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Thursday, November 20, 2008

One Thing Gavin Newsom and George W. Bush Have in Common

Posted By on Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 1:55 PM

By Benjamin Wachs

Hey boys and girls! It’s time to play “Name That Scandal!”

I’ll tell you the details of a spectacularly-failing government program, and you tell me which program it is and who’s responsible! Ready, set...go!

Today’s scandal:

• Spent massive amounts of public money without putting any kind of oversight structure in place to make sure the money was spent well, or even appropriately.

• Continuously changed the rationale of what the spending was supposed to do, and how it was supposed to accomplish it.

• The people in charge of overseeing the program (whoever they are …) have yet to be selected, despite all the money spent, and mandatory steps to keep the government and public informed about what’s going on have not been taken.

• For all the money spent, it’s hard to point to a single positive result.

Okay, time’s up! Have you figured out which scandal it is?

Those of you who guessed “San Francisco’s Communities of Opportunity program” are right – as I’ve documented here, that program spent $4 million (and counting) in grant money without any kind of oversight or review, has changed its focus repeatedly, and spent over half its budget on things like marketing and conferences that don’t even benefit the poor people it was formed to serve. In fact, there’s no evidence at all that, two years and $4 million along, the program’s helped people at all.

BUT, those of you who guessed “the federal bailout of the economy” are ALSO correct, according to this horrifying article from the Washington Post. Apparently, after spending $290 billion in tax dollars, the government still hasn’t appointed ANY full time staff to monitor the bailout and make sure the money is going where it’s supposed to.

Strangely, the economy has also not been fixed.

So -to be clear- throwing vast sums of money at a problem without holding anyone accountable for how the money’s spent goes BADLY.

Who ever would have guessed that Gavin Newsom and George W. Bush have the same management style?

The federal government, of course, is due for a change in leadership, and already a coalition of nonprofits have called for Barack Obama to impose tighter standards for the accountability of federal spending, making sure that programs that work are recognized quickly while programs that don’t are cut with equal speed.

Recent history aside, progressives don’t HAVE to be incompetent – they just seem to take joy in it – and so here’s hoping that San Francisco’s new Board of Supervisors will take a similar approach. Newsom’s a lost cause...the only time he's voluntarily followed through on anything was after dinner with Ruby Rippey-Tourk … but a harder line from the Supes on accountability really could keep George W. Bush style disasters from occurring in a city that abhors his politics but takes his management advice.

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Benjamin Wachs


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