American Elephants

Government Waste Hits You Right in the Pocketbook. by The Elephant's Child


Federal watchdogs have ideas for saving $67 billion a year, according to a report by a House committee. That’s without counting the sequester.

So who are these “watchdogs”? They are the government’s Inspectors General who police the departments of the government for waste, fraud and abuse. They are the government’s auditors. They suggest ways to make government operation more efficient and to plug money leaks.

Each year, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform surveys the Inspector Generals and reports how many of the recommended steps have not been taken and how much taxpayer money has been wasted as a result.

The 2013 Inspector General’s report was released last week, and said that 16,900 of the IG’s recommendations are yet to be implemented. Using the most conservative estimates, they put the lost savings at $67 billion a year. That’s almost 80% of the sequester cuts that are supposedly causing layoffs, furloughs and general misery throughout the government. Eliminating waste, fraud and abuse as opposed to putting all those government employees on furlough? Such a choice.

The inspectors general do a fine job of enumerating the waste — but getting it ended is something else again.

There are 82 programs across 10 separate agencies endeavoring to improve teacher quality — something almost every local school district is trying to do as well. Are teachers improving?

There are 47 job-training programs —45 of  which overlap. The federal government runs 80 programs for the “transportation disadvantaged.” No bus service?

There’s an airport in Oklahoma that is kept open simply to collect federal funds. ($450,000) The airport receives one flight a month.

The robot squirrel  project to see how they interact with rattlesnakes  ($325.000) has received considerable publicity.

The government pays as much as $2 million annually in monthly service fees to maintain about 28,000 grant accounts that are empty and have expired. Because they have not officially been closed they still are charged service fees. Free money.

The cost to produce a penny is more than two times its actual value. This year the average production cost per penny was 2,4 cents. The demand for copper has driven up the cost.  Many countries have ceased penny production. We should either stop or use a less costly steel alloy as Tim Geithner suggested, but it takes an act of Congress.

Faulty FEMA calculations lead to replacing buildings instead of repair. (IA) ($75.4 million) FEMA uses a “50 percent rule,” if an estimated repair cost exceeds half the cost of replacement, you replace the building.

Highly publicized programs to identify mindless waste that should be eliminated, come along regularly. Some admirable  Congressman has taken it as his special task as long as I can remember, to expose the waste in government. There are honest Congressmen and there is always someone who gets really indignant about the waste they see.

From 1975 to 1987 Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire issued monthly “Golden Fleece Awards” — citations for especially nonsensical federal spending. A favorite was The National Science Foundation spending $84,000 on a study of love.

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. published his 2012 “Waste Book” in October, 2012 — 200 pages of painstakingly enumerated stupid government expenditures. Senator Coburn has also been fighting compulsive spenders and earmarks throughout his Senate career. He outlines 100 projects costing a cumulative $18 billion., and that’s just the silly stuff. Ask yourself, he says:

  • Can we afford this at this time?
  • Could this money have been better spent, or not spent at all?
  • Is this a national priority or is this something benefiting a special interest?
  • Does this fit the role of the federal government as outlined in the U.S. Constitution?

It is easy to find waste; eliminating it is something else. The bigger the government gets, the more private wealth it consumes, and the more taxpayer money is just plain wasted. Obama has made it clear that he does not believe that there is any waste in government nor any agency that can possibly be eliminated. At the Hoover Institution, Bill Whalen says:

There’s nothing stopping Republicans from daily – even hourly – citations of grill sergeants, “robot-squirrels” and cow burps found hidden inside department budgets. Add up the waste, calculate and translate in terms of keeping national parks open and White House tours operational. It’s another way for Republicans to educate Americans as to what taxpayers can live without.

A purist will note that these and other citations of profligate spending won’t balance the federal budget. And they’re right. But that’s not the point. In order to claim the high ground on fiscal policy, the GOP must embrace austerity, not steer away from it. That means steering the public toward recognition that not all spending cuts are cruel or uncalled for.

Republicans like to talk about the evils of Big Government. That’s a philosophical argument. Show the people how government waste hurts their own family budgets instead. Don’t just tell them you care, show them how much.

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[…] “Cutting for the sake of cutting?” You will notice that the Democrats never speak of excess spending. They talk of investments, usually in “our kids.” Government waste? Never mentioned. I knew I had written about government waste several times, so I entered government waste in our own search bar, and I have apparently written about it at least 25 times, to go by the headlines.  From one of the most recent: […]


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