Tags: tom | Coburn | Bloated | government | waste | spending | economy

Coburn: Bloated Govt Spending May Waste $200 Billion

By Forrest Jones and Greg Brown   |   Tuesday, 01 Mar 2011 12:31 PM

A Congressional watchdog has found that the bloated federal government is wasting up to $200 billion a year in taxpayer dollars in spending on overlapping and duplicative programs.

Billions of dollars are lost to redundant government spending, including funding for 15 agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 homeless-assistance programs and 80 programs for economic development, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Sen. Tom Coburn, R., Okla., who pushed for the report, estimates duplicative spending to run “at least $100 billion” and as high as $200 billion.

Tea Party advocates are pushing for $100 billion in immediate cuts to government spending this year; an initial move by the GOP to cut $61 billion has run into heavy Democratic resistance as a showdown over the federal debt ceiling looms.

Ironically, 56 programs across 20 agencies deal with “financial literacy.”

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Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
"This 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," Sen. Coburn said in a statement.

“This report also shows we could save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year without cutting services. And, in many cases, smart consolidations will improve service. GAO has identified a mother lode of government waste and duplication that should keep Congress busy for the rest of the year,” Coburn said.

The report was the result of a congressional mandate after the last raising of the U.S. debt ceiling in early 2010.

Among other findings:

• The federal government runs more than 2,100 data centers for 24 agencies. Consolidating them could save $200 billion over a decade, according to the GAO, half again the money Obama projects he could save via a five-year spending freeze, reports Fox News.

• Spending on the homeless problem was spread across 20 programs and seven agencies and totaled 2.9 billion in 2009. At $200,000 per home, the money could simply have bought 145,000 homes for cash.

• Ten agencies attempt to track “teacher quality” via 82 programs.

• There are at least 80 “economic development” programs. The federal government runs these across four agencies at a cost of $6.5 billion.

• Defense is rife with duplication and inefficiencies. Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier this month proposed $78 billion in cuts over five years. The proposed 2012 “base” budget is a record $553 billion.

• An astounding $1 trillion in “special tax benefits, many of which are redundant,” according to Coburn. According to the GAO: “For fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Department of the Treasury listed a total of 173 tax expenditures, some of which were the same magnitude or larger than related federal spending for some mission areas.”

Public spending has grabbed headlines recently, as the Obama administration has expressed willingness to work with Republicans to help narrow the country's gaping fiscal deficit. Both parties are working to agree on a spending plan that would avoid shutting down the government, as happened in 1995.

Fed Chief Ben Bernanke on Tuesday reiterated his call for Congress to raise the debt ceiling.

In scheduled testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke said he sees no serious inflation risk ahead for U.S. consumers. However, he said that putting off the question of the debt ceiling was inadvisable.

"Not increasing the debt limit is like saying you're going to solve your family's debt problems by not paying your credit card bills," Bernanke said.

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