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The VA scandal shows problems cannot be fixed by throwing bags of tax money at broken bureaucracies

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When Big Government screws up, liberals reflexively claim insufficient funding is the problem.  If only the mega-State that already gobbles up a few trillion dollars a year, and tops it off by spending hundreds of billions of dollars it doesn’t have, was given some more of our money, we wouldn’t have these problems.  It’s really all the fault of those heartless Republican penny-pinchers!

You’ll recall this nonsense was attempted in the Benghazi scandal, even as State Department officials were testifying before Congress that insufficient funding for embassy security was not the reason Ambassador Chris Stevens was left vulnerable to the terrorist murderers Team Obama sought to portray as irate movie critics.  And of course it’s being attempted with the VA scandal.  Ed Morrissey at Hot Air tallied up some numbers from the Office of Management and Budget that make it pretty clear gross funding totals are not the problem with the Department of Veterans Affairs:

Since 9/11, the VA budget has increased by 235%, from FY2001′s $45 billion annual budget to FY2014′s $150.7 billion. On a percentage basis, the only Cabinet agencies that had larger budget increases over that arc have been State (271%) and Homeland Security (245%), the latter of which barely existed at the start of that period. In the Bush era, comparing the final budget with his signature (FY08) to the final Clinton budget (FY01), VA spending rose 88.3% to $84.7 billion. Defense spending rose 104% in the same period.

Barack Obama ran in 2007-8 on failures at the VA, promising more resources and better management. In comparison to that final Bush budget — don’t forget that Obama signed the FY2009 budget in March 2009 with the omnibus spending bill after a Democrat-controlled Congress refused to deal with Bush — VA spending has risen dramatically as well. The annual budget rose 78% in six budget cycles, with double-digit increases in four of the six years — while Defense spending was flat. No other Cabinet agency had a larger budget increase by percentage during Obama’s tenure. The closest was Agriculture (64%), followed by State (59%, which tends to discredit the canard about the Benghazi failure being caused by a lack of resources). Only HHS had a larger annual budget increase in terms of dollars spent, but it amounts to a 37% increase in spending from the FY2008 baseline. The amount of increase in the VA’s budget in the Obama era, $65.9 billion, exceeds the entire VA budget in the FY2004 budget.

This is clearly not a system that benefited greatly from an enormous increase in funding.  It was like pouring fresh wine into a cracked goblet.  And President Obama’s response to the scandal is to leave the entire system in place, inviting Secretary Shinseki to investigate himself, waiting for the system to cough up another self-diagnostic report.

There are many other Big Government failures that could be cited to demonstrate the folly of giving more money to a broken system; that’s really the over-arching story of Barack Obama’s Washington.  Every agency claims it needs more funding; the biggest Big Government in history, exercising a level of control unseen even during existential wars against deadly global adversaries, says it’s not big enough yet.  

One of the core principles to remember is that government grows through failure.  Of course every bureaucrat insists that when problems get worse on his watch, it just proves his agency is under-funded.  This tendency is especially acute under Barack Obama’s nobody-gets-fired, “I learn about my scandals by reading the news” approach.  

It’s remarkable to look at the total Obama experience, from his campaign through yesterday’s outrageous statement on the VA scandal, and realize his official position is that neither he, nor his beloved mega-government, has ever done anything wrong.  All of the President’s failures are someone else’s fault, and the system he presides over is perfect; he’s said repeatedly that he doesn’t think a single dime of his wild spending is unnecessary.  At worse, he’s grudgingly willing to concede that some of his impeccably well-meaning deputies might have done things differently, if they knew what the future held – that was the attitude on display when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius got to ride off into the sunset, after non-managing the greatest government disaster in history.  But there’s never an admission of inexcusable error, much less malfeasance, which is why nobody gets fired, including VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The rest of us can draw the opposite lesson from the Obama years: he’s proven beyond all question that his vision of government is irredeemably corrupt and incompetent, and none of its problems can be fixed by giving the same bunglers more money to spend.  The VA system needs a total systemic shake-up – really, it needs to be demolished – but that’s not what we’re likely to get, even assuming Obama’s delaying tactics don’t put the scandal to sleep.


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