A commission investigating U.S. wartime spending over the last decade estimates that the federal government has wasted $60 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan due to “lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents.” Is there a single person who’s surprised at this?
The Associated Press got an advance copy of the report Tuesday from the Commission on Wartime Contracting, but it will be public Wednesday. As disgusting as it is, I just find myself wondering why commissions bother to investigate such things. This happens with pretty much every government-run project of any sort, doesn’t it? Except for some super-scrupulous manager in a fairly small local state office, it’s almost impossible to stop it from happening.
Why can’t we stop it? Simple. There’s no incentive to stop it. When bureaucrats are in the middle of spending money — especially for what counts as a “crisis” — there are no brakes on the system. They simply spend the money and do the accounting later. It’s always this way. It can’t be any other way, because they have no incentive to stop.
For decades now, we’ve had various commissions look into waste and fraud in government. Anybody remember Ronald Reagan’s Grace Commission? They always produce impressive reports about how to stop the problem. (This latest commission recommends “better planning and more aggressive oversight.” Gee. What an insight. Who could’ve thought of that?) But does any of this matter?
As long as the state is a monopoly, there will be no incentive to stop waste or fraud. It’s fruitless to pretend that commissions such as this one can make any difference. The biggest waste is the money spent to assemble this commission and tell us what was inevitable before the money was ever even spent.