Almost everyone understands and accepts the fact that some waste occurs when it comes to government spending. The federal government spent $3.8 trillion in 2015 and roughly $3.6 trillion every year from 2009 to 2014. When you spend $3.8 trillion it can be expected that some of it is not going to be spent wisely. The question is how much waste is there and how much of it could be easily avoided if politicians were held accountable?
More on government accountability:
- How FOIA public records requests help keep politicians honest
- Can the federal government keep your personal information secure?
- The American public needs to demand a balanced budget amendment
- Why the Affordable Care Act website failed so badly
- Most Americans don’t trust the federal government
- Is there any escape from the growing national debt?
Definition of government waste
Every year you will see news stories that depict gross overspending by the government. Such items run the full gambit from exorbitant travel and conference costs to ridiculous studies and projects. Of course there are also the use-it-or-lose-it buying sprees near the end of each fiscal year. If any department in the government has excess budget at the end of the year that they have not spent it means they will have a smaller budget the following year so employees are forced to make purchases they don’t need.
Experts define waste as a much broader generalized concept that denotes any budget revenue that is misallocated or misused by unwise spending. Here are six basic categories of government waste:
- Programs or projects that cost more to operate than any benefits they may generate.
- Regulations or subsidies that promote a reduction in private business or citizen productivity.
- Obsolete, redundant or frivolous programs and projects.
- Benefits paid to which recipients are not or should not be legally entitled.
- Functions performed more efficiently by private contractors or lower government levels.
- General inefficiency, mismanagement and/or fraudulent spending of public funds.
Examples of wasteful spending
The decreases in defense spending are perhaps the most hotly debated federal budgetary topic. The world is not a safer place and the threats to our military dominance are growing, not shrinking. That said, the military budget is still a lot of money and it is therefore no surprise that it is home to some wasteful projects. One such example was exposed in a report in 2016. The U.S. government spent $86 million over a period of 7 years to build a counter-narcotics spy plane to conduct aerial surveillance over Afghanistan that never made its first mission. Instead, the aircraft has sat idly inside a hangar in Delaware.
Even worse news is that the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz opined the plane will probably never complete a single mission, given its previous track record of missing every delivery deadline while being inoperable during that entire time.
A vast majority of the DEA’s useless $86 million ATR 500 aircraft costs were paid by the DOD, including a $1.9 million hangar and $65.9 million for design modifications. Although the DEA reported more than 1,000 requests for Afghanistan surveillance missions from 2012 to 2015, none were fulfilled due to ongoing maintenance and mechanical defects in its counter-narcotics jet.
Another example of wasteful spending was highlighted by U.S. Senator Rand Paul. In 2016, he commented that our nation’s finances are bleak from “running a very serious deficit” and that “We’re fiscally broke [with] no end in sight to … limitless spending in Washington”. He expressed outrage at the waste polluting our government to the extent that it made his “blood boil” to see money wasted that should be spent more wisely.
Rand Paul has tried for years to stop the U.S. from borrowing China to give Pakistan money. In one month, the junior Kentucky Senator said he led a vigorous fight against spending $300 million in tax funds on Pakistani F-16 fighter plane subsidies when our own country has an urgent need for numerous improvements.
The next most common area of gross federal government waste he cited is needless efforts to maintain good diplomatic relations with allied nations. A prime sample is $900,000 in State Department spending to promote peaceful relations with Great Britain.
Despite borrowing almost $1 million per minute, Washington’s political culture is an environment where agencies feel obligated to spend every cent of their allocated budget. This is how they end up sponsoring art festivals or classic literature readings in London. Politicians feel there is no reason to spend the money wisely because there are no consequences if they don’t. If anything, they are incentivized to waste money.
Senator Paul closed by revealing gross return of $2.4 million from his own annual budget to the U.S. Treasury during a five-year fight on taxpaying voters’ behalf. Thus, as opposed to following an external mantra “if you’ve got it, you’ve got to spend it”, he’s enraged by government waste and urges others to feel a likewise sentiment.
Here are a few outrageous projects:
- $3 million in grants to University of California researchers to play video games like World of Warcraft to study “emergent communication formats”.
- $700,000 to study cows’ methane gas emissions by Univ. of New Hampshire.
- $615,000 to Univ. of California to digitize Grateful Dead concert memorabilia.
- $239,100 to a Stanford University professor to study how gay Americans look for love online.
- $2,500,000 for a U.S. Census Bureau televised Super Bowl broadcast so badly produced that viewers could barely understand anything the narrator was trying to say.
Those that are fed up with wasteful government spending need to stand with Senator Rand Paul and demand an end to government waste.