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Trump’s Hiring Freeze for Bureaucrats: A Good Step, but No Substitute for Program Cuts and Agency Terminations

Having lived in the Washington area for more than three decades, I have many friends who work for the federal government. Most of them will privately admit that they are very lucky since federal salaries and benefits are considerably higher than what they could earn in the private sector. And they’ll also admit that there’s […]

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Great Moments in Pentagon Incompetence and Waste

Last month, I explained that America’s fiscal problems are almost entirely the result of domestic spending programs, particularly entitlements. Some critics immediately decided this meant I favored a blank check for the Pentagon, even though I specifically stated that “I’m very sympathetic to the proposition that trillions of dollars that have been misspent on foreign […]

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Shut Down the Department of Energy, Yesterday if Possible

President-Elect Trump has picked Ben Carson as his Secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which immediately produced two thoughts. First, since he had the best tax plan of all the 2016 candidates, too bad he wasn’t named Secretary of Treasury. Second, I hope his job at HUD is to shut down […]

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Double-Dipping Bureaucrat Pulls Triple-Dipping Scam on Taxpayers

As a public finance economist, I normally focus on big-picture issues such as the economically debilitating effect of excessive government spending and punitive taxation. But as a human being, what irks me most about big government is the way that insiders use the system to enrich themselves. I don’t like it when politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, […]

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Another Taxpayer-Financed Goodie: The “Paid Leave” Scam for Bureaucrats

My biggest complaint about government employees is that they work for bureaucracies that shouldn’t exist. As far as I’m concerned, they may be the most wonderful, conscientious, and hard-working people in the world, but we shouldn’t have a Department of Housing and Urban Development or a Department of Agriculture, so these folks – by definition […]

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The Italian Version of Everything You Need to Know about Bureaucracy and Government

In 2014, I was outraged that more than 80 percent of senior bureaucrats at the Veterans Administration were awarded bonuses, even though this is the bloated bureaucracy that caused the death of many veterans by putting them on secret waiting lists. This, I argued, was a perfect example (in a bad way) of federal bureaucracy […]

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Hold the Presses: We Have a New Contestant for Politician of the Year!

Two months ago, I decided that the new President of the Philippines was the winner of the 2016 award for politician of the year. It takes a remarkable amount of chutzpah, after all, to freely admit to having mistresses (yes, more than one). But the icing on the cake is that he then bragged that […]

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In One Phrase, Everything that You Need to Know about the Failure of Big Government

I realize it’s presumptuous, but I periodically make grandiose claims that a single column will tell readers “everything” they need to know about a topic. I’ve used that tactic when writing about tax loopholes, entitlements, fiscal policy, bureaucracy (twice), tax evasion, France, Greece, corporate inversions, and economic policy. Sometimes I even claim a single image, […]

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Great Moments in Defense and Foreign Policy

If you did a word-association test with people after describing jaw-dropping examples of government incompetence, you would probably get answers like “angry” or “wasteful.” Especially if you asked around April 15. Though in some cases of spectacular and inexplicable ineptitude by government, you reach a stage where the answers might even be “preposterous” or “comical.” […]

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New American Member of Bureaucrat Hall of Fame Issues Challenge to Foreign Civil Servants: Can You Beat This?

The Bureaucrat Hall of Fame, created to highlight government workers who go above and beyond the call of duty, is apparently such a prestigious honor that there’s been a strong competition between Americans and foreigners to engage in behavior that merits this great award. Consider the U.S. bureaucrats who have earned membership so far in […]

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Wasteful Spending, Cost Overruns, and the Never-Ending Victimization of America’s Taxpayers

Here’s a simple rule. When a politicians says a new program will cost X, hide your wallet because it actually will cost three or four times as much. Or even more. Obamacare is a particularly painful example from recent history. Simply stated, politicians and bureaucrats routinely under-estimate costs because they figure once a project or […]

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Three Not-so-Great Moments in Government-Run Healthcare

Government intervention has messed up the healthcare sector, leading to needlessly high prices and massive inefficiency. Fixing the mess won’t be easy since it would involve addressing several contributing problems, including Medicare, Medicaid, the healthcare exclusion in the tax code, Obamacare, and the mess at the Veterans Administration. But at least we know the right […]

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The TSA: A Perfect Symbol of the Federal Government’s Waste and Incompetence

The Transportation Security Administration has become infamous over the years for things that it doesn’t allow on planes. Consider these examples of the Keystone Cops in action. o Confiscating a plastic hammer from a mentally retarded man. o Detaining a woman for carrying breast milk. o Hassling a woman for the unexplained red flag of having sequentially numbered […]

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More Great Moments in Spectacular Government Incompetence

Advocates of limited government favor a small public sector because more resources in the productive sector of the economy translates into faster growth, more job creation, and higher living standards. Statists, by contrast, favor big government for two main reasons. First, many of them belong to well-connected interest groups that have their snouts in the […]

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Instead of Fighting to Protect Taxpayers, Politicians Are Enabling Medicare Fraud

Yesterday, I shared several stories that exposed the festering corruption of Washington. Today, let’s look at one issue that symbolizes the pervasive waste of Washington. Medicare is the federal government’s one-size-fits-all health program for the elderly. Because of its poor design, it bears considerable responsibility for two massive problems. It contributes to the systemic third-party […]

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Italy vs. America: Battle of the Bureaucrats

Since the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame is getting crowded, I’ve decided we need a system to limit new entrants. So today we’re doing an experiment. We’ll look at two separate stories about lazy and overpaid bureaucrats, and the comments section will determine which one actually is most deserving of joining the Hall of Fame. Let’s […]

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Great Moments in Federal Government Insanity

My first instinct, when arguing against higher taxes, is to pontificate about the negative impact of high marginal tax rates and punitive effect of double taxation on saving and investment. Those are very legitimate concerns, and they’re the obvious things for an economist to highlight. But I’m going to confess that my main motive for […]

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Scamming Taxpayers at the Patent and Trademark Office

I created the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame as a way of giving special attention to government employees who go above and beyond the call of duty in their efforts to get paid way too much in exchange for doing far too little. While my standard practice is to bestow this honor on individual bureaucrats, sometimes […]

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Beltway Bandits and the Shadow Bureaucracy

I’m not a huge fan of government bureaucrats. But not because they’re bad people. Yes, there are repugnant hacks in the civil service like Lois Lerner, but most bureaucrats I’ve met are good people. My objection is that they work for departments that shouldn’t exist (such as HUD, Education, Transportation, Agriculture, etc) and/or they are […]

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Another Proud Member of the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame

Unlike some libertarians, I have patriotic feelings for my country. I want the United States to be the best in everything. So it’s with some chagrin that I realized that the last two honorees selected for the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame came from overseas. This included the man from India who earned his spot by […]

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