Wasted Tax Dollars? Prove It.


This is great. When he wrote that comment I hoped someone rather fiery might respond. And look! Who better than he who wrote the immortal line "Sanctimony is objectively expensive"?
Nice work, Golob. I would add that re. the state budget, revenues have fallen by about 7%, but costs have been cut by about 10% over the last couple of years, despite all the fallacious screaming about "out of control" spending in Olympia. There is a simple way to know if something is true or not: if your teabag terrorist neighbor with the Dino Rossi bumpersticker on his Navigator says it, it is not true.
Um, look up Pine street 1 block- see that green paint "bike box" on the street by the police station? Whether or not you think it's necessary, it sure as hell isn't worth the $10,000 the city paid for it.
Balderdash has it wrong in demanding a total end of the sales tax. He would emulate Oregon, which has an income tax but no sales tax, and their economic plight is similar to our own. No, better to have all three taxes -- income, sales, and property -- but all at moderate rates. I expect there would be somewhat less fluxuation during good and bad economic times.
In case anyone is wondering what I'm talking about:

5% per year COLA raises for Sherrif deputies and bus drivers. The unions in Washington get to hand pick those who negociate their contracts, which clearly leads to poor practices and overpay.
@4, what? Painting a bike box costs $10,000. Source please.
@8 see @6
@9 @6 @4 you failed Golob's challenge: "Then try to convince your fellow citizens that this spending is truly wasteful—and not just spending that is for someone else that you don't like."

Convince me that spend is worthless. Because I think that free street parking is a massive government handout that gives up hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

You fail.
And yet there must be examples of wasted tax dollars. How could there not be? Show me a corporation that never wastes money. Show me an individual who manages every dime to perfection. The point is on balance, government likely does an equal or better job allocating resources than either individuals or the private sector.

Even arguing on these "prove it!" terms coddles an anti-tax culture of brainwashed stoogery and deranged expectations. There's no such thing as 100 per cent efficiency. Don't kill the state because some cash wasn't misspent.

I'm Canadian. It's obvious from the rising smoke and screaming south of the border that this shit is bankrupting and killing your country. How can you not see that?
Don't kill the state because some cash was* misspent. Apparently Canadians can't type.
@10, never said the bike box wasn't necessary. I said that 2 buckets of green and white paint combined with the man hours to paint the box wasn't worth $10,000. Duh.
Jonathan, I don't think you went far enough here. The "government waste" argument also stipulates that eliminating government waste would eliminate budget deficits.

People come up with tiny examples of what they consider waste (e.g. @4, @7), and assume that other, small examples would solve budget problems.

I don't think there's a similar tool for Washington State, but I always like to point these folks to http://crfb.org/stabilizethedebt/, and tell them "OK, you've eliminated the $100 billion that the conservative Heritage Foundation considers is in the federal budget. Now figure out the remaining $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and tax increases it'll take to stabilize the deficit at 60% of GDP. Just stabilize. Not pay off."
A government for the people, by the people will have all the people faults and failings. But it will also have the people's best interests at heart. And the people's capacity for making a more effective process for fulfilling a more just society's needs, not just walking away because of money.
@13 are you suggesting that the paint you use to paint the walls in your home will stick around on a surface that sees thousands of ton+ vehicles running over it every day? You'll be back every month repainting, driving your labor costs through the roof.

And you very much implied that the box wasn't necessary.

More important, $10,000? That's it? That's not even a rounding error, dude. That's like saying the state bought too many pencils one month.
City Light is self-supporting (not supported by tax dollars), contributes to the general fund, provides discount electricity to low-income people, and manages their dams in an environmentally friendly manner, yet their rates are still lower than PSE.

Seattle Public Utilities provides low-cost, high quality drinking water to the whole region, extends the same sort of low-income discounts, and manages a pristine watershed.

Both are almost completely unionized.
@13 - I saw them prep and paint that box. It's hardly "2 buckets of paint." It took several days to prep the street to take the new paint, and I guarantee that paint isn't cheap. They also created and installed some new signs, and had to have people directing traffic while they worked. This "hell, me and my buddies could have done that for $75" kind of argument is silly. $10,000 sounds like a lot out of context, and when you say things like "2 buckets of paint," but start adding up the real costs and see what you get.

And if this box saves the city from dealing with a single bike-car fatality, it's worth it, no?
@13: You're missing the point. The best example of "misspent" money was a $10,000 block of paint? If I'm not mistaken, Seattle's 2010 budget was around $3.9 billion. So your example of "misspent" funds amounts to .000003% of the city's budget.

