When it comes to misuse of taxpayer dollars, beyond the “Big Picture” we find the devilish details.
By R. M. Spence
When surveying the current condition in which the United States of America finds itself today and especially the way this condition is portrayed or “Explained,” in the mass media, I am often reminded that we Americans tend to look at the “Big Picture,” and aren’t too often bothered with details. Evidence for this fact is often mentioned in passing by the way of documentary films explaining that often our legislators don’t read the bills they are voting on in Congress, or television interviews showing our national leaders explaining away complex problems by ducking and weaving out of the question or providing a patten non-answer. But as a nation, I believe it is time once again for us to be reminded that in fact, the devil is most certainly in the details.
I chose to name this article, “The Purple Economy,” to illustrate just how far we haven’t come as a nation in the last 100 years. Throughout the first 30 or so years of the Twentieth Century, a group of hardened criminals under the moniker of “The Purple Gang,” pillaged their way through the mid-west of America with crimes such as bootlegging, extortion, money laundering, and murder in their tool belt. The Purple Gang ultimately joined the wider syndicate of organized crime and worked with such infamous individuals as Al Capone to help establish dominance in the American underworld of the time.
I would argue that we see the exact same type of an organized effort today by our lawmakers who, to give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps naively join forces with individuals, corporations, and causes, which draw from the same tool belt as the purple gang, except now, money laundering is called “Foreign Aid,” or perhaps “Earmarks,” and extortion goes by several names, such as “Special Fees,” “Campaign Contributions,” and “Capital Donations,” and the victims here are the American Taxpayers. Finally, our modern day Purple Gang isn’t notorious criminals on the run from the law but rather both Democrats (Blue) and Republicans (Red) who collaborate to line each other’s pockets as well as those of their benefactors. In this series of articles, I intend to outline just a few of the ways in which these, in my opinion, crimes are committed right under the nose of the American Taxpayers, by-passing oversight by any honest law enforcement that may yet still exist in the United States, and crimes which you will never hear about on any mass media outlet.
The first and most obvious way to get away with putting American Taxpayer dollars into your pockets is to funnel that money via legal methods out of the United States. The truth of the matter is that once taxpayer dollars leave our shores, there is little oversight that happens. This is often due to less sinister reasons such as lack of manpower to provide the needed management of funds, or the unwillingness of civil servants to actually do their job, especially those civil servants who operate under the umbrella of Foreign Service, in the less-glamorous positions. We could begin by talking about foreign aid, but I will save that for a later time. Instead, let’s talk about one of the pet projects of certain congressmen and congresswomen who proudly embrace their efforts under the moniker of “Education,” but are really, simply laundering money.
American Embassies are often rather large facilities with large amounts of staffing needs. As you will understand, American employees of these Embassies, either contractor or civil servant, most often serve multi-year deployments, and if the environment is safe, they want to be with their families. Therefore, Embassies often become hubs of Americana supporting employees and spouses, along with children and all of the amenities of home that are possible. One of those amenities is the responsibility of educating the children of American employees. At most posts, this is accomplished through an organization established in the local economy, running what are called “Anglo-American Schools.” The idea here is to provide an American curriculum so that once a student returns or travels to the United States, they integrate into their local schools seamlessly, rather than falling behind. If possible (and when time permits), perhaps the students will also be introduced to the language and customs of the host country, to promote the outreach efforts of the American-based school system and to make the locals seem “Less Foreign ”
However, all isn’t what it seems once the layers of this onion begin to be peeled away. You see, most Anglo-American schools are seen as merely extensions of the diplomatic efforts of the Embassy of the United States. After all, if the parents of a non-native English Speaking student with passable language comprehension wished for their child to study at an Anglo-American School, their child is welcomed, and surrounded by American kids who form relationships with each other. This might be called diplomacy at its most elementary level (excuse the term). Here, we might also point out that in the larger capital cities where greater populations of native English-speaking children exist, the Anglo-American schools become shared resources between the American Embassy and other Embassies of Native English Speaking countries, such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom . Therefore, most Anglo-American schools are fully funded programs of the State Department, and taxpayers of the United States (as well as those of other English-speaking countries) pay to build and maintain the school facilities, pay the salaries and benefits of the faculty and staff (which often include housing, per diem, and all associated travel costs), and provide funding for various meal programs.
I believe that I speak for most people when I say that I understand the need for this, and agree that this is all well and good… that is, until we start to see the costs associated with sending your child to one of these schools.
For the purposes of this article I personally contacted one of the largest Anglo-American Schools in Europe and spoke with the admissions personnel. Per child, the school requires $22,500.00 in cash up front. Additionally, you are required to pay a $10,000.00 “Capital Donation,” though no one could actually explain to me what that is for. These amounts do not cover the following; meals, uniforms (if required), “sitting fees” and costs associated with exams, text books, and transportation to and from the school. I was told that on average, I should expect to pay approximately $50,000.00 per year for the first child. If I were to enroll more than one child, then every child after the first receives a twenty percent discount. Additionally, all this money must be paid up front, before your child enters the school for the first time.
Obviously, I wondered why the fees for enrollment in an Anglo-American school were so high. After all, the school is 100% subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer, leaving the school with absolutely no costs associated with operations other than incidentals. The school I interviewed indicated that these are only the fees for Elementary school children; as students reach the higher grade levels, the fees increase proportionately. Also, I inquired about the number of students currently enrolled, and was told that they currently have approximately 700 students attending class. You do the math!
Finally, I wondered if everyone was required to pay these fees, or if these costs only applied to non-diplomatic children. No, it turns out everyone is required to pay these fees; however, when a diplomat or a civil servant enrolls their child, he or she may remain unaware of these costs, since all such fees are paid (without question) by the State Department. Even when severely underestimating the numbers, this means that the school I contacted takes in approximately $35 million dollars per year in fees, most of which I have found are paid by the United States Government (using your taxpayer dollars). Incidentally, I discovered that there are 22 similar schools in this geographical region, all run by the same organization. An organization that is the sub-corporation of another corporation… I could go on here ad nauseum, but even with all my research skill and the aid of an International Corporate Finance Attorney, we still couldn’t find exactly where this money goes, and might suffer becoming lost in the maze of corporate shell companies.
Once again, I would like reiterate that your taxpayer dollars are funding these schools 100% in the first place; then they are paid outrageous sums to educate your child by the same organization—the U.S. Government—that was their source of funding from the start! I know that in the eyes of a politician, in the grand scheme of things $35 Million is nothing. But consider $35 million multiplied 22 times (and not to mention the other schools in this organization throughout the other parts of the world). Then add the taxpayer funding of the school itself; now you’re talking some real cash.
My intent here is to use this single example of taxpayer “fleecing” to outline what is merely the tip of the iceberg, so far as funding programs and wasteful spending that you nor I may never have heard of, and will never hear being discussed in the halls of Congress or by your favorite media pundit. Therefore, in future articles in this series, I will attempt to acquaint you with even more ways that your government is wasting your money, and show that America is in an even bigger mess than we are being led to believe. While the more typical instances of “lining the pockets of bankers with gold” and the like do exist, there are a lot of others who also seek to enrich themselves off of the money you pay in taxes.
When it comes to the various forms of organized money laundering that occur in government today, the opening line of Bon Jovi’s hit “Wanted Dead or Alive” comes to mind, which reads as follows: “Its all the same, only the names have changed.” The original members of the Purple Gang would be proud.
1) Taken from the actual brochure of an Anglo-American School in Eastern Europe.
2) In most capitals I researched, however, the British Embassy runs its own schools, due to the differences in the educational systems between the U.S and the U.K.
Photo by Terri Swallow via Flickr.