Want to know a big reason for our rising taxes, deficit and deep debt? Blame waste. Says who? The government that’s wasting the money.
Yes, we spend hard-earned tax dollars on government analysts at the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to ferret out redundancies and waste.
All told, the GAO targeted as much as $510 billion on 583 potentially duplicative, wasteful programs overseen by roughly 182 government agencies and offices, stretching across the federal government, from the Department of Defense to Transportation to Health & Human Services. The GAO found that some of the duplication dates back to 2002, but most came in fiscal years 2009 to 2010 and going forward.
The GAO found as much as $200 billion in duplicative spending going out the door over the next decade on 2,100 data centers alone. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) requested the report, and has said “it makes us all look like jackasses.”
The GAO’s list dovetails with work already done on this waste by the Congressional Budget Office (see below). Last year, FOX Business found $1.5 trillion in fat marbled through government.
The GAO’s report could serve as a template for lawmakers in both parties as they move to cut federal spending and consolidate programs to reduce the deficit.
For instance, the U.S. has 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, 25 separate programs on health information systems, and 80 programs for economic development. The GAO says there are potentially 35 duplicative programs on infrastructure. And it questions the $58 billion spent annually on 100 surface transportation projects.
Health and transportation programs matter greatly here, since the fear is health reform may add to this duplication, and the White House has spent hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on stimulus funds for transportation projects to create jobs.
Also, the GAO says the U.S. spends nearly $1 trillion on 173 potentially duplicative tax expenditures for government programs. And, the federal government’s biodefense oversight is fraught with duplication and waste, as Fox News’ Trish Turner in D.C. has reported (see below).
The problem is this. The White House and Democrats in Congress have been agitating for tax hikes instead of cutting this waste first. This cost for this waste would cover the cost of these tax hikes.
The sought after cap and trade system which would set up a carbon credit marketplace to cut global warming would cost up to $200 billion a year, the US Treasury says, or $1,800 per American household.
The tax hikes on the upper brackets possibly coming in 2012 would cost an estimated $700 billion over ten years. And there is an estimated half a trillion dollars in tax hikes over ten years in the health reform bill, to help pay for “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Is it moral or fair to be so wasteful and then impose multitudinous tax increases that will take away more than $500 billion over 10 years—and possibly more in the future—from hardworking American families and businesses for spending on new entitlements and subsidies?
When American taxpayers are scrambling to sell the family silver to stay solvent, is it fair to treat taxpayers like the government’s cash register? Is it moral or fair that the Congress spends more time doling out earmarks and not enough on budget restraint?
Meanwhile, the $400 billion plus the U.S. pays annually in interest on the federal debt alone would rank as the world’s 30th largest economy. It’s about the size of Belgium, and would pay for about two dozen government agencies, including the entire Judiciary and Legislative branches. And that doesn't include what the U.S. will owe for Social Security and Medicare, unfunded liabilities which approach the GDP of the entire planet. It also doesn't include the debt owed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Bureaucracies exist by feeding themselves. When companies fail, they get smaller (usually). When governments fail, they get bigger, as one analyst noted.
The GAO was forced to conduct the report on the behest of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK., who pushed a Senate vote in January 2010 to direct the GAO to assess duplication in the budget.
Also, Congress has routinely failed to at minimum probe and then stop redundant programs. The GAO says just five of 47 job training and employment programs had been evaluated for efficiencies. “Little is known about the effectiveness of most programs,” the GAO said in its report. The government also spent $62.5 billion on 18 food assistance programs, but “little is known about the effectiveness of [11 of the 18 programs] because they have not been well studied,” the GAO said.
FOX’s Trish Turner reports that the GAO found chronic problems in the nation's "defense against biological threats." Turner says that the GAO report notes: "In 2010, the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism (now known as the WMD Center), 'gave the national a failing grade in its efforts to enhance capabilities for rapid response to prevent biological attacks from inflicting mass casualties.'"
The GAO says: "There are now more than two dozen presidentially appointed individuals with some responsibility for biodefense. In addition, numerous federal agencies, encompassing much of the federal government, have some mission responsibilities for supporting biodefense activities. However, there is no individual or entity with responsibility, authority, and accountability for overseeing the entire biodefense enterprise."
The GAO adds: "There is no national plan to coordinate federal, state, and local efforts following a bioterror attack, and the United States lacks the technical and operational capabilities required for an adequate response."
It also says: "Neither the Office of Management and Budget nor the federal agencies account for biodefense spending across the entire federal government." As a result, the federal government does not know how much is being spent on this critical national security priority."
The GAO concluded: "A private sector analysis of the fiscal year 2011 federal budget for civilian biodefense estimates that the U.S. biodefense effort will total $6.4 billion across eight of the more than 12 federal agencies with biodefense responsibilities."
Elizabeth MacDonald joined FOX Business Network (FBN) as stocks editor in September 2007 and is the author of Skirting Heresy: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe (Franciscan Media, June 2014).
Follow Elizabeth MacDonald on Twitter @LizMacDonaldFOX.