Bloated Spending, New Priorities, Few Controls

With the government $12 trillion in debt, you'd think lawmakers would watch every penny. But that is not the case in Washington.

A study by the Republican staff of the House Appropriations Committee shows the rate of spending growth from fiscal year 2007 to 2009 in some agencies more than doubled.

The highest, at 183 percent increase, is the energy and water budget, which includes the Department of Energy and Army Corp of Engineers. Its current budget provides $33.5 billion in total funding, which is $200 million -- or less than one percent -- over last year’s level.

However, this is in addition to the more than $58.7 billion provided for these programs in emergency spending this year, most of which was included in the “stimulus” legislation. Overall, these programs have benefited from an increase of more than 180 percent over the last two fiscal years.

“Shoveling billions of taxpayer dollars into the agencies in this bill -- essentially doubling the size of their budgets in under a two years - will undoubtedly prime the pump for government waste as these bureaucracies struggle to find ways to spend it,” House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis said. "A black cloud of unsustainable government spending and debt is already over our nation, and this over-spending Energy and Water bill will only exacerbate the problem.
Items include:

Weatherization Assistance Program
This program received $5 billion in the stimulus. This is a 25-fold increase over the FY09 appropriation of $200 million in FY09. While they claim 50% has been obligated, less than 4% has actually been spent. Critics call the program a disaster in the making, as it provides up to $10,000 for low incomes homeowners to weatherize their homes.
Weatherizing your home is something many Americans do on their own. Caulk windows, weather strip doors, add a few rolls of fiberglass to the attic. A job that can be done in a weekend for few hundred dollars costs the federal government several thousand, after hiring a licensed and bonded contractor that is required to hire labor at union scale. Experts say it could take 20 years for the investment to pay for itself, even though none of the money comes back to taxpayers.
Fossil Energy (FE) Programs
$3.4 billion in stimulus for clean coal, and carbon capture and storage program. To date, $112 million (3.3%) has been obligated, and only $1.6 million (0.05%) has been spent. The flagship FE program, FutureGen, was canceled under the previous administration due to excessive cost overruns. DOE's initial commitment of roughly $600m had essentially doubled to $1.3 billion, by some estimates.
In June, DOE decided to restart this program, for purely political reasons at the behest of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. The plant is located in Illinois. This is also supported by President Obama, despite his pledge in Pittsburg in September to end subsidies for fossil fuels. Now Future Gen has a $2.3 billion price tag. And the administration will proceed, despite claims by experts at MIT and Shell oil, that it could 20 to 40 years before carbin emissions can realistically be buried underground.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program
$3.4 billion in the stimulus. While roughly 50% has been awarded, only 0.4% has actually been spent. Many of these grants to state and local governments are simply earmarks for projects that allegedly improve energy efficiency, or reduce energy consumption.
However many are duplicative. For instance, taxpayers already support a National Renewable Energy lab in Colorado that researches biofuels. Yet, the energy and water appropriation bill contains 29 separate earmarks so local colleges and universities can carry out much of the same research.
The bill provides $1.5 million for a new air conditioner at the Newark Museum because museum officials said it didn’t want to raise admission prices to pay for the air conditioner.
At the behest of Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, the bill takes $7 million from the National Nuclear Security Administration for 7 private, historically black colleges, even though none of the schools even offers a nuclear studies program.
"Priming the pump is one thing, to stimulate the economy, but when the public senses you are wasting their dollars, they're absolutely ready to throw us all out," says Lewis.