After dumping $41.3 billion of Treasuries in October, China is no longer the largest holder of U.S. debt. At $1.12 trillion in December, that was the smallest amount in its portfolio since 2010.
Japan surged to No. 1 — with $1.132 trillion in Treasuries.
Don’t be surprised if China unloads even more Treasuries …
After all, President-elect Donald Trump declared China a currency manipulator. He has threatened to impose steep tariffs on Chinese imports and toss out the “One China” policy.
How is Washington managing those trillions the Chinese and Japanese have loaned us? Not too well. For a small sampling, let’s take a look at the IRS …
According to a Dec. 14 Senate Finance Committee report, the IRS spent more than $1.4 million on long-term travel expenses for just 27 employees in fiscal 2015. Those expenses included high-end car services and luxury apartment and hotel stays.
Five of them lived in hotels, primarily in Washington. None had their per diem rates reduced. Nor did they seek lower-cost housing, as outlined in federal guidelines.
For example, one employee spent 168 days at the Grand Hyatt in Washington.
Your cost: $38,799.
Another moved among several hotels in the Washington area before primarily residing at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Virginia.
Your cost: $72,544; $43,726 was for the Ritz.
Two rented more permanent housing during their travels. One rented a $1.07 million, four-bedroom townhouse in Arlington, Va., for a year.
Your cost: $59,400.
The other enjoyed a luxury apartment in Chicago with a view of the Chicago River for 11 months.
Your cost: $50,655.
The chairman of the Committee, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), blasted the IRS’ “woefully insufficient efforts” to reduce expenses at the agency.
Granted, $1.4 million doesn’t even qualify as chump change in Washington. Still, it’s a prime example of how your hard-earned tax dollars are treated … and a huge slap in the face to every taxpayer out there.
A haven for problem employees
You’re likely saying that those employees should be thrown in jail, or fired, or at least forced to pay back what was spent in excess. And Trump promised to slash federal waste by draining the swamp of those who squander your money or fall down on the job.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is already on the hit list for bungling Tea Party applications and misleading Congress.
Of course this isn’t the only time federal employees spent your money like there’s no end …
We wrote about the training session the General Service Administration held in Nevada. Attendees were treated to goodies such as $4 shrimp, $49 breakfasts, $58 lunches, $95 dinners, and $7 sushi rolls.
Your cost for the five-day shindig: $822,751.
And a few months later we told you how roughly 100,000 government workers had skipped out on more than $1 BILLION in income taxes. (Editor’s note: That amount has risen to $3.5 billion.)
But getting rid of career employees who are milking the system isn’t all that simple …
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the process for dismissing an employee after the one-year probationary period ends can be complex and lengthy.
You see, federal workers in the civil service system are hired through a merit system. They’re difficult to fire, and they carry over during administration changes — Republican or Democrat.
… an Obama administration political employee, who converts before the president leaves office, could be playing a role in the current presidential transition.
Another reason is that supervisors have legal concerns …
Those who take performance-based actions may need to be involved in providing depositions, witness statements, internal meetings, and meeting with attorneys and union representatives for an extended period of time where an employee seeks an avenue of redress concerning the performance-based action.
Supervisors may be concerned about appeals, grievances, or discrimination complaints if the topic of poor performance is broached.
And when it comes to political appointees who are about to get axed, like the IRS’ Koskinen, they can transition to career federal jobs.
This allows the outgoing presidential administration the ability to reward its allies by stacking agencies with politically-aligned people who will be less-inclined to help implement the new administration’s priorities.
That means an Obama administration political employee, who converts before the president leaves office, could be playing a role in the current presidential transition.
For example …
Obama appointed Gina Farrisee in September 2013 to serve in the political job of VA assistant human resources secretary. In May, she converted to the career civil service position of deputy chief of staff — a role she will maintain after Trump takes office.
How many will make the switch? No one knows! Not even the Office of Personnel Management, which has to approve such moves.
Related story: Do Unelected Officials Have Too Much Power?
Spokeswoman Laura Goulding said,
“It’s difficult to provide an accurate number of Obama administration employees who may be in the process of converting, since it changes by the day.”
Where does that leave Trump on ‘draining the swamp’?
Employees in the private sector are more likely to be fired or laid off than those working for the government, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Layoffs and discharges are involuntary separations initiated by the employer with no intent to rehire.
In fact, the layoff and discharge rate, which measures the number of those let go as a percentage of total employment, was 1.1% for those in the private sector in November 2016. This is nearly three times the 0.4% rate for employees in federal, state and local governments.
The BLS report revealed that over 1.6 million individuals were fired or laid off in the private sector in November 2016, compared to only about 91,000 individuals in government.
Those numbers aren’t in Trump’s favor.
On top of that, he’s vacillating on some of his campaign promises.
He dropped his threat to jail Hillary Clinton
He appears to have softened his stand to ship more than 700,000 young illegal immigrants back to where they came from
His team is considering a fence instead of the “big, beautiful wall” along our southern border
So will the President-elect try to make good on his “drain the swamp” slogan?
We wish him the best of luck on that one …
Because he may find that when he barks, “You’re fired!” … he’ll be up to his neck in the swamp surrounded by unfriendly career alligators who aren’t going anywhere.
The Sound Dollar Campaign