My Senior Project: Government Corruption 101

After many weekends of “I’ll do it next weekend” I finally managed to get around to filing my taxes. A libertarian’s worst nightmare. It’s a weird situation because I know I’m getting money back and I know it will arrive in a few weeks but the process itself is so bad I never want to do it. I hate it.

So it’s no surprise when TurboTax offers to do a bunch of shit for me for only $20 that I decide to check that box and give them part of my tax return. If it’s tedious and infuriating enough, I’ll always pay for the time savings.

But there is a part of me that really hates giving money to TurboTax as well. If you don’t know already, TurboTax thrives off of the tax system being a complete pain in the ass. If there was no pain there’d be no TurboTax. This is why they spent $11.5 million lobbying the government to fight any effort to make our lives easier.

A lot of people want to believe this isn’t the norm in government. It doesn’t matter how many times you show government officials acting against the public interest in favor of private beneficiaries. It’s simply another outlier.

How long can TurboTax and the government play that game? I’m not sure. But the internet sure doesn’t make it any easier.

I saw this type of corruption firsthand in college. I was working on my senior project and our client was the State of Alabama [1]. The project was pure busy work. The Department of Finance wanted to purchase new software and wanted us to craft guidelines so they could find a company to build it.

One of the first things we ever did was google the state employees working with us on our project. The first hit showed us the assistant finance director “in charge of technology” we were working with on the project, Rex McDowell. You can imagine our surprise to discover the same assistant finance director owns his own communications company on the side. What a convenient side project for someone in charge of an entire state department’s technology decisions!

That was almost four years ago. I did a few Google searches and…not much has changed.

First they spent $4 million on a time and attendance system that doesn’t meet the state’s needs. $4 million! How?

Then there’s the millions of tax dollars in the form of Cisco phones which are sitting in a warehouse.

Pallets stacked with expensive Cisco phones, perhaps representing millions in State tax dollars, sit silently gathering dust in a warehouse, because someone at the State Department of Finance thinks they have a better idea. -Pallets of Phones Gather Dust Under Newton’s Orders

That “someone” who doesn’t want to use Cisco phones is Rex McDowell - the same assistant finance director who owns his own communications company which offers “advanced telephone systems, local & long distance service, e-mail, voice mail, unified messaging, wide area network support and more.” He may be a politician but he isn’t a complete idiot since there’s rumors an in-state company will be used instead. But at this point it’s safe to assume McDowell will be benefiting from that partnership as well.

I talk a lot of shit about college. The intent of college may be genuine but the reality is much different. It’s an extremely expensive way to con businesses into thinking you’re “qualified” for whatever job they’re looking to fill. Marketing classes don’t teach you much about marketing other than a bunch of industry-specific terms and definitions.

But looking back on my four years in college my senior project may have been the most “real world” part of it all. Sure I was exposed to government corruption and unethical behavior in the process but now I have college to thank for showing me that House of Cards isn’t as fictional as many would like to believe.

  1. My hatred of government wasn’t exactly a secret so I’m convinced assigning me to this team was intentional.
My Senior Project: Government Corruption 101
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My Senior Project: Government Corruption 101