Today, it could be paraphrased to “Everybody talks about government waste, but nobody does anything about it.”
We surely have an on-going conversation about government waste but very little is done about it. We have had numerous government studies about waste, fraud and abuse.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has made a career railing against all of the ways that government wastes taxpayers’ money. He has published an annual ‘Pig’ with examples of government.
His colleagues thank him and claim to support him but when the rubber meets the road they draw from making substantive changes in wasteful government programs. Why is that?
Ronald Reagan once said: “So, governments’ programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”
And the numbers bear out President Reagan’s observation. Let’s look at some of the biggest offenders.
U.S. taxpayers now fund 126 separate federal anti-poverty programs each year. CATO Institute fellow Michael Tanner says those 126 anti-poverty programs have grown exponentially under President Barack Obama.
In 2011 the federal government spent roughly $668.2 billion on those 126 programs. That represents an increase of more than $193 billion since Barack Obama became president. This is roughly two and a half times greater than any increase over a similar time frame in U.S. history.
And who supports the continued existence of this plethora of federal programs? We need to understand that every government program has a constituency of supporters.
In the case of the anti-poverty programs, these supporters are powerful special interests. These include the food producers who make money off food stamps and companies that administer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. It also must include the bureaucrats who administer all of these programs.
Poverty is an industry like any other in America, an industry that spends almost $700 billion and employs many thousands of Americans. In the last 50 years since the beginning of the War on Poverty began we have spent over a trillion dollars and we have a high poverty rate than we had at its inception.
When confronted with this powerful phalanx of special interests with their lobbyists and the bureaucrats with their power to make life miserable for our legislators , it’s no wonder that the Congress shrinks from cutting or consolidating programs.
Add to the powerful special interests and bureaucrats all of the groups that benefit at the state and local level and you have an insurmountable wall of opposition to change.
Let’s look at another area where the government has an overabundance of different programs. According to the Government Accountability Office in 2012 the federal government had 160 separate housing programs.
Where are they all?
Well, HUD runs the majority of the programs, 91. The United States Department of Agriculture, which also administers farming aid and the nation’s food stamp program, offers 18 different types of housing assistance as well. The Internal Revenue Service has 14 programs. The Department of Treasury offers 8 programs; the Department of Veterans Affairs 7; the Department of Labor 2; Federal Home Loan Banks 3.
Each program has its own network of supporters, advocates, special interests and bureaucrats. Add to the federal network of supporters the networks at the state and local level and you have a virtual brick wall to opposition against cutting or consolidating programs.
With all of these federal programs, housing is still a local issue that can and should be dealt with at the local level. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the federal government spent $270 billion in 2012 to help Americans buy or rent homes.
Unfortunately, most of that money did not go to families that needed it the most. Instead, higher-income families benefited the most.
Overall, more than half of federal housing spending for which income data are available benefits households with incomes above $100,000.
The 5 million households with incomes of $200,000 or more receive a larger share of such spending than the more than 20 million households with incomes of $20,000 or less, even though lower-income families are far more likely to struggle to afford housing.
Most modern politicians seem to be fundamentally lazy. When they’re confronted with an issue like poverty they tend to create new programs rather than try to work within the existing system.
When it comes to cutting or consolidating wasteful programs, they simply don’t have the political will to make difficult choices. As long as the American people allow this situation to continue, the Washington politicians will drag their feet.