Muzzling the Watchdog

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The opposition party in Congress is concerned with the top choice of the majority party to head the fairly independent congressional research arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Their qualms are not unfounded.

“President Obama has a choice to make,” Rep. Darrell Issa of California, a GAO selection panel member and the senior Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee stated. “He can either follow the unfortunate and partisan path put forward by congressional Democrats and nominate an ideologue like Linda Bilmes or he can uphold GAO’s appropriate role as a nonpartisan and neutral broker.”

“At the end of the day, the politicization of the GAO will be met with hostility and will not withstand Senate confirmation.”

“My response is the issues I worked on, which included issues related to the federal debt and deficit and human resource situation in government and the cost of the Iraq war and the pension situation at the state and local level, are really issues that affect everyone,” the lady herself told The Washington Times. “I really don’t think they are partisan issues.”

“I don’t see this as a partisan job.” Currently a Harvard professor, Dr. Bilmes served in the Clinton Administration.

“I certainly would not be partisan,” she told the Times. “I think I have hundreds and hundreds of students who are Republicans, Democrats and independents who would, and do, vouch for my nonpartisanship.”

Actually, no student reviews of Dr. Bilmes appear on Nevertheless, Accuracy in Academia has both critiqued a book she co-authored and covered her.

Of the former, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraqi Conflict, Rachel Paulk noted that “The authors’ interpretations of the macroeconomic effects of the war vary in dubiousness by topic.”

“Their discussion on the war’s effect on oil prices and their resulting calculations are thoughtful,” she wrote.  “However, the authors’ assertion of the war as a causal factor in the sub-prime mortgage crisis is tenuous at best.”

Indeed, the source of the “dubiousness” may well have been Bilmes co-author, Columbia’s Joseph E. Stiglitz, also a Clinton Administration alum. As for Bilmes, she combines a concern for the elderly and children with a belief that their problems can best be solved by government programs.

Conversely, she wanted to see “transparency in the Pentagon budget.” “We need a mini-Sarbanes-Oxley in the Pentagon,” she advised. Securities traders say Sarb-Ox reporting requirements have led to a drying up of investment capital.

Moreover, America’s enemies may relish the thought of such a “transparent” U. S. Department of Defense. Additionally, Bilmes saw side effects of previous wars that might prove illusory.

“Unlike other wars, this has not stimulated the economy,” she avers. Economists might argue that in past conflicts the war effort replaced or displaced the economy rather than stimulating it.

Nevertheless, she made some interesting observations. “The cost of caring for our injured is much higher in this war than in previous wars because there are more survivors,” she said at the Center for American Progress. “That’s a tribute to the work of the surgeons.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.


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