After you've read through Jesse Walker's exclusive look at the much-hyped Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report of "sovereign citizens," check out my argument for disbanding DHS altogether. Created in the "mad crush of panic, paranoia, and patriotic pants-wetting after the 9/11 attacks," DHS oversees 22 agencies. It was a stupid idea from the beginning and it has continued to disappoint. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) regularly lists it as awful and ineffective at just about anything except wasting taxpayer dollars and surveys of federal employees document that even the Post Office has higher employee morale.
Absent legislative action, come Friday DHS will be unfunded due to an ongoing fight over Barack Obama's executive action regarding illegal immigration. The Republican Congress is threatening to pull funding for the whole department and the Dems are (so far) standing firm in their threat to shut down the government.
In my latest Daily Beast column, I argue that scrapping over this small corner of DHS activities misses the bigger picture insight that the whole cabinet-level departmet should be chucked "into the dustbin."
You'd figure Barack Obama would be sweating gravy over even a partial shutdown of DHS. Instead, last week he stressed not the "security" part of the department's functioning, but all the dollars its workers spend in a congressional district near you. After noting that most DHS employees would be working for IOUs during a funding freeze, he said: "These are folks, who if they don't have a paycheck, are not going to be able to spend that money in your states. It will have a direct impact on your economy." That's about as open an admission that federal employment is essentially a form of workfare as you're likely to hear. Only later in his comments did Obama get around to the idea that these same workers also, you know, keep us safe from the odd underwear bomber and all those undocumented Mexicans we hire to cook our food and clean our houses….
Even Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, couldn't muster much in the way of if-then fearmongering. Earlier this month, Johnson trotted out a parade of horribles that was about as scary as a late-night rerun of Plan 9 From Outer Space. Without uninterrupted funding, warned the secretary, some of the "government activities vital to homeland security and public safety" that might be affected included "new communications equipment for over 80 public safety agencies in the Los Angeles area to replace aging and incompatible radio systems," "fifteen mobile command centers for possible catastrophic incidents in the state of Kentucky," and "bomb squads in the state of Idaho." My God, where have our priorities as a nation gone? Come Friday, Pocatello is a sitting duck.
DHS is not only responsible for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), each of which needs a major ass-kicking and rebooting:
It only gets worse when you look at the sheer amount of junk DHS spends money on. The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), for instance, built 21 homes for agents in a remote part of Arizona. The price tag was $680,000 per house in a part of the country where the average home sold for less than $90,000. When the TSA isn't hiring defrocked, child-molesting priests…, it is shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars on radiation detectors for cargo containers that don't work and full-body airport scanners without bothering to "perform a cost-benefit analysis…before rolling them out nationwide."