Monday, October 17, 2011

Taxpayers Were Victims Too

The Cobell lawsuit and case is worthy of a book-length treatment. I hope someone is working on one. But here's the takeaway for me. The $3.4 billion settlement was probably excessive, since most of it will be pocketed by the sharks, but the obscene mismanagement of Indian trust funds by Uncle Sam was an injustice that required redress.

Yes, American Indians were the primary victims. And Elouise Cobell is a hero for becoming the human face of the long fight for justice. But taxpayers were screwed, too -- since it's another price we all must pay for federal bureaucratic bumbling. These payments ought not to come from the general fund, but from the Department of Interior's budget, since that's where the responsibility for this sad episode lies.

It really wasn't so much the result of anti-Indian maliciousness, as it was bureaucratic indifference and incompetence. But it's also fair to wonder whether enough of the latter at some point amounts to the former.

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