Find enough misspent funds to substantially doubt the government's ability to be "trusted" with tax revenue, then we'll talk.
I never said the bike boxes were the best or only example of misspent funds. I was asked to find a clear example, and that was the first thing that came to mind. There are undoubtedly many, many more.

Don't get me wrong- I'm all for raising and maintaining taxes to fund social programs, transportation, et al. But just because I support those ventures, doesn't mean I have to put my head in the sand and pretend that none of the money we supply goes to waste.
@22 Glad you agree that taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.

That said, between myself and @19, you haven't even managed to convince this thread that this is an example of waste. Try again.
This is easy.

DSHS Children's Administration.

While it's not to say that everything they do is bad, or wasteful, considering the ongoing spattering of lawsuits against the State due to half-assed licensing of foster homes, or straight up ignoring frightening cases of child abuse, I'm hard-pressed to believe they're spending money wisely.

Of course, in the same breath, I would also point out that CA is currently, and has consistently been, massively underfunded, many potentially great foster homes can't be foster homes due to the unrealistic amount of assistance the State provides to foster parents, and that 200% caseloads make it difficult for even the most dedicated social workers to do their jobs correctly.

So I suppose it's really an area where these constant cuts to revenue have done more harm than good.

As for cites, just google:

Braam v. State of Washington
Tyler DeLeon
Summer Phelps
Jon Pomeroy and Rebecca Long
http://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/pubs/childsafe… (the fatality review section from CA)
You can’t prove an opinion like the nebulous term ‘wastefulness’. No doubt, each government expenditure can be argued to be beneficial to society. A better question to ask is: Is this a nice-to-have or a must-have?
nice smooth roads for government-hating, tax-hating E. Washington tax leeches.
Ironically, I was reading this post and this article pretty much simultaneously.

"The agency founded by Lopez wound up buying 25 of the abandoned buildings from the feds for a miniscule $10, property records show. And if that wasn’t enough of a deal, the feds threw in $24 million to pay to repair the dilapidated buildings."

Not relevant to WA, but certainly a little example of waste and corruption.
The biggie is unfunded pension liabilities. Local governments all over have consistently been overly generous while underfunding those liabilities in a glaring example of kicking the can down the road and letting the next guy fix the mess. Wasteful in that it promised things it can't pay knowing that eventually taxes will need to go way up.

See the report of the state actuary: http://osa.leg.wa.gov/Whats_New/Whats_ne…
@27 - new york is so goddamn corrupt it's not even funny. the director of that organization makes $650,000 a year? holy shit.

@24, do you actually know anything about how DSHS is run? Or anyone who works there?

Because I have several friends who work for the state in that capacity, and let me tell you - they're underfunded like you wouldn't believe, caseworkers have 3-4 times the "legal limit" of caseloads, most of them are working 60 hour workweeks on 40 hour pay...while this is all anecdotal evidence, I'm hard pressed to believe they're mismanaging any of the limited funds they have to work with. If cases of abuse appear to be "ignored", it's probably because a lot of home visits aren't being done. Why? NO MONEY. The sad fact is they don't have the manpower to run the department the way it should be run, and it's not because of money mismanagement. It's because of budget cuts.
@26 = Dick.
@30, thank you.
So not only do we have to show wasteful spending, it has to pass the arbitrary Golob sniff test.

saying "there is wasteful spending" is just as nebulous as saying, "you cannot prove there is wasteful spending." you can't really prove there is or isn't without knowing everything. sometimes wasteful is a salary, or time usage.

i do think, however, that when people say "wasteful spending" they mean both those things that fall into the inefficient (time management, high salaries, school admin, etc.) and the ineffective (wrong priorities, bike lanes, welfare, etc).

you cannot prove it, really, but neither can you disprove it. as mentioned above, there MUST be some waste, but is there too much? how would you even quantify it?
@22 The point everyone else is making that's flying right over your head is that the bike boxes *aren't* an example of misspent funds or government inefficiency. It's not just a guy with a roller and a couple buckets of house paint. It's high-grade paint applied using mechanical equipment that has to be transported to/from the work site, and that's not even mentioning the prep work that goes into painting asphalt. Hell, even if $10k is on the high end (which it isn't), @19 absolutely nails it in that it's significantly cheaper than dealing with even a single bike-car fatality.
@33: No, go right on ahead saying that the government spends wastefully without bothering to back up your claims with facts, and we'll go right on ignoring you.
@33 The burden of proof lies with the accuser.
#6 - No one is wondering what you're talking about, and no one cares. Go back to listening to Dori Munson and STFU.
I will personally pay Unpaid Commentator and his buddy $75 to try and paint a bike box that lasts.

