Examiner Editorial: Checks to deceased, other federal fiascoes 

It has been uncovered that Washington, D.C., sent nearly 72,000 economic stimulus checks worth $250 each to people certified as eligible by the Social Security Administration in 2009. Problem was, all those folks receiving checks totaling more than $18 billion were ... dead.

But wait, there’s more! Another 17,900 checks went to prison inmates. Now, dead people and prisoners don’t do much to create new jobs or spark economic growth, so why did federal officials managing President Barack Obama’s $814 billion economic stimulus put all those checks in the mail?

It was incompetent but unintended confusion. Come January, Americans will experience premeditated confusion on the part of the government when millions of people will likely get paychecks with the wrong amounts withheld for taxes.

Instead of making the 2001 and 2003 Bush administration tax cuts permanent, the then-Republican-led Congress made them expire Jan. 1, 2011, because it was politically expedient to do so. That decision set the stage for the confusion now becoming evident with the Democrat-led Congress and Democratic president who want to extend some of those tax cuts, but not others. Because they thought it was politically expedient to do so, Democrats failed to do anything about the impending chaos before leaving town for the 2010 campaign recess.

In a report released Friday on the confusion that results from that dilly-dallying, the Washington Post quoted the American Payroll Association’s Michael O’Toole:

“People are apprehensive about whether Congress will act on time for them to produce accurate payrolls at the beginning of the year.”

Then there is the Home Affordable Modification Program. The effort was Obama’s chief response to the millions of foreclosures that have plagued the economy since the Great Recession of 2008. Obama promised that the program would provide a way for up to 4 million desperate homeowners to modify the terms of their mortgages so they could keep their homes.

The result, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, is that it “has underperformed projections by 96 percent.”

That Issa is not merely mouthing a partisan criticism is seen in Peninsula Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier’s verdict on the program:

“It has failed, and it has failed miserably.”

These are not isolated examples. The factor common among the three is that each illustrates the inability of the federal government to solve problems when it grows beyond its constitutional limits. This trio is among a depressingly long list of similar examples of the failure of big government.

The Founders recognized that there are things only the federal government can do, and other things that ought to be reserved to state and local governments, or to the people. That’s why we have the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

Many signs indicate that voters are about to deliver a dramatic reminder to Washington, D.C., that it has become way too big for its britches.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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