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Report Showing Billions in Government Waste Helps, not Hurts, Democrats

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A new government report exposes how massive duplication of federal programs and operations wastes billions of taxpayer dollars a year. But instead of being fuel for further conservative attacks against the government, it ought to become a weapon of smart Democrats to fend off the current Republican budget-cutting rampage. Let me explain.

Before the results of this Government Accountability Office (GAO) study were even known, House Republicans last month approved an array of deep, and often harmful, spending cuts to a variety of federal programs.  It didn’t matter whether the programs which fell under the GOP ax were effective, ineffective, duplicative or otherwise; they were cut all the same.  President Obama and other Democrats also have shown a willingness to prune the mounting federal budget deficit. But rather than hack at programs wholesale, which could fire teachers, harm the U.S. economy, and potentially put security at risk, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to make what he calls “smart cuts.”  This new report can help do just that.

No one, not liberals, conservatives, Democrats, or Republicans, wants, or defends, waste. And we ought to root out the true waste before slashing at programs that are actually effective and help Americans. The GAO report now provides a clear road map to do so. Every dollar saved by adopting GAO recommendations is a dollar that need not be pruned from education, the environment, science and innovation, and other worthwhile federal endeavors.  Once Democrats enact these recommendations, they will have stripped Republicans of the waste argument, one of their most potent pejoratives against the federal government.

If House Republicans had been intellectually honest, that they wanted to trim spending in a useful, not partisan, way, they would have waited until the GAO report came out before proposing the draconian cuts they laid out in their spending bill a few weeks back.  Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, had ordered the report some time ago, so its release was no real surprise. 

The GAO is the nonpartisan watchdog agency of Congress. Its analysts report results based on facts and figures, not politics.  Now that its report is here, it gives lawmakers an opportunity and a challenge.  It is an opportunity because the report provides a way to solve the current budget impasse that threatens to shut down the federal government in two weeks if Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on a spending plan.

Republicans and Democrats ought to set aside whatever cuts they advocated previously. Instead, they should pick up the GAO report and write it into legislation.  Doing so would cut waste that is real, not imagined. It’s a challenge, especially for Republicans, because actually enacting the GAO recommendations would cut the government based on fact, not ideology, and potentially spare dozens of effective federal programs on which millions of Americans rely each day. Coburn is no liberal, but he makes my case even better than I do, “This report also shows we could save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year without cutting services,” Coburn says.

Let me repeat that: save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year without cutting services. GAO proves that we can cut our budget deficit — without cutting services. Indeed, much of the GAO report takes direct aim at bloated Pentagon bureaucracies, not the non-defense spending Republicans want to wipe out. If Republicans refuse to go along, Democrats should force Republicans to prove why their partisan budget cuts are any better than budget cuts based nonpartisan fact.

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About Scott Nance

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Scott! How dare you suggest that cuts should be based on fact instead of ideology! Do you not know that dogma is always more important, more crucial than fact? It was so when the Catholics came down hard on Galileo, and it’s true now that taxpayer-funded teachers, policemen, and firemen are robbing the public blind, and now that we need to protect and preserve the pittance earned every year by the denizens of Wall Street!

  • Cannonshop

    No, the bizarre thing is a democrat suggesting ANY government programme outside the Dept. of Defense be cut-or have the increase in its budget reduced.


    The way the sides present themselves:

    Republicans want to cut government.

    Democrats want to keep services.

    The GAO report shows that both can happen.

    This SHOULD be a perfect solution that lets everyone get what they want, neh?

    Except… that the Republicans really don’t want to cut anything-at least, anything other than cosmetic cuts, for the same reasons that Dems (at least honestly) don’t want to cut ANYTHING.

    In the novel “The Sand Pebbles” they talk about “Rice Bowls”-and there are, put bluntly, a LOT Of Rice Bowls that would be shattered in a GAO compromise. Not just among government employees, either-all those redundant programmes and agencies have vendors who lobby intensely from K-street to Main-Street.
    Both parties rely heavily on those lobbyists for money and manpower come election time.

    so it goes from practical and principled cuts, to ideological cuts-because ideological cuts harm your opponents, and the Parties aren’t about serving the country (either one of ’em), they’re about grasping and maintaining power.

  • handyguy

    So much of the budget is consumed by Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Defense, that for either side to pretend they are doing anything serious without major restructuring in those areas is just more disingenuous posturing.

    The Republicans should move on from useless slashing of the current year’s budget and get to work on FY12 and beyond. That would demonstrate more seriousness than the current nyah-nyah back and forth.

  • Cannonshop

    #3 the problem, Handy, is what it has been since the first big reports on deficits in the 1980’s. (we had big deficits before Reagan, but they weren’t reported on as extensively.) The problem is the sacred cows of government-and by sacred cows, I mean the ‘no touchie’ on BOTH sides of the aisle.

    How many Cabinet-Level positions do we really need? is Dept. of Homeland Security really necessary? Could the objectives of Obamacare be achieved with something smaller, simpler, even (gasp) cheaper? It’s already been decided we don’t need the F-22, do we really need the JSF? Could the intended mission be handled by something less costly and less advanced?
    Does the Federal Government REALLY need to exert direct control over eighty percent of the landmass west of the Mississippi River? Do we really need AmTrak? Could we replace NASA with private entities by lowering the license costs for launch-licensing and selling off old ICBM boosters?

    How many police agencies does the Federal Government really NEED? (the Canadians manage it with one Federal-level agency-the RCMP. Why do we need to pay for an FBI, ATF, and TSA, plus Border Patrol and Immigration? why does the IRS need a SWAT team, or weapons to arm one?)

    The DoD could probably save a BUNCH of money by closing the Pentagon, or reducing the staffing there, and we probably don’t need to maintain basing in Germany at this point-the chances of a major European-side asian war aren’t very high, and the russians probably aren’t going to come swarming across the Kasserine Pass any time in the near future-on the other hand, Asia is probably going to be a problem for a long time-particularly Korea and the “Near East” areas, where, thanks to the direction of our technological evolution, we have to make sure there is a steady supply of oil, and stable trade with manufacturers and markets (y’know, unless you LIKE the idea of living in a mud hut and starving three days out of four…)