Two weeks ago Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made a splash when tweeting about what she thought to be $21 trillion in misappropriated Pentagon money that she claimed was enough to pay for Medicare for all. She based her conclusions on misreading a complex article in the Nation, “The Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed,” by investigative journalist Dave Lindorff. It’s too bad since her misreading took the focus away from the real story, which revealed the Department of Defense’s (DOD) hugely corrupt budgeting practices.
The author of that article, Dave Lindorff, is Jeff Schechtman’s guest in this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast. According to Lindorff, more than 25 years ago, Congress ordered DOD to submit to an independent audit. After decades of stalling, the department finally failed its first ever audit this month. Lindorf shows how they are not just cooking the books, but literally making numbers up and, in so doing, are perpetuating a massive accounting fraud on the American people.
Lindorff's investigation reveals not only why the Pentagon failed the audit, but why it resisted for so long. He explains how $21 trillion of Pentagon financial transactions, on both sides of the ledger, between 1998 and 2015 could not be traced, documented, or explained.
In this conversation, Lindorff details how the fraud worked to inflate an already huge budget, the accounting tricks being used to fund secret programs, and how clueless Congress and the American people have been about the biggest single line item in the US federal budget.
While Ocasio-Cortez got it wrong about the $21 trillion, there is no question that the Pentagon’s accounting fraud diverts many billions of dollars that could be devoted to other national needs.