back to article US states accused of skimming cash from 911 emergency call dosh

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has warned that multiple US states are using money designated for emergency services to fund other unrelated projects. In a report released to the public earlier this week, America's comms regulator noted that at least $129m of the money gathered through the Emergency Telephone Users …

  1. asdf Silver badge

    The strongest force in the universe

    is a politician/bureaucrat wanting to spend money they don't have to directly take the hit to raise the tax for.

    1. Notas Badoff Silver badge

      Re: The strongest force in the universe

      I've often wondered, is the Great Attractor composed of cash or politicians? I know each is strongly attracted by the other.

      Fortunately there is the Shapley attractor along the way to get politicians into trouble, otherwise we'd be stuck with them forever.

  2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Not Surprised

    Most of the supposed special funds the states run are often used for other purposes with the ferals leading the way.

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Not Surprised

      I live in Northern California & am used to all those fees, charges, surcharges, taxes, & however else you want to phrase the armed robbery that is government subsidies being collected with everything we do.

      I've lost track of how many times we hear how some bastard at the wheel diverted funds to their own pet project, funneled funds to cover the bills to an unrelated project, or just flat out embezzled the money & skipped town.

      It's a surprise when the money *DOES* go to it's intended purpose, pays for the services it was claimed to be for, & winds up where it's supposed to... Because even then it winds up lining the pockets of some bastard that padded their bill to cover something else. The guy at the construction company that needs to pay off his gambling debts so adds an extra $1K to the bill, the manager that wanted the new Jaguar & so pads the bill with an extra $10K to cover the down payment, the C-level exec whom craves that new solid gold toilet in his five hundred room mansion in the middle of a tax haven on some unincorporated island pads the bill another $100K, and on & on & on & on...

      I figure 1p of every $ collected actually goes to its intended purpose, the other 99p goes to pay the bribes, corruption, & padding.

      I'd move but I can't afford to - the taxes on gas mean I can't afford to fill the tank anymore...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Not Surprised

        1p of every $ collected actually goes to its intended purpose, the other 99p goes to pay the bribes, corruption, & padding.

        I think the technical term is trickle-down economics

      2. Lysenko Silver badge

        Re: Not Surprised

        I live in Northern California & am used to all those fees, charges, surcharges, taxes, & however else you want to phrase the armed robbery that is government subsidies being collected with everything we do.

        Ultimately, it is down to the electorate being arithmetically illiterate and obsessed with income tax so a Byzantine code and proliferation of stealth taxes becomes inevitable. Any politician proposing genuine tax cuts by abolishing back door surcharges and adding a few points to income tax to compensate would be crucified, regardless of the mathematics.

        The problem with income tax is that it is clear and honest. The electorate doesn't like that. They prefer sleight of hand. They would rather someone surreptitiously skims off 110 pennies here and there rather than handing over a dollar up front. Great for politicians too. If you don't really know how much you paid, you won't be paying much attention to where it went.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Go

          Re: Not Surprised

          @Lysenko - That is one of the more succinct descriptions I've seen of what I'm starting to call the American condition. Americans are all so obsessed with the level of income tax they pay and making it as small as possible that they totally ignore everything else. It doesnt matter if there are a hundred stealth taxes or they have a medical system that is 100x more expensive then ANYWHERE else in the world (for a service that is certainly no better than most of the developed world). So long as they're "getting ahead" then it's all fine. It's all about Numero Uno. How America functions as a society is beyond me (although the recent levels of hatred anbd bile shown through the republican/democrat bipartisanship shows it may not be functioning at all)...

          1. JEDIDIAH
            Mushroom

            Re: Not Surprised

            > medical system that is 100x more expensive then ANYWHERE

            My big procedure cost the same here in the states as it would in London. At a certain point the narrative induced exaggerations don't even pass the sniff test any more.

            1. lglethal Silver badge
              Go

              Re: Not Surprised

              @Jedidiah

              "My big procedure cost the same here in the states as it would in London."

              The procedure might have cost you the same, but i guarantee it didnt cost your insurer the same. There is a reason that travel policies are sold in two forms - "World without the USA" and "World including the USA". World including USA is always a minimum of 50% higher than without. Some of that is down to Americans willingness to sue at the drop of a hat, but mostly its because of your health care expenses.

