What the GAO thinks we can do without
The Government Accountability Office has released a more than 300-page report tallying up 34 areas in which the government has duplicative, fragmented or overlapping programs, and an additional 47 areas where better management or spending decisions could save us money or raise revenue without any obvious loss to program effectiveness. Don't let the length of the report scare you off from giving it a look: The first set of recommendations is summarized on pages 5-7, and the second set on pages 155-158.
In general, I think conservatives tend to be more excited about these reports than liberals. Sen. Tom Coburn's office not only churns these sorts of reports out on a daily basis, but it also authored the amendment that led to the GAO producing this paper. That's a lost opportunity for liberals: It's the people who believe in government who should be angriest and most insistent on taking action when it fails to work, not the people who believe government can't work and see failure and inefficiency as proof for their argument. I give Coburn a lot of credit for the work he and his staff put in to identifying places where we could save money without hurting outcomes, but his crusade is inexcusably lonely. The Mark Warners of the world should be at least as loud on this issue. The necessary partner to big -- or at least biggish -- government is good government.
People will argue, of course, whether every item in here really is waste, fraud or abuse. But the GAO is considered pretty good at its job, and I think it's safe to say that most of this stuff is low-hanging fruit in terms of saving or raising money and making the bureaucracy work a little bit better. It won't solve our budget problems -- we need to get health-care costs under control to do that -- but it'd do some good. And that should be enough.
| March 1, 2011; 11:52 AM ET
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