Since when is light rail a state project?
Golob is absolutely right.
Government is wise and allknowing.
In fact, we should give them ALL our money to spend-
they are much wiser about these things than we....
How about anything in the state budget for "consulting fees"?
Unions are inherently wasteful. Government employees are unionized. Therefore government is wasteful. - Which is kind of like saying "my empirical evidence for the blithe, evidence-free claim that government is always wasteful consists of this other blithe, evidence-free cliche that I have no evidence for either. Punt, whine, change the subject.

Or the old "1% for the arts" argument, which is made by people who took the time to research all 4 words on a bumper sticker slogan and then jump to conclusions. 1% isn't actually 1% - it's .25 to .5, and it only applies to CERTAIN PORTIONS of CERTAIN CAPITAL PROJECTS and under SPECIFIC CONDITIONS. But, you'd have to have read 3 whole paragraphs of double-spaced typing to know that.

To the morons who think that bike boxes are made with "2 buckets of green paint:" First, that's not the extra green paint in your basement. It's formulated to work on asphalt and concrete, hold up to weather and heavy traffic, etc. Unless you'd prefer to spend money on a box that disappears in under a year - at least it'd be CHEAP! Second, it costs money to block off the street temporarily so the work can be done. And because of the moronic private citizens who have careened into thousands or road workers, making it one of the most dangerous jobs there is, we have to have cops or other folks there being highly visible so your cell-phone-jabbering ass will pay attention long enough to not kill somebody. And extra insurance. And certain kinds of bonding. Not to mention the number of past cell-phone jabbering, 5mph over the speed limit, no signaling, no yielding asses who SUED THE GOVERNMENT complaining that they didn't adequately warn you 4 miles ago that there might be 2 people in the street with paint and that they should start removing their head from their ass 5 minutes ago. If we don't like how expensive road work is, maybe we should all do some research on why a project like painting a box on the road has to be so expensive. Hint - IT'S BECAUSE OF US. If you want to remove all those protections, and just have 2 guys wander out there with a paint bucket, prepare for the accident and death rates to go up - drivers aren't getting any more attentive.

I could go on and on. Suffice to say that people who always complain about government wasting money want CHEAP government. Not good, not effective, not efficient. Just CHEAP. If you could make their candy bar 3 cents cheaper by dumping 1000 mentally disabled kids on their butts with no hope for the rest of their lives, they'd call it "efficiency" and praise the result.

This is mostly borne of the fact that 99% of the voting public has NO IDEA what their tax dollars pay for. They aren't part of the generation that SOLVED problems like public health, extreme poverty, and shared infrastructure by spending money on them. They're part of the generation that believes the problems magically fixed themselves. And don't ask them to actually read the history of these programs. They only like information that backs up what they already believe.
@42 - Wow... where to start.

You're a state. You need to build a road to some crappy new housing development that a genius private developer decided to put into a flood plain. You need to build it so it doesn't sink into the soft soil in the next big rain storm. So, you hire an outside geological survey company - a PRIVATE COMPANY - that has the expertise in this area. That's a "consulting fee." Sound wasteful? What's you're alternative? Hire a permanent employee who knows flood plain geology for one project and then fire them? Spend all that money on specialized survey equipment and then never use it again?

Here is the state, hiring a PRIVATE COMPANY - you know, one of those super-efficient private sector companies that participates in a competitive labor market to hire the right people, and buys their survey equipment from other private companies, and has an incentive to get the BEST DEAL on their trucks and hip waders and ground radar readings, etc. etc. ALL from OTHER PRIVATE COMPANIES - a private company to perform a super-specific task to support a single project of limited scope.

You know what that's called in the private sector? OUTSOURCING. And it is PRAISED as a cost saving measure.
nullbull for the win. Let these fucking teabagging cheapskates move to Paducah, KY, where the fire Dept. recently let a house burn down because the owner didn't pay the $75 fee they now have in lieu of evil taxes.
God I fucking hate the right wing.
@30 -

Perhaps you didn't read the entire bit I posted. I was being tongue in cheek on the "wasteful" bit, and saying that they don't spend nearly enough - low payments for foster parents, overworked staff, etc. etc. I know *a lot* about CA, and fully believe that our underfunding of the programs that are intended to protect children lead to more abuse cases, more deaths, and more money to lawsuits that should and could be going towards looking out for some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.

So calm down :-)
@31: prove it.
@46 - I'm talking about WA, what state are you talking about? Get your abbreviations right or get thee hence.