              If you have a health insurer that's willing to absorb your costs - good for you, but dont try and tell me thats normal.

              Also just thinking about your comment a bit further - unless this was elective surgery that you had, whatever your big procedure was, in the UK it would have been covered under the NHS, so it actually wouldnt have cost you anything (unless you went private) so are you trying to say your surgery was free? I dont believe that for a second.

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: Not Surprised

                lglethal Yes, I was wondering about that. For UK citizens the cost of health treatment is exactly zero unless the patient chooses a private health provider or private treatment within an NHS hospital's private wing . For an American citizen to get treatment they would be using one of these private routes. Rolls Royce(tm) service. And so the cost is as high as the market can bear. So the argument was, in effect, saying "It's not cheaper to hire a Rolls Royce in the UK than it is in the USA". I'd bloody well hope not.

                1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

                  Re: Not Surprised

                  "For UK citizens the cost of health treatment is exactly zero unless the patient chooses a private health provider or private treatment within an NHS hospital's private wing ."

                  To be precise, the NHS is free at the point of treatment.

                  The actual cost comes out of general taxation and National Insurance[*].

                  How the NHS is funded

                  * when I first started work, National Insurance (N.I.) contributions were known as N.H.I. contributions (National Health and Insurance?) but that got shortened to plain N.I. somewhere in the late 70s or early 80s.

                  1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                    Re: Not Surprised

                    You are missing the point, though. That comment was related to the cost of his surgical procedure to him . And to a UK citizen that would be zero. We all pay for the common good. The comment was a comparison between the cost to a patient of a procedure in the UK or the USA.(It doesn't say that it was paid for by insurance,though it may well have been).

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Not Surprised

                Nothing is EVER “free”!

            2. Avatar of They Silver badge
              Unhappy

              Re: Not Surprised

              Really, your US 'paid for' operation cost the same as the NHS which would be free assuming you actually needed it? I would suggest free versus costing something is more than x100.

              However you chose or had to pay? How many people don't have health care in the US? British media and politicians state it is anywhere between 28 - 40 million?

              However to me a government that takes money from the main emergency contact number for other things is just weakening the emergency services, sounds like the UK as well.

            3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Not Surprised

              My big procedure cost the same here in the states as it would in London

              The difference being that, in London, there is the option of free-at-the-point-of-delivery treatment on the NHS (for GB and EU citizens anyway).

              There isn't much arguement against the US having the highest cost-per-capita and one of the lowest outcomes-per-capita of any of the major industrialised nations.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Not Surprised

            How America functions as a society is beyond me

            In RPG terms, most of Western Europe is Neutral to Neutral Good (wth the obvious outliers of Germany as LN/LG and France as CN/CG).

            The US always struck me as a peculiar mix of extreme chaos (CN with good tendancies) and LE with neutral tendancies.

        2. JEDIDIAH
          Devil

          Re: Not Surprised

          People aren't so much "obsessed with tax rates" as they are aware that the government pulls this shit. I remember a particular tax that was meant to be TEMPORARY and dedicated to the local public transit system. Once it ran it's course, it got snarfed up by the local taxing authority, made permanent, and applied to the general fund.

          They had trouble passing a tax measure like that again for obvious reasons.

          1. Lysenko Silver badge

            Re: Not Surprised

            People aren't so much "obsessed with tax rates" as they are aware that the government pulls this shit.

            That's a bit contradictory. Anyone really seeing it that way would be campaigning for higher income tax as a corollary to "no more taxes". I see plenty of the latter but deafening silence regarding the former (which automatically means the latter won't happen).

          2. CJPM

            Re: Not Surprised

            How is this for a "temporary" tax?

            Tax History Project -- The Phone Tax -- Gone but Never Forgotten

            www.taxhistory.org/thp/readings.nsf/.../557559440437EDBC8525718B005ACCCB?...

            Jun 1, 2006 - Last week the Treasury Department announced it would stop collecting the 3 percent federal excise tax on long-distance telephone service that Americans have been paying since 1898, when the tax was first levied to help finance the Spanish-American War.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Not Surprised

              when the tax was first levied to help finance the Spanish-American War

              And in the UK, income tax was first levied to help pay for the Napoleonic Wars.

              War, what is it good for?

