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    This is a stick-up

    The “Fork it over!” scam (nee the “It’s me!” scam) is apparently still going, though it’s been around for a half-decade at this point and one would have hoped that almost everyone would be on the alert. The Nikkei reports, though, that the amount defrauded in January was the lowest recorded:

    On 10 February, the National Police Agency announced that confirmed cases of the “Make the deposit!” fraud numbered 810 in January, with total takings of ¥983 million, both the lowest figures since July 2004, when monthly statistics were first compiled.

    The breakdown of the cases was as follows: 342 incidents and ¥596 million for the “It’s me” scam, 223 incidents and ¥228 million for the fraudulent billing scam, 200 incidents and ¥125 million for the financing/insurance scam, 45 incidents and ¥2.8 million for the [tax] refund scam. There were 64 suspects related to 287 cases apprehended, for an arrest rate of 35.4%.

    It’s become more common for perpetrators to skip asking for a bank transfer and just show up at the houses of victims, disguised as motorbike couriers, asking for the cash.

    I know what you’re thinking: Japan is so hip, modern, and cool! Isn’t there any way we Yanks could get in on that whole racy, danger-boy thing of letting people who want money they don’t deserve find clever ways to get it from those who earned it?

    The answer is “You’d better believe it!” NRO had a useful breakdown of some of the proposed beneficiaries of this latest spending spree (as passed by the House), which is enough to make you wish the booty were all going to thugs disguised as bike couriers instead. The saddest part of the NRO piece is in the middle, where the much-tried authors can no longer even pretend to categorize the outlays as honest attempts at stimulus and just group some under “Pure Pork”:

    The problem with trying to spend $1 trillion quickly is that you end up wasting a lot of it. Take, for instance, the proposed $4.5 billion addition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget. Not only does this effectively double the Corps’ budget overnight, but it adds to the Corps’ $3.2 billion unobligated balance—money that has been appropriated, but that the Corps has not yet figured out how to spend. Keep in mind, this is an agency that is often criticized for wasting taxpayers’ money. “They cannot spend that money wisely,” says Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “I don’t even think they can spend that much money unwisely.”

    Speaking of spending money unwisely, the stimulus bill adds another $850 million for Amtrak, the railroad that can’t turn a profit. [Sean sobs quietly.] There’s also $1.7 billion for “critical deferred maintenance needs” in the National Park System, and $55 million for the preservation of historic landmarks. Also, the U.S. Coast Guard needs $87 million for a polar icebreaking ship–maybe global warming isn’t working fast enough.

    It should come as no surprise that rural communities–those parts of the nation that were hardest hit by rampant real-estate speculation and the collapse of the investment–banking industry–are in dire need of an additional $7.6 billion for “advancement programs.” Congress passed a $300 billion farm bill last year, but apparently that wasn’t enough. This bill provides additional subsidies for farmers, including $150 million for producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish.

    It is not clear to me how any of this represents a break with the profligacy of the Bush administration, or how it represents the learning and internalization of the lessons Japan taught us during its Lost Decade.

    Of course, the most infuriating part was the line “The federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life,” which, as a response to doubts that Washington should be playing Mr. Fix-it, begs the question something fierce. You’d think that government-as-resource-suck was a fact of nature–you know…birdies fly, crickets chirp, cheetahs tear apart gazelles with their sharp teeth and pointy claws, and money flows to D.C.

    Added after a cup of tea: Nick Gillespie at Reason.com:

    It is far from clear what the hell Schumer could possibly mean when he says we have to stop continuing the very policies that got us in such a pickle. Like what? Too much government spending? Too much government subsidy of the housing market? Too much consumer spending? Isn’t this thing specificially designed to get all of that moving again? How about letting housing values actually sink down to where they might actually deserve to be? How about letting Fed rates drift up from 0 percent for a quarter or three? How about simply cutting taxes across the board, accompanied by spending cuts?

    That said, Republicans, especially in the Senate, don’t have any credibility on fiscal issues. They did nothing but break the bank when they actually ran the government and they did next to nothing when George W. Bush and Twitchy Paulson rolled out the bailout barrel last fall.

    Tragically, the scene from North Avenue Irregulars in which one of the women, having hidden a tape recorder in her bra to entrap the crooks, accidentally starts playing “The Beer Barrel Polka” doesn’t seem to be on YouTube. It does have Cloris Leachman taking revenge for her broken nails, though.

    2 Responses to “This is a stick-up”

    1. Connie says:

      It drives me crazy that people STILL keep saying that the Republicans had a majority and caused the spending crisis, when that is WRONG.

      As the voting on the stimulus bill has shown, there are a number of RINOs in the mix. In addition, even with 50 seats, it isn’t enough to overcome the filibuster rules, requiring 60 seats.

      The ONLY way that Republicans could pass anything was to compromise, and compromise radically. Democrats used the filibuster to block anything and everything that would have been a cost saving measure.

      More importantly, however, is the fact that entitlement spending rose and will continue to rise, as more people begin collecting social security. Without increasing the discretionary budget of the government by one penny, spending will rise, and did rise.

      Bush’s platform included a reform of social security and privatizing it, but the reality is that there were not enough Republicans in Congress to get around the filibuster. The Democrats BLOCKED any reduction in spending and that is the truth that the lies of “Republican Majority” always obfuscate.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Connie, I get what you’re saying, but I think the failed social security privatization does have to weighed against, for example, the prescription drug benefit (new) and the farm and highway bills (continued). And re. the budget in general, the GOP had expended a lot of energy trying to build a machine–in part because of SS itself–and that means palms to grease. You have to pay if you want people to continue to play. SS privatization would have been a good thing, I agree. And I think most non-RINO Republicans really do want government reach and spending to contract. But the Republican majority, or at least those steering the party, didn’t really make the greatest case that they were operating on principle.

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