Watchdog group: Depth of Bush failures surprised even us
Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday December 10, 2008

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With the Bush administration about to leave office after reaching record-setting disapproval ratings, the nation might be in the mood for some New Year's resolutions pinpointing mistakes of the last eight years that it never, ever wants to make again.

For example, the country might want to do something about its massive backlogs in various essential government functions -- including 730,000 backlogged patent applications, 760,000 Social Security disability claims, and 806,000 Veterans Affairs disability claims.

The nation might also resolve to avoid a recurrence of the recent losses of hundreds of laptops containing sensitive law enforcement information, or to rethink the decision to keep plowing $12.5 billion into a joint civilian-military weather satellite system that is still incomplete and may leave gaps in crucial climate monitoring as older satellites fail.

The most comprehensive guide to these and other Bush administration failures is a new list compiled by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a non-profit investigative journalism group which recently "set out to document just how off-track things have gone," assigning thirteen reporters to document the worst failures of the last eight years.

Working from government investigations, news stories, and suggestions from experts and government employees, the team compiled a list of 250 failures, which it then narrowed down to just 128 "that attracted bipartisan criticism and had major impacts on the lives of ordinary Americans."

The results of the investigation, which are summarized at CPI's PaperTrail blog and presented in full at its Broken Government project, are stunning in their scope even for those who have been following the scandals of the last eight years.

According to the CPI, "Some of these problems were in place well before George W. Bush’s inauguration, but were exacerbated by his policies or worsened by his administration’s actions (or inactions). Many of the failings are tied to Bush appointees who appear to have been selected primarily on the basis of ideology and loyalty, rather than competence."

Many of the numbers which leap out from the summary are dollar figures -- such as the $300 billion over budget for Defense Department weapons acquisitions or the $100 billion lost every year to corporate offshore tax shelters.

There are also examples of ineffective planning, such as the faulty National Security Administration computer system, which carries a price tag of $4 billion, or the complete failure of a $100 million attempt to create a new system of internal information-sharing for the FBI in the wake of 9/11.

Items which speak to the obsessions of the Bush administration appear in the list, as well, ranging from the record $9.91 billion spent on government secrecy in 2007 to the dismissal of all but 17 out of the 1273 whistleblower complaints filed from 2002 to 2008.

However, the most haunting entries may be those which document the toll taken on the American people over the last eight years, including pollution that causes 20,000 deaths a year and puts 60,000 newborns at risk of neurological problems., a two-thirds dropoff in the cleanup of toxic waste sites, and 2.5 million toxic toys recalled in the summer of 2007.