Bad timing for Democrats' defense of status quo
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.
| March 1, 2011; 12:03 PM ET
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