The squandering of public money

MIAMI — We residents of Miami-Dade County usually have a vague impression that our tax money is not always utilized properly. It is a realistic suspicion, based partly on accusations that we hear as rumors. But, because we remain chained to the daily pressures and challenges of our complicated lives, we do not have much time to question that phenomenon.

Often, the most illicit deeds in the political world take place under our very noses or in full daylight. Politicians expect that we won’t find out. I suppose that’s due to the arrogance that our political representatives develop once they read the records of their predecessors.

The truth is that the cases that do come to light involve petty thieves who didn’t know how to carry out their greedy plots. Also, with time, politicians become more comfortable, get fat, become lazy and steal more brazenly.

Of course, they never grow sedentary when it comes to misspending our tax money. That’s a bipartisan sport played in the feudal manner. It will never be out of style or stop being unisex, because our puny laws still don’t regulate wastefulness effectively.

Nowadays, the name of former Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina resurfaces in the headlines. He and his wife (who allegedly has much experience in accounting) were charged with tax evasion. There is talk about some money they tried to hide, but I suppose that it’s difficult to hide or erase the tracks of $2 million. All the more when you’re a public figure in a political post.

Prosecutors stressed the $800,000 that the couple accepted as payment from a building promoter for the persuasive efforts of the former mayor. Robaina had to convince the mayor of nearby Hialeah Gardens to accept some construction projects.

[Editor’s Note: The Robainas were found not guilty of all counts this week in a Miami-Dade court. The verdict seemed to surprise most everyone – except the Robainas…]

I must mention that, by coincidence, the city of Hialeah Gardens is engaged in multiple and elaborate construction projects. The city promotes itself as “a safe place to raise your family,” but I wonder sometimes if any citizens worry or not about the public debt.

The ostentatious and lavishly decorated public buildings, the never-ending public works and the gardens (worthy of Versailles) are expensive to the taxpayer.

Even the legendary Italian mafiosi and the Russian oligarchs knew that they should pay taxes. Taxes are not optional, transitory or debatable, no matter what the rebellious Libertarians say. Further, knowing that our society wouldn’t function if it weren’t for our tax money, paying it — though it sometimes hurts — is an honorable responsibility for all.

But — and here comes the “but” — what happens when our elected leaders find themselves alone with the power and the opportunity to appropriate, sack and plunder the public treasury?

Here in Florida, there are many projects that, accompanied by some justifying speech, are approved for funding. All you need is imagination and know the traditional accounting tricks.

In addition, these political gluttons perfect the ability to lie so they can deceive Washington into contributing some federal money. The citizens of Florida are not the only victims.

When we speak of the squandering of other people’s money, we need to cite some exemplary incidents. We cannot forget, for example, the famous $1-million “sidewalk to nowhere.”* That one made the headlines but there are multiple examples of sidewalks dispersed throughout isolated fields and remote spaces, where they have no function and are never stepped upon by human feet.

The more radical Republicans brand social aid as the heaviest burden for the taxpayers’ money. Apparently they think it’s more logical to waste public money on NASA’s infinite and fantastic whims than enable poor families to put food on the table.

In fact, in addition to denigrating the hard-working poor people (whose money pays for their salaries, after all) they say their wasteful projects are “austerity measures.”

Like that proposal to occasionally test anyone who requests food stamps to see if they’re drug addicts. That was another project that, instead of saving public money, ended up costing the state of Florida $118,140 and the federal government $45,780.

If we unroll the long list of waste of public money, this article would use up several gigabytes of memory in Progreso Weekly’s website. And I haven’t even mentioned the millions of our dollars that are constantly misspent beyond the borders of this country.

Expansionist projects that, after syphoning millions of dollars a year from Congress, have never produced any results. Does anyone honestly believe that TV Martí can someday uproot the Cuban model?

You know it, I know it, and someday many will have to admit it, if only in their hearts — all that the people at TV Martí want is easy money from the taxpayer.

Knowing the awful ways in which our tax money is sometimes used, I think I know why people like Julio Robaina are not thrilled about paying their taxes.

*The $1 million sidewalk can be found in Indian River County, north of Palm Beach. It extends 2.5 miles through an industrial zone. It was intended to give children a safer path to school. The fact is that it goes nowhere.