              TAX-ATION!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    States are so strapped for cash that they take it where they can get it. The reason for this is, of course, that with globalization Corporations pay far too low taxes and with Trump cutting taxes for the wealthy taxation delivers even less to society. It's going to get worse before it gets better.

    1. The Axe

      Corps like Apple don't pay US tax because it is too high. So they kept it out of the country and used it elsewhere in their multi-national corps. When Trump lowered tax rates, corps found it was more efficient to actually use it in the US rather than elsewhere. That's why many large corps gave their employees large bonuses in response to the tax cuts. Did you miss the news or think it was some fake news because of your left wing bias. I think your intellectual capability is getting worse as the country gets better. If you want to get your IQ up, go look up the Laffer Curve.

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Laffer curve

        "go look up the Laffer Curve."

        Dine that, wrote a paper on it. While it is true that extremes of marginal tax rates result in lower tax take, the important detail is where those extremes are.

        In general, no-one really cares where the lower rate is, because the lower end is more affected by benefits, tax rebates etc. So you get benefit cliffs that aren't relevant to the tax rate at all.

        However, the top end is very well documented. It varies by 3-5% by country, but the top marginal tax rate at which people will stop earning more money is..... 85%.

        That is, if the top tax rate is higher than 85-90%, people will stop working once they hit that rate.

        Any tax rate lower results in almost exactly linear responses in tax revenue. In other words, lower tax rates result in lower revenue, higher rates result in higher tax revenue.

        So while the Laffer curve does exist, it only behaves in an odd fashion between 0-15% and 85-100% (for personal income tax). So if the tax rate being debated is between 15% and 85%, Laffer simply does not apply.

        The US corporate tax rate is something quite different. Since they can hold off paying tax indefinitely, then waiting until there is another "once in a lifetime" opportunity to get a lower tax rate is simply a negotiating position.

        If you could reduce your personal tax bill by half by simply not paying taxes for twenty years at a time, until such time as you got offered a good deal, would you not? I mean, it's hella immoral, but personally enriching, so probably not for those pansy waisted left whngers, but should be just the thing for the might-is-right, deficit not taxes crowd.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cable Phone

    I know that 2/3rds of the taxes I pay to my cable company goes to the phone they force on me so that I get a "bundle discount" on my internet.

    I pay 20 cents a month into E911 according to my last bill.

    I think we now know the REAL reason why we have these cable phones that NOBODY plugs in.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothings going to happen though

    Imagine what would happen if you or I were caught "skimming" off an emergency fund?

    We would be put UNDER the jail.

  6. Gene Cash Silver badge

    > New York refused to provide the FCC any data

    > Seven states refused to provide the FCC with any data

    How the hell does that happen?

    1. Milo Tsukroff
      Holmes

      > How the hell does that happen?

      New York State is run by Democrats. George Washington's Farewell Address warnings about the spirit of party becoming a destructive force, tending towards (among other things) corruption, have come true. I live in New York, and the corruption and misuse of public funds is breath-taking. Nuff said.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "New York State is run by Democrats. "

        So what?

        A crooked politician is a crooked politician regardless of what party he (nominally) supports in order to get and stay in office.

        The truth is to non Americans outside America it's very difficult to tell what you call Democrats apart from what you call Republicans.

        So many of both sides polices seem like bu***hit to us.

        1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

          Re: "New York State is run by Democrats. "

          "The truth is to non Americans outside America it's very difficult to tell what you call Democrats apart from what you call Republicans."

          Back in student days, I asked an American what the difference was.

          Her answer was "They're both the same, except ..."

          (I've forgotten what the "except ..." bit was; the main message was the first bit.)

        2. Rattus Rattus

          Re: "New York State is run by Democrats. "

          "The truth is to non Americans outside America it's very difficult to tell what you call Democrats apart from what you call Republicans."

          So far as I've been able to tell, they've got a conservative, religious, big-business-oriented right wing party, and a REALLY conservative, religious, big-business-oriented right wing party.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: "New York State is run by Democrats. "

            So far as I've been able to tell

            I think the main difference is *which* big companies they take money from..

