Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Careless with Money, Careless with Language

Consider the following lead for a report from the belly of the beast of our nation's bureaucracy, filed by Associated Press Writers (yes, that is how they are identified on the byline; does that mean they are not reporters?) Frank Bass and Eileen Sullivan:

The Bush administration now acknowledges it is trying to recover nearly $500 million from people who improperly received federal aid money intended to help victims of two deadly hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, along the Gulf Coast two years ago. It said the amount may increase further.

"This is a moving target and not finite," said James McIntyre, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The government's newest estimate of improper aid represents $494 million FEMA paid to 134,000 people who were ineligible for the aid they received. More than half the money went to people who couldn't prove residency, according to FEMA figures. Overpayments and duplicate payments account for most of the remainder.

The amount had exceeded $500 million, but the agency wrote off nearly $27 million because of appeals or hardship waivers. The $500 million figure would represent nearly $1 of every $10 in government aid intended to help storm victims.

The news about the money is bad enough, but that turn of phrase by McIntyre just adds insult to injury. Does he really mean to assert that the amount of money misappropriated by FEMA is infinite? Given that the Federal Reserve does about as good a job as it can of making sure that there are never an infinite number of dollars in our currency system, we can safely assume that even the Katrina fiasco did not run up an infinite tab. No this is just another example of a bureaucrat trying to elevate his persona by elevating his language; and, consistent with just about every other Bush administration bureaucrat (including The Man himself) who opens his mouth to the press, the opposite effect always seems to ensue! It is not (as my Title may imply) that the careless handling of language is a symptom of the careless handling of finances (or, for that matter, vice versa). Rather, it is just that ours is a government that is careless in everything; and, like a muscle ache that only haunts us when it rains, we have become so used to the discomfort that we hardly notice it any more. Unfortunately, tolerating excessive carelessness in others is tantamount to an act of carelessness unto itself, whatever we may believe about loving our crooked neighbor with our crooked heart. If people get the government they deserve and ours is government of carelessness, what does that say about us?

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