President Obama, and many other others, have pointed out that those saying we can balance the budget solely by eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse” are taking a phony approach to fiscal discipline.  However, that doesn’t mean that “waste, fraud and abuse” doesn’t exist — a fact proven by yesterday’s Washington Post piece on spending by HUD on community housing projects.

The Post story found that in recent years more than $400 million in HUD money has been spent on stalled or abandoned projects.  In some cases, money was loaned and projects never got underway.  Many of the people to whom money was given had no experience in construction or had questionable qualifications for getting the federal booty.  The overall picture painted by the article suggests that our tax dollars were spent with little concern for how they would actually be used, and then with little attention to how they were actually being spent.

I recognize that $400 million is only a tiny drop in our colossal deficit bucket — but $400 million is still a lot of money in my book, and the Post article looks at only one program administered by one agency.  What would we find if every federal program were subjected to similar scrutiny?

I’m not surprised by the waste found in the HUD housing efforts, nor am I surprised by the attitude reflected in the quotes from government officials who are involved in this poorly run program.  One person who manages HUD money says we need to reduce the risk by enacting “basic standards” — which suggests that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent without even “basic standards” that apply.  Could that possibly be true?  The Post quotes another government official, Mercedes Marquez, HUD’s assistant secretary for community planning and development, says “We can do better and we will.”  But why on Earth should we believe her?  Isn’t it safe to assume that every HUD official since that agency was formed has said pretty much the same thing?

This is an example of where governments and businesses diverge.  In any business, a division that failed to insist on basic accountability and frittered away $400 million would be shut down — period.  Why shouldn’t we take the same approach with this badly administered program?

Merci, Josette!

The outer door to our Parisian apartment

I’ve been back from Paris for a week, and the memories of our adventures are still fresh and enjoyable to revisit.  I had a wonderful time, from beginning to end.  A lot of it was spending time with Richard, and a lot of it was just being in Paris — but a lot of it also was the great place where we stayed.  For that, I must say:  Merci, Josette!  You were a fabulous hostess, and your apartment was just perfect.

I’ve turned in my VRBO evaluation for the apartment and it is a rave review, indeed.  It won’t be posted for 7 days, because the website carefully checks to make sure that reviews are factually based and written by people who actually stayed at the location.  I’ll try to remember to link to it once it appears.  In the meantime, if you are interested in seeing more about where Richard and I stayed, it is VRBO owner listing 223723.  I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to go to Paris, get out of the hotel rut, and get a taste of what it is like to actually live in a Parisian neighborhood.

Edited to add:  my review of Josette’s place is now available on-line.

Ron Springs

I was saddened to learn of the recent death of Ron Springs.  He was only 54, and he was one of the people who contributed greatly to the rich history and traditions of Ohio State football.

Ron Springs was more than just a former Ohio State football player, of course.  He had battled diabetes and its debilitating effects for years.  He gave us the inspiring story of his friendship with fellow Dallas Cowboy Everson Walls, who donated a kidney that saved Springs’ life after a transplant operation in 2007.  Their deep friendship, and Walls’ brave personal sacrifice to help his good friend, encouraged many people to consider organ donation.  Unfortunately, when Springs had an operation later in 2007, he slipped into a coma and never recovered.

Although there obviously was a lot more to Ron Springs than his connection to Ohio State, I will always remember him as one of the great Buckeye running backs during my college years.  He brought speed, toughness, and shiftiness to bear every time he carried the ball.  He also played a prominent role in one of the greatest games I ever saw in person — the 1977 matchup between Ohio State and Oklahoma that resulted in a deflating Ohio State loss on a last-second field goal — and scored a touchdown that helped to get the Buckeyes back into the game.

I hope that, in this time of loss, Ron Springs’ family is comforted by the fact that this was a man who touched many people in a very positive way and leaves many good memories in his wake.