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Cutting Government Waste Is Not Enough


It is no secret that agencies and programs of the federal government waste obscene amounts of the taxpayers’ money. Even members of Congress have pointed that out.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has just released his annual catalog of egregious government spending. His 201-page “Wastebook” this year is titled “Wastebook: PORKémon Go” (last year’s “Wastebook” had a Star Wars theme, “Wastebook: The Farce Awakens”). Flake’s “Wastebooks” are a continuation of the annual “Wastebook” reports on government waste issued by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who retired from Congress in 2015.

According to the introduction,

Just like the monsters in the Pokémon Go game that took America by storm this past year, government boondoggles come in all shapes and sizes and pop up just about everywhere. “Wastebook PORKémon Go” provides an index of just some of the questionable expenditures lurking throughout the federal budget that collectively cost taxpayers more than $5 billion.

Some examples of egregious government spending documented in Flake’s “Wastebook” are:

  • NASA is spending more than more than $1 million to prepare the world’s religions for the possible discovery of extraterrestrial life-forms.
  • A comedy club received a $1.7 million grant from the U.S Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to help construct a comedy museum that will “resurrect” dead comedians as holograms.
  • The University of California-San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography received a $560,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the endurance of mudskipper fish on a treadmill.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration spent more than $700,000 renovating a little-used airport in Illinois from which just 20 flights depart each week.

Over in the House of Representatives, Steve Russell (R-Okla.), a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is likewise exposing government waste.

He has issued six editions of “Waste Watch,” which documents 10 different situations where the federal government spent taxpayer dollars — or allowed them to be spent — unwisely.” The purpose of Congressman Russell’s “Waste Watch” is “to expose government waste and find opportunities to reduce unnecessary spending in the future.”

The ten examples of government waste described in Congressman Russell’s most recent issue of “Waste Watch” are:

  1. Federal Government Spent $137 Billion Making Payments in the Wrong Amount, to the Wrong People and for the Wrong Reason
  2. Pentagon Task Force Spends $150 Million on Lavish Villas, Fancy Meals and Special Security
  3. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Spent Nearly $50,000 on “Elegant” Bicycle Shelters
  4. U.S. Taxpayers Pay Millions for Intelligence Contractors to Browse Facebook, Watch Pornography and Commit Sex Crimes
  5. $237 Million Spent Paying DEA Informants Despite Poor Management and Oversight
  6. Federal Government Spent $144 Million Fighting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests That It is Required by Law to Answer
  7. DoD Spent $1.5 Million on an Unfinished Slaughterhouse
  8. Social Security Administration Spends $356 Million on a Computer System That Does Not Work
  9. Federal Government Wastes Money Maintaining Unused or Underutilized Properties
  10. USDA Wasted $34 Million Trying (and Failing) to Convince Afghans to Eat Soybeans

All told, these examples account for almost $140 billion in wasteful government spending.

Now, it is certainly a good thing when any government waste is brought to light. It is an even better thing when the waste that is exposed is eliminated. But cutting government waste is not enough.

The amount of government waste is minuscule considering that the federal budget is now more than $4 trillion each fiscal year.

Focusing on government waste in certain agencies and programs diverts attention from the legitimacy of the agencies and programs themselves.

Highlighting the most egregious examples of government waste usually means that the more mundane instances of waste go unnoticed.

Those who point out examples of government waste generally don’t recognize the most dangerous examples of government waste. Things such as fighting foreign wars, maintaining a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons, building overseas military bases, having a huge military budget, and stationing troops all over the world.

Those who point out examples of government waste generally don’t have a problem with most government spending and the agencies and programs that spend the money. According to Senator Flake’s “Wastebook,”

Ending projects like these could help offset the cost of the new president’s infrastructure plan. The same approach could free up resources to pay for new spending priorities within the Department of Defense.

By stopping unnecessary expenditures, more resources will be freed up for our true national priorities.

We can do more without spending more by simply making better sense out of how we spend every cent.

Federal agencies could improve their standing with the public at no cost whatsoever by simply conducting themselves efficiently and effectively. This includes Congress, which should be focused on how to save rather than spend money so we can pay off the debts of the past and offset the costs of the new administration’s agenda.

And according to Representative Russell’s “Waste Watch,”

Cutting spending to balance the budget is not about denying agencies funding they need for their operations. The goal is to cut the waste and thereby reduce the overhead and allow the money they receive to go further.

Better use of the limited dollars we have will go a long way to streamline all of our agencies to a leaner and smarter federal government. More importantly, this will reduce the debt.

Flake and Russell are basically saying that it is government waste that needs to be cut, not government.

There are worse things than wasteful government spending that account for a much greater portion of the federal budget. Such as unconstitutional government spending and illegitimate government spending. That would include every penny spent on welfare, grants, and subsidies. It would include every penny of spending by the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Agriculture. It would include every penny spent by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Transportation Security Administration.

Concentrating on government waste shifts the emphasis away from government itself. The truth is, the vast majority of government spending is wasted. It is wasted because it should never be spent in the first place, even if done efficiently and effectively.

Cutting government waste is not enough. It is government itself that must be cut — to the bone.