A Culture of Fraud, Waste & Abuse

Gen. William “Kip” Ward, a four-star Army general who was the first head of the new U.S. Africa Command, is under investigation and facing possible demotion for allegedly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so that his family and other unauthorized people could make trips at government expense.  Even though the total amount spent has not been disclosed, it has been compared to the $823,000, allegedly spent by GSA employees at a Las Vegas resort.

Gen. Ward has been under investigation for about 17 months, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to make a final decision on the matter before the end of the month.  Ward is facing numerous allegations that he allowed unauthorized people to fly on government planes, and spent excessive amounts of money on hotel rooms, transportation and other expenses when he traveled as head of Africa Command.

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is an ethical culture problem within the federal government.  This culture is one permitting fraud, waste & abuse in the government.  I served in all four services either as a JAG or as a fraud attorney in the Office of General Counsel, and I have seen this government pandemic grow exponentially over the last four decades.  My last attorney positions were handling fraud cases for the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.  I was privy to many fraud cases involving federal employees.

The Bottom Line is: there are few consequences.  If high ranking officers and civilians did a risk assessment, they would conclude that the benefits of committing fraud far outweigh the risks of getting caught.  And even if they are caught, they probably will not be prosecuted.  And even if they are prosecuted, the punishment is minimal.  As you can see, they have reason to be optimistic about getting away with fraud, waste & abuse.

Many of my fraud cases against these high ranking officers and civilians were never prosecuted even though we had sufficient evidence.  I was astonished at how much these officials are protected, no matter what they have done.

As long as there are insignificant prosecutions and punishments, these white-collar crimes will continue to eat into the moral fabric of our federal government until fraud, waste, and abuse will be the normal way of doing business in our government.  That’s assuming that we aren’t already at that point.

Ethics Is Moderation

Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics stated that “… excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue.”  This famous Greek philosopher, born in 384 BC near Athens, Greece, branded ethics with his “golden mean.”

Mean is defined to be a middle point between extremes.  Aristotle explained that virtue, which he claimed should be an end goal for man, is like the mean since virtue also “aims at what is intermediate.”

Since man is endowed with generous amounts of free will, we are constantly bombarded with choices.  Moral virtue must have a quality of aiming for the middle between two extremes.  For example, if you enjoy wine, then there is no problem with drinking several glasses at a party.  You would be missing the mark if you abstained from all wine or if you drank ten glasses.  The moderate path leads to pleasure and righteousness.

Sometimes, it is referred to as “doing the right thing.”  We should constantly improve our selves so that we make better choices.  Seek moderation and balance in all that you do.  Society offers laws, customs, mores, peer and family pressure, but we have our own sense of balance within our conscience.  We must use all the tools (nature and nurture) to find peace and harmony in the righteousness of ethics.  You have arrived when you follow the moderate path when nobody is looking.  You do the right thing because it is the right thing.

Moderation is included in Homo sapiens genetic makeup.  Otherwise, our species would have gone extinct centuries ago.  Extreme approaches to life would have placed mankind in jeopardy, exposed to larger and stronger predators.  Man had no hard shell or claws or speed or dagger teeth.  All we had was our ability to reason and a propensity to follow a moderate path.  Both of these qualities saved us from extinction.

We learn temperance from bad experiences that establish good habits.  We reason that since a lion ate our friend yesterday who jumped down from a tree without looking around, we should habitually survey the area around the tree before climbing down.  We also adopt moderate habits from societal pressures and laws which impose consequences.  But along with that learning process of nurture, we also have the innate process of nature.  They work together, side-by-side.

So, why do we make bad decisions?  Well, we have free will.  We can do anything that we want, and most people want to satisfy themselves.  “It’s not about you; it’s about me.”  If having sex with one partner is pleasurable, think what it would be like with multiple partners.

Extremes occur more often in today’s world because we do not have the leveling effect of large predators outside our doors waiting for us.  In fact, the predators of today’s society are our own species who will take whatever you have if they want it.  These individuals are vice-ridden with no consciences.  It is difficult maintaining a moderate existence around these people.  They want to either infect you with their evil or destroy you.  And these predators come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are Chief Executive Officers of corporations, some are politicians, some are religious leaders, some are criminals locked up in jails, and some are murdering family members as you read this sentence.

But there is hope.  All Homo sapiens have the ability to be righteous.  Religion is important in this process of creating an ethical world for us to live in.  A belief in a creator is important for several reasons:  (1) if you have to answer for your sins, then fear of punishment may moderate your behavior, (2) creation implies the ability to destroy, so a creator who made us could also destroy us for our transgressions, (3) there are laws given by the creator that we should follow in order to please the creator, (4) the creator gives us the feeling that we are being watched, so we do the right thing, and (5) we do the right thing because it is the right thing to do since we are unified with the creator and have become more like him.  When faced with daily problems, many Christians ask, “What would Jesus do?”  Then armed with that answer, they try to emulate Jesus, their role model, as best they can.

As long as you are making an effort to follow the moderate path and live a righteous life every minute of every day, then you are making progress and should continue that course.  God help us if we don’t.

What is the Cost of Obamacare?

The Cincinnati Enquirer’s front-page article on August 10th entitled “Who pays health care law’s tax hikes?” asks a great question.  Unfortunately, neither Democrats nor Republicans have answered this question.

Perhaps, it’s because Americans can’t handle the truth.  Or perhaps, it’s because the answer is hidden so deep within the hundreds of pages of complex legislation that nobody really knows the answer.  Or perhaps, nobody really cares until they feel the actual sting.

Quite frankly, I’m amazed that legislation of this magnitude was passed without anybody, especially politicians, having a better understanding of the potential fiscal and physical consequences.  Clearly, somebody is going to pay for the health care law.  And it certainly will cost more than just tax increases.

Obamacare is expected to cost $1.68 trillion of new spending in its first decade, according to Charles Krauthammer’s research.  Who is going to pay this cost for Obamacare?  And what about the increased deductibles that hospitals will charge those on Medicare?  And what about the loss of medical services because physicians will not accept those on Medicare?  How do you measure those costs?

Well, I wouldn’t have any problem with this answer:  We all are going to pay.  How much is it going to cost?  We don’t know, yet, but it’s going to hurt everybody.