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Valentine: Secret corporation part of government cover-up

Friday, August 27, 2010

There's a government agency called the Millennium Challenge Corporation. I know, it sounds like, well, a corporation, not a government agency. Maybe that's on purpose. The mission statement of the Millennium Challenge Corporation is to provide large-scale grants to select countries in order to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty. One of the prime objectives is to ostensibly ensure that foreign aid is not going to corrupt governments.

However, MCC has given millions, perhaps billions, of dollars to countries identified by our State Department as less than on the up-and-up, according to a report by the Washington Times.

One must question why in the world we would be spending billions of dollars of tax money to reduce poverty and stimulate growth in other countries when we have multiple problems on those fronts in our own country. But the really troubling aspect of this is there's no MCC-type organization overseeing aid distributed within our own borders.

For example, the state of California is in dire straits. Los Angeles is swimming in red ink. While the LA school district is $640 million in the hole, the city has just unveiled a $578 million school. Yes, one school that cost $578 million. At a time when the city is screaming for a bailout this is the costliest school in the history of America.

In predictable liberal form, proponents of this boondoggle are quick to point out that the school is being paid for through bonds. Like that makes it okay. In other words, they're not paying cash; they put this one on the credit card which will have to be paid back with interest.

The Robert F. Kennedy school is built on the site of the old Ambassador Hotel where RFK was assassinated in 1968. This school boasts a manicured public park, fine arts murals, a state-of-the-art swimming pool and talking benches. Yes, talking benches.

This monument to Left Coast excess and historic disregard for fiscal responsibility is actually being celebrated while the school system is dragged down by a 35 percent drop-out rate. Of course, I'm sure a gigantic marble memorial of RFK will fix that.

LA isn't alone. Were they just wasting their own money then it would be between the school system and its citizens but this school system, and thousands like it across the country, take federal money. That money belongs to all of us and we should all be united in our outrage.

Fiscal abuse like this is taking place all across the country. If the recession has taught us anything it's that there's never a good time to waste money. My grandmother used to save the unused coffee from the coffee pot, wrap the top of the container with plastic wrap and store it away in the refrigerator for the next day. I used to shake my head at such frugality.

Perhaps saving coffee is a bit much but my grandmother lived through the Great Depression. She understood how fleeting resources are. She lived through bread lines and unemployment lines. She knew all too well that everything she had worked for could be lost in an instant.

We would do well to learn these valuable lessons of our own history. That starts with making sure our governments -- local, state and federal -- live within their means. Conspicuous consumption is not only the fare of individuals. Governments can be just as guilty of squandering the resources given them. It's up to us as citizens to hold them accountable.

We have the Millennium Challenge Corporation keeping an eye on corrupt governments overseas. Who's watching what our own governments are doing?

Phil Valentine is an author and syndicated radio talk show host. His website is PhilValentine.com.