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Posted at 12:03 PM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Bad timing for Democrats' defense of status quo

By Jennifer Rubin

At a time Senate Democrats are dragging their feet on an extension of the Continuing Resolution and the White House is pushing a budget that merely freezes discretionary defense spending, comes a report from the General Accounting Office:

The U.S. government has 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs to help the homeless and 80 programs for economic development.

These are a few of the findings in a massive study of overlapping and duplicative programs that cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year, according to the Government Accountability Office.

A report from the nonpartisan GAO, to be released Tuesday, compiles a list of redundant and potentially ineffective federal programs, and it could serve as a template for lawmakers in both parties as they move to cut federal spending and consolidate programs to reduce the deficit. Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), who pushed for the report, estimated it identifies between $100 billion and $200 billion in duplicative spending. The GAO didn't put a specific figure on the spending overlap.

No, paring down the mish-mash of duplicative entities isn't going to solve our debt problem, but there's really no excuse for this sort of thing:

The report says there are 18 federal programs that spent a combined $62.5 billion in 2008 on food and nutrition assistance, but little is known about the effectiveness of 11 of these programs because they haven't been well studied. . . .

On teacher quality, the report identified 82 programs that often have similar descriptions and goals and are spread across 10 federal agencies, including the Department of Education, the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Nine of these programs are linked to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Fifty-three of the programs are relatively small, receiving $50 million or less, "and many have their own separate administrative processes."

The GAO highlighted 80 different economic development programs at the Department of Commerce, HUD, Department of Agriculture and Small Business Administration, that spent a combined $6.5 billion last year and often overlapped. For example, the four agencies combined to have 52 different programs that fund "entrepreneurial efforts," 35 programs for infrastructure, and 26 programs for telecommunications. It said 60% of the programs fund only one or two activities, making them "the most likely to overlap because many of them can only fund the same limited types of activities."

And yet the Obama administration says that every penny we currently spend on domestic programs should be maintained, while House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) whines that $4 billion in cuts for a two-week extension of the CR would be devastating. Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner tells me this morning, "This is another example of why the Democrats' position that we can't cut one penny in federal spending is simply indefensible."

The Republicans on Capitol Hill are delighted, and more than a little surprised, that the Democrats haven't shed their infatuation with bloated government. A senior Republican staffer says that "their desperate desire to cling to status quo spending is a really, really bad idea." Indeed.

By Jennifer Rubin  | March 1, 2011; 12:03 PM ET
Categories:  Budget  
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Comments

Did you see the top items on GAO list? Do they magically match the cuts in Republican's bill?

How did T. Coburn come up with 100-200 billions of overlap - perhaps out of 65 billions in total (!) spent on nutrition assistance?


For example, did you see this in the budget?

from GAO: "...One new area on the list is the Interior Department’s management of oil and gas leases and royalties, which are among the largest sources of non-tax revenue to the federal government. One reason this area is at risk is that the department does not have reasonable assurance that all revenues are being collected. Indeed, in 2008, the G.A.O. reported that the Interior Department had not conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the federal oil and gas revenue system in more than 25 years, despite significant changes in the oil and gas industry...."

Clearly, programs should be evaluated and redundancy eliminated. But when you cut first and measure later, then, clearly, efficiency is not the goal

Posted by: MR-CRMS | March 1, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Wow, pretending to cite to a GAO report, when you are quoting a WSJ op-ed. Not cool.

Posted by: oldabandonedbeachhouse | March 1, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse

“…We have also pointed out that royalty collection relied too heavily on company-reported oil and gas production figures. In fiscal years 2006 and 2007 we found that much of the data reported by oil and gas companies appeared erroneous, resulting in millions in uncollected fees. And the proportion of revenues that the government collected for oil and gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a major study, was lower than for 93 of 104 other owners of such resources….”

“…In fiscal year 2010 alone, Medicare had estimated improper payments of almost $48 billion; this estimate did not include improper payments in its prescription drug benefit program…’ – Obama administrations has actually conducted the largest investigation of Medicare fraud

“…Billions more could flow to the Treasury through better enforcement of the tax laws and closing the gap between taxes owed and paid. Typically, about 84 percent of owed taxes are paid voluntarily and on time; in its most recent estimate, for 2001, the I.R.S. said the resulting net gap was $290 billion.(!!) – the Republican’s budget responds by…. ‘cutting IRS funding by millions. Why? (want to venture a guess ?)

And how much will it cost to cut millions in funding for Planned Parenthood – as the number unintended pregnancies increases as well as the cost of benefits. Explain.

Posted by: MR-CRMS | March 1, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

http://www.gao.gov/highrisk/risks/efficiency-effectiveness/management_federal_oil_gas.php

Posted by: MR-CRMS | March 1, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

We won't have to worry about those pesky oil & gas leases, Obama refuses to approve any new ones.

$5/g will look reasonable.

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 1, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

http://www.gao.gov/highrisk/risks/tax-law/tax_laws.php

"...Typically, about 84 percent of owed taxes are paid voluntarily and timely. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) last estimated the resulting tax gap to be $345 billion for 2001. After late payments and IRS enforcement, the net tax gap was $290 billion. IRS enforcement of the tax laws is vital to ensuring that all owed taxes are paid, which in turn can promote voluntary compliance by giving taxpayers confidence that others are paying their fair share. GAO's high-risk area includes IRS's efforts to ensure payment both of unpaid taxes known to IRS and unpaid taxes IRS has not detected...."

Guess who is in position to underpay that much in taxes? Not people receiving $200 a week paycheck (or even $ 2,000 per month)

the point is: the article clearly distorted the essence of GAO report (look at the list of high-risk items) More importantly, the House budget does little to address real issues and contains dangerous and cruel cuts to well-being poor and middle class without addressing more important issues.

Posted by: MR-CRMS | March 1, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

The GAO’s study is suspect, it can’t be trusted. In assessing the GOP’s budget deal, the Black Caucus has shuffled its deck, dealt a hand, and pulled out the race card! What a surprise!
http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/146633-black-caucus-members-say-gop-budget-a-step-backwards-for-black-americans

// "It's really especially poignant that this year during Black History Month, the Republican leadership has proposed a budget for fiscal year 2011 that will fall most heavily, mind you, on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society: African Americans, Latinos, and poor, those who have been shut of the American dream," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who described the cuts as ill-timed and destructive.

"At a time when we should be remembering and uplifting the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans, to the history, culture, civil rights and economy of America, we are literally during this month debating steps that will severely undercut and undermine that legacy," she said.//

That says it all for me.

Posted by: SCMike1 | March 1, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

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