Redundant Agencies Wasting Billions of Taxpayer Dollars

Friday, 04 Mar 2011 12:13 PM

By Michael Reagan

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Uncle Sam is spending a lot of your tax dollars on programs that do the exact same thing as other federal programs, and you are paying the tab, a shocking new report shows.

According to a report by the watchdog Government Accounting Office (GAO), Uncle Sam hosts 47 job-training programs, 44 of which do the same things. The federal government also runs 80 programs for what it calls the "transportation disadvantaged." Count 'em: 80 — paid for by your tax dollars.

The report cites a total of 82 other programs spread across 10 separate agencies that are supposed to improve what it calls "teacher quality" — something of concern to local school districts and not Uncle Sam. It's a classic example of the left hand not being aware of what the right hand is doing, and it's costing us, the taxpayers, untold billions of our tax dollars.

I agree with penny-wise Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., who was outraged by the scandals uncovered in the report and has vowed "to get our fiscal house in order," saying "Now again, we have said enough is enough . . . "

An equally outraged Oklahoma GOP senator, Tom Coburn, said the report "confirms what most Americans assume about their government. We are spending trillions of dollars every year and nobody knows what we are doing. The executive branch doesn't know. The congressional branch doesn't know. Nobody knows."

The GAO report was mandated by Congress the last time it raised the debt limit in January 2010. Coburn said the report makes lawmakers look like "jackasses."

"We don't know what we're doing," Coburn said.

It's about time they knew. This is the money we earned by the sweat of our brow and they're squandering it as if it were their money, not yours and mine.

Think about it. How long would we survive if we spent our money over and over again on the same things at the same time? We'd be in the poor house — which is where Uncle Sam lives these days while acting as if he is living in a huge mansion and waited upon by his servants, the taxpayers.

This scandal is the result of an inexcusable inattention by the Congress, which in recent years has acted as if it had the power to spend money the U.S. doesn't have, much of it on worthless programs, and passing the bill on to future generations.

Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 congressional elections by pledging to trim the government's sails, seeking out wasteful programs and eliminating them. Republicans plan to cut a whopping $61 billion from the current fiscal year's budget.

That should be just the beginning. The GAO report pinpoints the areas where some of the cutting can and should be done. The report shows Congress where a lot of the waste can be found, advising: "Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars."

The duplication is staggering, with some 33 areas loaded down with what it calls "overlap and fragmentation" in the federal government, including 56 programs across 20 agencies that deal with something called "financial literacy," whatever that is. There are more than 2,100 data centers — from only 432 a little more than a decade ago — among 24 federal agencies. The GAO says Uncle Sam could save up to $200 billion over the next 10 years simply through consolidation.

There are 20 programs among seven agencies that deal with homelessness. The GAO found $2.9 billion spent on the programs in 2009. "Congress is often to blame" for fragmentation, GAO wrote, explaining that potential participants often have access problems as a result of the duplication.

Moreover, there are 82 "distinct" teacher-quality programs in 10 different agencies, many having "duplicate sub-goals." Nine of them address teacher quality in math, science, and related areas. There are 15 agencies in charge of 30 food-related laws. "Some of the oversight doesn't make any sense," according to the report.

".Doesn't make any sense." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of "The New Reagan Revolution" (St. Martin's Press, 2011). He is the founder and chairman of The Reagan Group and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Visit his website at www.reagan.com, or e-mail comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com.

© Mike Reagan

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