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More FEMA Fowl-Ups

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This entry was posted on 6/17/2006 1:50 AM and is filed under government gone wrong,unbelievable,news.

Here’s a logical question: Why would someone who lost their home need money to spend 70 nights in a hotel? Not just any hotel, but a hotel in Hawaii that costs more than $100 per night?

Once again, the United States government is giving money away, and scammers are cashing in to the tune of $1.4 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office, or GAO. Federal investigators have found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, handed out funds left and right to people who neither needed nor deserved it.

In one instance, a GAO undercover agent applied for money from FEMA, and was granted $2,358, despite the fact that the same agent used a bogus address. What makes this negligence so despicable is that FEMA still paid out the money “even after FEMA learned from its inspector that the undercover applicant did not live at the address,” according to an Associated Press article written by Larry Margasak.

This is another example of the gross incompetence that is the United States government. Though completely getting rid of FEMA may not be the solution, a thorough revamping of the agency is sorely needed. It’s nearly a year since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, and yet there are stories every week—if not every day—that talk about how many people in states such as Mississippi still haven’t received any assistance. While these people wallow in misery, FEMA trailers sit unused because of technicalities. If this government really gave a damn about its citizens, this wouldn’t be allowed to happen.

FEMA—in a pathetic attempt to defend itself—“said it has identified more than 1,500 cases of potential fraud after Katrina and [Hurricane] Rita and has referred those cases to the Homeland Security inspector general.” Those cases, according to the agency, add up to “$16.8 million in improperly awarded disaster relief money and has started efforts to collect the money.”

Money that was scammed was also spent on such items as adult movies. According to GAO, FEMA-issued credit credits were used to purchase Girls Gone Wild videos in Santa Monica, CA, a world away from the tragedy that is America’s Gulf Coast. One scammer even used a FEMA-issued credit card to pay for a divorce lawyer’s services in Houston.

One of the worst cases of fraud was that “one man apparently used FEMA assistance money for a sex change operation.” Imagine this illogical argument: A person loses a home, but wants to get a sex change, maybe because it may somehow help to relieve the pain. Does that seriously sound like someone whose life was changed forever by a natural disaster?

Here’s a new flash for the idiots in Washington in charge of running our government: Throwing money at a problem doesn’t always solve the problem. As a matter of fact, it won’t solve the problem in many cases. It’s a shame, however, that most Americans will only look at this widespread fraud and think that it is business as usual.

Getting rid of FEMA won’t solve the problem. Maybe the next time someone wants to get a sex change and decides to use disaster relief funding, there should be a stiff penalty to change their mind. The government should enforce the law.

Here’s an idea: If someone scams the government and gets caught, it should be considered a felony and that person should be thrown in jail. Throwing money at the problem will not solve the government incompetence, but a stiff jail sentence may be a good start to keep swindlers from taking advantage of the government’s ever-present bureaucratic bungling. After that, maybe the government can come crawling out from that rock it is hiding under and reform FEMA, because it is in need of a serious makeover.

High school history class taught us that the United States government has a system of checks and balances that keeps the government from spiraling into a corrupt state of worthlessness. It seems at this moment that the checks are going out, but the balances are lagging far behind.

Margasak, Larry. “Emergency aid after Katrina bough football tickets, week in Caribbean.” AP article re-published in Waterbury Republican-American, June 14, 2006.

Kevin Roberts UConn Graduate Class of 2006 - B.A. in Journalism/Political Science Torrington, CT 06790

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