by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
The health of the U.S. economy typically serves as a good yardstick to gauge the public's approval or disapproval towards Washington. This year, the public's distaste for Washington's appetite to tax, spend and borrow our way back to prosperity exposes a major disconnect between the political leadership and the grassroots.
Inch by inch, Washington's cure for fixing health care, the economy, the environment, higher education, housing, Wall Street and Detroit has involved unprecedented taxpayer bailouts and unrealistic promises.
Many Iowans share how fed up they are with this Washington-knows-best approach to governance. From mandating individuals to buy health insurance to phasing out conventional light bulbs and shutting local lenders out of the school loan market, Washington is taking American consumers out of the decision-making process.
A Washington-knows-best philosophy undermines personal responsibility and weakens genuine accountability and effective transparency that are fundamental to upholding our government "of, by and for the people."
I work to keep Washington on a short leash. It's not always popular, but I relish my job as a watchdog in Washington. It demands long haul oversight work that I have pursued as a representative for Iowa in the U.S. Senate. Holding the federal bureaucracy accountable, protecting the integrity of hard-earned tax dollars and keeping the people's business open to the public are non-negotiable principles.
Recently, I've focused my oversight work on several federal agencies to give voice to the concerns of Iowa farmers, retirees, taxpayers and investors, including:
· The EPA's proposed federal rule that would dictate how much dust could reach beyond the ditch to the roadside when farmers harvest their crops;
· Inadequate scrutiny of health care contractors by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Fraudulent claims and improper payments paid by Medicare siphons scarce tax dollars and further weakens the long-term solvency of this important health insurance program for retirees and disabled individuals. Consider one example in which a durable medical equipment supplier in Florida was ordered by a federal court in February to repay $445 million to the U.S. government. I want to know why CMS failed to detect suspicious billing activity (the investigation was launched by the FBI) and have serious concerns regarding how many cases of fraud go undetected.
· The internal auditors at the Department of Defense are failing to follow the "money trail" and conduct full-scale contract audits. Unless the Inspector General commits to returning to the core mission of connecting the dots between a contract and a payment, the taxpaying public and military readiness risk losing even more to waste, fraud and abuse.
I also use legislative tools to establish accountability and transparency in government.
· More than a decade ago, I secured passage of the landmark "Congressional Accountability Act" which holds the legislative branch of the federal government to the same civil rights, workplace safety and employment laws as the rest of the country.
· My bipartisan effort to end the practice of so-called "secret holds" would end the ability of a single lawmaker to anonymously hold the people's business hostage by preventing a nomination or bill from coming to a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
· My Witness Sunshine Resolution would require individuals who testify before Senate committees to disclose outside affiliations and financial interests in organizations which have ties to the issue under consideration. The public deserves to know about special interests witnesses might have that could influence the outcome of public policy.
· The president signed into law my bipartisan legislation to repeal blanket exemptions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Considering the SEC's failure to investigate the ponzi scheme cooked up by Bernard Madoff, it's obvious the American public deserves more disclosure, not less.
It's pretty clear that Washington sticks to the adage "if you give an inch, it'll take a mile." Considering the $13 trillion national debt and fragile economic recovery, it's more important than ever to make sure the federal government measures up to the highest standards of service, integrity and accountability.
Friday, October 15, 2010