Published March 02, 2011
House Speaker John Boehner has been handed a weapon of happy destruction. The Government Accountability Office has produced a report skewering government waste that gives House Republicans ample ammunition to shoot down critics screaming foul over attempts to cut the budget.
Better yet -- it is the stuff of farce. Imagine uncovering 82 different programs to improve teacher quality, or 80 separate initiatives to help the less fortunate secure transportation. You could not possibly make this up.
My favorite? Our helpful Beltway gurus provide 56 overlapping programs to help Americans better understand personal budgeting. What we need is one bureaucrat who understands budgeting – personal and otherwise.
This report, provided at the request of Congress before agreeing to raise the debt ceiling last year, is invaluable. It lays out ample evidence that our government budget is indeed stuffed with fat and propelled by incompetence – just the backdrop for pushing through reforms.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who pushed for the investigation, claims that the overlapping programs detailed in the report cost taxpayers between $100 billion and $200 billion per year. This total is even more impressive since it concerns only a small slice of the federal pie.
Coburn already shines in the galaxy of fiscal watchdogs. He and his colleague Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) did more to rein in spending than anyone in Congress when they highlighted 100 idiotic projects launched by the stimulus program. Who can forget the monies spent studying exotic ants in the Indian Ocean, or creating joke-telling computers? That report forever changed the way Americans looked at our $800 billion spend-fest and made launching another program politically impossible.
Now, those concerned with our spiraling budget deficits can hit back at those who are hysterical about the damage likely to be done by cutting federal spending– like the editorial writers at the New York Times, who recently accused Republicans of wanting to eviscerate the government. Well, if there’s a big ol' tumor growing in our government’s belly -- I say “Rip it out!”
We all knew that the government was inefficient. That’s one of the reasons that so many Americans favor “smaller” over “larger” government. There is ample evidence that private organizations, and especially profit-driven operations, are better than bureaucracies at managing resources and allocating capital.
One of the prime reasons so many oppose President Obama’s new health care law is that it gives bureaucrats almost total control over a giant slice of our economy. More than half our health care dollars today are already “managed” by the government through Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration. The results are plain to see. We spend far too much for what we get – more than any country in the world.
The main shortcoming of ObamaCare is that is doesn’t even begin to address the inefficiencies of the basic delivery model. Instead, the president promises to wring billions in waste and fraud out of Medicare. One wonders – why are so many dollars being misspent in that program to begin with?
The GAO found innumerable examples of overlapping and consequently unnecessary programs and agencies. This comes as no surprise. Every agency head, every Congressman and every White House czar wants to tack his name onto a new program or new department charged with curing society’s ills. It’s no fun to go back and abolish the undertakings of his predecessor – that doesn’t provide heart-warming headlines.
The mille-feuille that is our government exists because no one ever cleans out the cobwebs. I have written previously about the Railroad Retirement Board as symptomatic of this reality. This is an entity established in the 1930s to oversee the pensions of rail employees. This year it is allocated $110 million to provide services for fewer than 600,000 retirees – who could just as easily be folded into the Social Security Administration. It is completely unnecessary.
The problem is that abolishing a department such as the Railroad Retirement Board demands hard choices; someone’s ox gets gored. This is the challenge for our legislators. They must begin to make those tough decisions. If not, they will be turned out of office. Taxpayers are losing their tolerance of this kind of incompetence.
For the Tea Party, and all those favoring reduced federal spending, the GAO report could not have come at a better time. It is, truly, a gift to the American people.