Sorry if I misunderstood your original post (sarcasm is one of those things that doesn't come across well over the interwebs), but I tend to get all HULK SMASH when I perceive people coming down on a seriously underfunded and vitally necessary state department.
@48 -

I'm talking about WA, as well. CA=Children's Administration, the division of DSHS that oversees foster care, adoption services and CPS. This is one of the areas I care immensely about and regularly bring up with my legislators issues surrounding foster care, CPS and CA as a whole. And it's all good, the programs need more fierce advocates for, considering how many people like to tear them down without offering any solutions.
I got nothin'. I freely admit that when I wrote that line I was actually a little worried that someone might call me out on it, because it was not really the point of my comment and I knew I didn't have the data to back it up.

I get frustrated at highly public boondoggles like 520 and the Viaduct replacement and overgeneralize. There ARE some seriously bad ideas around - That's pretty much par for the course in democratic government, isn't it? Sing me a song of monorails, robotic public toilets, and deep-bore tunnels. - but I couldn't tell you the first thing about how large of a proportion of state tax revenue those represent, or whether it's significant.

I'm sure I could go cherry-pick some data from recent history to "defend" myself, but that wouldn't be honest. It'd be post hoc rationalization. No such is offered.

Thanks, Golob. I should've stuck to what I know, and since you and I normally agree on most things, I'm glad that if somebody was going to smack me down, it was you.

Still, if you have some better information on the big picture about state revenues - instead of anecdotes about small programs like 1811 Eastlake, which is nice but nevertheless anecdotal - I hope you'll share. I see things like transportation money being poured into roads while the light rail languishes on a decades-long completion cycle, and the state in a very well-publicized budget hole, and it makes me wonder. It feeds the pessimism that led me astray in the first place.
I meant to add on the end there that if I really look at it, I don't know what I'm talking about, and I don't really know where to look to find out in a manner that's comprehensive, comprehensible, and reliable, so... yeah, I'm worried. That's probably what I should have said in the first place.
@44 In politics, it's called a kickback. It's cash to a crony, tucked into an earmark.

You described a surveyor's job, not a consultant's. Consultants are only required to produce a bill, not results.
Balderdash, this is a great place to get those facts you are looking for: A Citizen's Guide to the Washington State Budget. You can download it here: http://www.leg.wa.gov/Senate/Committees/…
Each bike box costs about $15,000 to install. The paint is actually an aggregate of crushed rock set in epoxy and costs about $10,000. It requires special skills to put down correctly, which results in $5,000 for labor, according to SDOT.

If they save one life it's worth it in my opinion.
Balderdash: sane criticism of government idiocy and waste is essential and it's natural for people frustrated by government dumbness to resent paying taxes. But the result of tax-bashing is state governments with no money and the needed services they provide in crisis. If you're in a high tax bracket you're well-positioned to protect yourself against such problems. If you're not, you're fucked. It's no good. People need to stop tax-bashing.

Washington State Ferries. I believe there was a recent series on it put on by one of the local news affiliates. You might have heard a little something about it.

Look for the record, I'm not some tax-hating libertarian wannabe: my opinion is that taxes are neither good nor bad, they're just the way that government pays for the things we ask them to pay for. But we as citizens do need to insist on a bit of accountability now and again.

If you think that WSF is the ONLY agency in the state that is inefficient, you're deluding yourself. Here, I'll give you another example. WSDOT has a bunch of marine structures that they have to inspect periodically (floating bridges and all that). In the past, they would hire private sector operators to complete these inspections - these operators would provide the boats, divers, etc. This is an efficient approach, as the state only needs these things for a small portion of the year in any given year. Recently, the DOT decided to buy their own boat and hire their own divers (full time employees, don't you know). Now, we get to pay a team of divers FT wages and all that go with it (yay pension liabilities!) to do part time work. That is what is called wasted tax dollars.

Refute it.
Each bike box costs 1/10,000th of the amount we waste in tax subsidies for single-passenger cars using the same amount of roadway.

In other words, bike boxes are a bargain.

Still waiting.

Here's another one: leading up to 2007, WSDOT, which was already staffed beyond needs, began adding more engineers, planners, and such in anticipation of passage of the 2007 RTID measure. Oops, RTID failed. So, did WSDOT immediately begin cutting staff? Um, no.

In fact, as we're now approaching three years into the decline of the WSDOT program, the DOT has yet to reduce staff by one single position. Sure, they've allowed some empty positions to remain unfilled, but they've yet to actively reduce staff at all. By contrast, private sector companies have cut 25-30%. During this time, the state has cut teachers and social services, but apparently highway engineers are untouchable.

At a recent industry event, the Secretary of Transportation, Paula Hammond, admitted that the DOT is overstaffed by about 400 people.

400 people.

Let it sink in.

400 people.

Does that qualify as waste to you?
@31 = Agree.
This whole bike box debate is soooo last July...