One of the encouraging recent trends on the evening newscasts is
the development of regular segments in which reporters explore how
the government often misspends taxpayers' money. As recent coverage
has demonstrated, NBC Nightly News' version, "The Fleecing of
America," has proven to be one of the best.
The July 10 "Fleecing of America" segment told viewers how the
Social Security Administration spends tax money for union
representatives who, as Tom Brokaw said, "do no work on Social
Security matters." According to correspondent Lisa Myers: "Taxpayers
are paying the salaries of 146 full-time employees who do not work
on Social Security matters and instead spend all of their time on
union activities," as well as another 1,800 who spend part of their
work time engaged in union tasks. Myers reported that "under
President Clinton, the cost of these union activities has doubled to
almost $13 million a year."
She interviewed former SSA employees who told of the union
workers' using their jobs, and therefore tax money, to promote the
Democratic Party, and confronted an SSA official about such partisan
ties. "This is not happening just at the Social Security
Administration," she concluded, "but in virtually every other
Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, for the August 7 segment, told
viewers about an "expensive new Medicare handbook, courtesy of the
U.S. Government." According to Mitchell: "The handbook is supposed
to describe Medicare benefits and where to get help, basic
information. It cost $2.1 million to distribute last year. But this
year, an election year, it cost nine times as much -- $18 million."
Mitchell pointed out that "critics wonder, was the chief reason
for this year's big cost increase politics." One of those critics,
Rep. Bill Thomas, (R-Calif.) said, "The primary goal was to create a
positive, warm feeling in an election year with taxpayers' dollars."
Mitchell pointed out that "a separate copy went to every American
over 65. That's 37 million copies," which went even to married
seniors whose spouses received a copy. She pointed out that, despite
the high cost, the handbook didn't even mention one of the new
programs Medicare recipients are eligible for and concluded that to
many, "it reads like another chapter in the fleecing of America."
Kudos to Myers, Mitchell, and NBC for holding government to the
same standards reporters have long held the private sector.