashionable in America for some to criticize government, government policies, government spending as Barney Frank has chosen to weakly characterize our nation's ongoing political dialog. This kind of criticism is part of American tradition. This is how America has operated since well before its founding. We would all be singing "God Save the Queen" right now if our founders hadn't expressed a tendency to criticize government and its spending.
Now, I understand that the Republic and its silly parliamentary procedures inhibit our nation's goosestep into autocracy and that many in Congress believe that they should have whatever funding and legal authority that they deem necessary to ensure that our nation is properly locked down and childproofed for our own protection, but for my part, I don't agree with Barney Frank's politically motivated non sequitur between spending debates and the response of DHS at the Boston Marathon.
Current debt held by the public is at around $11.95 trillion dollars or 75% of our nation's GDP. Intra-governmental holdings are an additional $4.84 trillion so that brings the number to around $16.8 trillion dollars in debt. Clearly, we are spending plenty of money.
Homeland Security began receiving $42.4 billion in funding back in 2003 and their budget has increased by at least 2% every year since then. And I realize that in a world of trillions? Billion probably doesn't sound like very much. But up until around 2008, that was a lot of money. The DHS should be able to handle whatever terrorist activity gets thrown its way and still have something left over for an annual Christmas party on the taxpayers' dime. You know, maybe even throw in an extra pat down of an octogenarian at the airport in they're looking for kicks.
The problem isn't our nation's desire to fund. Money alone does not prevent terrorism from happening. The question is how are we spending that money? Quoting from the Heritage Foundation:
"DHS actions related to [its] mission have often centered on the Homeland Security Grant Program. The goal of the grant program is to help states and localities build their own capabilities to respond to terrorism and natural disasters. The problem with this approach, however, is that the program has become the pork barrel of homeland security. Instead of focusing money on needed technologies and infrastructure, or on the highest-risk locations, DHS often spreads the money out equally--shortchanging high-risk jurisdictions. State and local governments have often lined up for the dollars, and federal elected officials have been all too willing to give them a share with little regard to actual need."
Additionally, while the DHS has a mandate to connect and interact with local, state and federal jurisdictions…remember this – one reason that 9-11 occurred was because agencies were not properly communicating terrorist threats to one another… in an effort to create a practical anti-terrorism strategy, the current administration prefers not to engage these available resources. Often it actually blocks local and state authorities from participating in the process. Think about it. That means that the government doles out federal funds based on political concerns and then tells local authorities to go away when they wish to participate in disaster prevention and relief.
This is, of course, a terrible tactical error if the administration truly wishes to eliminate terrorist activity in our country. Local jurisdictions hold valuable insight to the normal and abnormal activity that occurs in their communities and blocking them from the process is wasteful and foolhardy at best…dangerous and irresponsible at worst.
Incidentally, the oversight that Congress provides the Department of Homeland Security offers little guidance for focusing the DHS mandate. Per Heritage, DHS has a terrible reputation for providing reporting of its activities and spending which is often inadequate and late. Heritage has actually made recommendations for improving the overall performance of the DHS which include reforming the ineffectual congressional oversight of the agency – there are currently over 100 committees and subcommittees that DHS reports to. Quoting Jessica Zuckerman of Heritage:
"The web of congressional bureaucracy results in multiple and often conflicting messages and guidance from Congress to DHS. It also places a significant time burden on the department. Between 2009 and 2010, for example, DHS conducted more than 3,900 briefings and testified before Congress more than 285 times. The cost of such oversight is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars, with thousands of lost work hours that DHS could have spent executing its mission."
In addition, it has been recommended that the DHS should reexamine grant and earmark spending which has turned the Department of Homeland Security into yet another governmental Santa Claus in the effort to redistribute federal funds. The real priority of DHS ought to be to sit down with first responders and federal agencies to negotiate outcomes so that resources are implemented with as little waste and duplication as possible.
It is believed that the scope of DHS is too broad and unfocused and this leaves resources spread thin. Under Barack Obama, the number of federal disasters that have been declared has skyrocketed to 153 each year. That's an average of one disaster every two and a half days for which FEMA is responsible. This is up from less than 30 when Ronald Reagan was in office…hmmm. Must be global warming? Or maybe not.
You know the old saying, "When you're a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail." Well, when you are a disaster agency, every problem looks like a disaster. I'm just saying, is it possible that we're dealing with a little mission creep here? With so many questionable emergencies weighing down federal agencies, as the definition of "disaster" expands and spirals out of control, DHS additionally undermines national readiness by declaring everything to be an emergency. As a result, the agency further disengages state and local authorities from their efforts to prepare for disasters on their own because nothing falls under their jurisdiction anymore.
Somebody needs to pull Barney Frank aside and tell him that this examination into public spending is not a fashion statement. These are the real and important issues that we should be discussing as a nation, and budget debates are precisely what are needed to tease out the problems within agencies such as DHS and FEMA. If we don't openly discuss where our tax money goes and what we receive in return for it, then our role as an informed citizenry is being reduced to that of an ATM. We are then merely required by Congress to write them a blank check, and let them worry about the details of where the money goes.
Hey, you know what? Here's something else to criticize. If it's true that at least half of our nation's representatives are in lockstep with Barney Frank's assessment that he "never was, as a member of Congress, one of the cheerleaders for less government, lower taxes," then maybe it's safe to hypothesize that Democrats and some of the more liberal Republicans see terrorism as a means to an end in expanding and centralizing government. Ouch.
Think about that. There is absolutely no incentive to stop terrorism if terrorism can be used to increase spending and maximize the power of our nation's political class. In this conservative battle against an ever-expanding federal government, terrorism is a made-to-order pretext for the tax and spend policies of the Left.