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BBHQ Boomer Essays:

Contemplating Fraud

Our Boomer-In-Charge at BBHQ, Hershel Chicowitz, writes about boomer memories and current events... from a boomer’s perspective. He is sometimes funny, sometimes provocative, some-
times a little of each. We hope you get a kick out of our Boomer Essays.

When have you heard of federal government officials being punished as a result of fraud or gross misconduct which they fostered or allowed to perpetuate within the federal government? Give me half a dozen examples. Can’t, can you? And that’s my point. The federal government thinks that it knows better – that it can weed out and punish those in the private sector who commit fraud. The noble federal government to the rescue, punishing evil capitalism. But the greatest source of fraud in our society originates within the federal government, whose facilitators are seldom caught and virtually never punished.


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The free market system – capitalism – has taken some considerable hits in the national discussion recently. The left hates the free market system; they consider it to be unfair and evil. According to the left, the government must hold a heavy boot on neck of capitalism to make it fair. Better yet; they want to replace it with complete government control. Remember; it was Congresswoman Maxine Waters who threatened a government takeover of the oil industry.

How the left defines “fair”... well, that's another matter for another day. But the left often points to the level of fraud in the free marketplace as an indication of the failure of capitalism. And the media pumps up every story of corporate fraud. Capitalism: bad; government control: necessary and good. Tax it; regulate it; punish it; eliminate it. That's what left does. In spades.

Well sure; we all hate fraud... well, except for those perpetrating it. But let's concede, fraud is a bad thing. And for certain, it is out there...

But here’s the thing. The government and the free market system does eventually catch up with most of those people perpetuating fraud in the marketplace. Enron, Tyco, Worldcom, et. al. Eventually, they fall; hard and permanently.

What you do not hear about is the self-policing aspect of the free market system. Aside from what is reported in the press, behind the scenes, most of the big players in business know who is not playing fair. And they know that if they go along, eventually they will get caught... or swindled by the bad guys. Part of the reasoning is basic morality; part is simple self-interest. Nothing wrong with that. So, a lot of fraud is stopped or prevented by the free market system.

Slow Walkin’ Sam: What you also don’t hear about is how inefficient and incompetent the government is when it comes to identifying and stopping fraud.

Attorney General Eric Holder estimates $60 to $90 billion in fraud in Medicare and almost the same amount in Medicaid fraud — approaching 20 percent. (Remember, Madoff’s numbers were about $50 billion — over a 30-year period. That’s peanuts compared to Medicare and Medicaid fraud.)

While nowhere near as large as Medicare and Medicaid, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs are each estimated to be paying about 10 percent of their expenditures in fraudulent claims. Who is held accountable for that?

And I could go on, of course.

And on. And on. And on.

But let’s all agree that the level of fraud in the federal government is far greater than in the private sector. It’s mammoth, and terrible. How often do you hear that inconvenient truth reported?

A reasonable person has to ask, do our legislators and bureaucrats even care about the level of fraud in the federal government?

But that’s not even my point.

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