Theft by bureaucrat

Keep this in mind the next time a bond issue comes up for a vote:

Cities and states across the country are using money designated for specific purposes—such as fixing roads or sewers—in order to fill financial holes elsewhere, according to public officials and records. The moves are exposing municipalities to controversy, as federal regulators and local auditors are more heavily scrutinizing their finances to protect bond buyers and taxpayers.

This isn’t exactly new. When voters pass a school bond, they usually do so under the impression that the school will hire more teachers or buy computers. But, as has increasingly been the case over the last three decades, the school districts are hiring employees with no teaching function, to such an extent that half of all public school employees now are not teachers.

The corruption in America is both endemic and structural. This was probably the most shocking thing I realized after moving to Europe, where the corruption is more readily recognized and apparent. It wasn’t that there was more corruption, but that it was only a different form of it.

The amusing thing is the notion, popular among bureaucrats, that it isn’t stealing if you put it back after you get caught. “The city is cooperating fully with the investigation,” said Ivan Harris, an attorney at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP who is representing Miami in the SEC matter. He said the city “stands by the accounting for the transfers” because some of the funds had been unused for their designated purposes and other funds were replaced.

I’m surprised more bank robbers don’t give that excuse a whirl.