Government Failures in Oversight Appalling

With a number of recent reports documenting federal agencies' failures, Daniel Schorr decries government laxity, saying he's never seen "such deep-rooted negligence."

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

On this tax day, The Washington Post tells the story of an IRS program that uses private agencies to track down tax offenders. Critics want to do away with the program and the headline explains why: Collectors cost IRS more than they raise.

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says, this is just another example of a government agency that's not doing its job.

DANIEL SCHORR: Each day seems to bring us new news of our government's failure to govern. The Internal Revenue Service as revealed by The Washington Post to be losing more than $37 million by outsourcing delinquent debt collection to private companies. These companies pocket up to 24 percent in commissions on what they bring in.

Last month, it was revealed that the Federal Aviation Administration let Southwest Airlines fly some BOEING 737 planes even though they skipped mandatory checks for fuselage cracking. The Department of Transportation's inspector general said the FAA and the airlines had a collaborative relationship.

And by the time the dust had settled on a series of hazy inspections, more than 3,000 flights on American Airlines alone had been cancelled thanks to the cozy relationship between a regulatory agency and the airlines that it's supposed to regulate.

When Housing secretary Alphonso Jackson resigned last month, it was reported that two years ago he had failed to heed warnings of an eminent housing market collapse, insisting that the mounting wave of mortgage failures was nothing more than a short-term correction. He is still being investigated on allegations that he directed housing contracts to friends and political allies.

With home foreclosures running at about 20,000 a week, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, Congress is wrestling with legislation to provide some kind of relief.

The Food and Drug Administration repeatedly comes under attack in Congress for its failure to regulate. The latest issue involves contaminated Chinese-made heparin, a blood-thinner. The FDA discovered the problem only after dozens of people became sick or died.

A Senate report last year revealed a scandal in the student loan industry involving payoffs to college financial aid officers in return for promoting specific lenders. Not in the half century that I have observed government in action had I seen such deep-rooted negligence in fulfilling the responsibility of governing.

This is Daniel Schorr.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And this is NPR, National Public Radio.

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