Friday, February 5, 2010

Penny Ante Scandal in British Politics

The Washington Times is running an Associated Press story today about a political scandal in Britain over excessive expensive claims made by members of the House of Commons, a scandal that I find noteworthy only for the piddling amounts of money involved.

An inquiry into a scandal that tarnished British politics found Thursday more than half of the House of Commons made excessive or bogus expense claims worth more than [note: insert Dr. Evil voice here] $1 million.

In a report that party leaders hope will draw a line under the furor ahead of a national election, auditor Thomas Legg said 392 of 752 current and former legislators he investigated - including Prime Minister Gordon Brown - must repay a total of $1.7 million.

So the bottom line is that 392 British legislators, over several years, dipped into the public till for a total score of $1.7 million? That amount would barely be a U.S. Senator's lunch money. Indeed, the AP story notes for comparison that:

While House of Commons lawmakers claim an average of $223,000 a year in expense payments, the U.S. Congress allots each House and Senate office between $1.4 million and $1.9 million to cover expenses.

Since British office holders are such a bargain compared to their U.S. counterparts, maybe we should outsource for Congressmen the same way our IT industry brings over Indian and Chinese employees? Is there such a thing as an H1-P (Politician) visa? They speak English better than the average H1-B visa-holder, they would be much more likely to integrate into our society, and they wouldn't put any Americans out of work except for a few hundred people who would be more productively employed outside of Capitol Hill anyway. What's not to like about that?

But we don't need to bring over their auditors. According to the AP story, Mr. Legg's official inquiry cost about $1.8 million. In return for that cost, the British taxpayer will get reimbursement for only $1.7 million in improper expenses. A net loss! The British taxpayers should demand a second official inquiry into the cost-benefit practices of the first official inquiry.

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