      2. DougS Silver badge

        @Milo Tsukroff

        Way to make it partisan. Yeah NY didn't file but also Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma didn't file, all of which voted for Trump and can't be called liberal bastions by any stretch (the other three non reporters weren't states, they were Guam, Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Island)

        While corruption is one potential reason for a non report, usually general incompetence or buck passing account for these sort of things all too often. If not reporting was done to hide corruption, you'd think Utah wouldn't want to report given that they are spending only 3 cents per resident on 911 services. Where that money is actually going, who knows...

        Of course spending a lot of money on 911 services doesn't indicate a lack of corruption either. Iowa spent the most but we don't know why. Maybe it is to provide first class 911 service, but perhaps a company owned by a relative of the governor is getting overpaid for its services.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        I live in New York, and the corruption and misuse of public funds is breath-taking

        And always has been in Nu Yawk. It's a Special Place all of it's own in the Corruption Sweepstake.

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  8. Christoph Silver badge

    I thought the US emergency services were largely self-funding? The Ambulances charge you a few thousand dollars to drive you a hundred yards down the road, and the Police rob passing drivers with 'civil forfeiture'.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      So they aren't going to want the extra cost of a freephone 911 number are they?

    2. kain preacher Silver badge

      911 is ran by the states not private orgs.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        911 is ran by the states not private orgs.

        who have the option of charging the phone customers or the hospitals/ambulance companies

        They chose to tax the ones without lobbyists

  9. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    WTF?

    5%

    The total amount of 911/E911 funds diverted by all reporting jurisdictions in calendar year 2016 was $128,909,169, or approximately five percent of total 911/E911 fees collected

    Simple math tells us that the amount collected each year is north of $2.5 Billion.

    So, the surprise is that only 5% is being skimmed, and that they can manage to spend the remainder on 911 service.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Wanting without paying

    Every tax payer wants certain services to exist and wants them paid for by the other tax payers. But they often don't want to pay for the services they don't use themselves, or don't believe in ( foreign aid for example). Then there are the services that responsible and ethical (there are many) or just ideologically driven (but openly supported and elected) politicians want to have paid for. The money for all of these has to be gained through taxes. What is missing is the acceptance that tax is a communal endeavour. We all pay for the greater good. And we elect politicians, ideally, who best correspond to what we consider to reflect our views on how this is shared.

    As soon as we start saying we don't want to pay tax we have to decide what we don't want paid for. And accept the consequences. In the UK we want the NHS to meet all our health needs, but by cutting adult social care funding we get bed blocking, older patients that can't be sent home from hospital because there is no one to look after their recovery. We want to reduce youth crime, delinquency and teenage pregnancy , but we cut funding for youth clubs so the kids are roaming the streets bored. We want to reduce our driving costs and object to car or fuel taxes, but then moan that the roads are full of potholes. We don't want a state-owned subsidised railway (apparently) but then moan that the trains are slower, less frequent and more expensive than the equivalents in Europe. (And of course there are those who don't want to, say, look after the vulnerable but then still want to claim they live in a civilised society).

    In the USA this attitude appears to be fuelled by a conviction that politicians are taking the money for themselves in some nebulous way that doesn't seem to join the dots to having enough police patrols or looking after the most vulnerable etc. Ironically, of course, the really corrupt societies are those that don't have politicians as such. http://fortune.com/2016/01/27/transparency-corruption-index/ .

    1. Rattus Rattus

      Re: Wanting without paying

      "Every tax payer wants certain services to exist and wants them paid for by the other tax payers"

      On a national level, with a sovereign currency, that's not really how tax works. Tax isn't raised to pay for government spending although it's often framed that way, the government owns the currency and mints and can spend as much as they like. Government spends money into existence. Tax is a mechanism to remove money from circulation so spending new money into existence doesn't cause too much inflation. This is why a government budget is not like a business or household budget and should not be managed like one.

      Non-sovereign governments, however, such as states and cities, do have to raise the money they spend in one way or another. This includes taxes, fines, fees, duties, and direct grants from the national government.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Wanting without paying

        That's another irrelevant technicality. As far as government spending (or not ) is concerned it's about raised tax v "austerity" cuts.

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Ah, seems like this happens all over... Sadly.

    https://mybroadband.co.za/vb/showthread.php/937893-No-money-for-disaster-areas-because-of-billions-to-bail-out-SAA

  13. Me19713

    Too bad we can't charge the governors of these states under the RICO Act.

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