What?? The government wastes money??? That can't be true!!!
A report from the Government Accountability Office, released on Tuesday, compiles a list of redundant federal programs. This seems to be a sort of I-told-you-so moment that everyone who feels the government is bad at what it does can shout about from the rooftops, but come on; does anyone think the government is a model of efficiency? If so, Mr. Obama, you can just go about your business. Normal people such as you or I most likely see this report as a blueprint for trimming government waste and cutting spending to reduce the deficit. For instance:
The GAO found 82 federal programs aimed at improving teacher quality – I wonder how terrible our schools would be if we only had 37?
56 federal programs exist to help people understand finances – that certainly paid off with the recent rash of “I didn’t understand what an adjustable rate mortgage was so now I can’t pay my mortgage and it’s not my fault!!!”
A big winner are the 18 federal programs that spent a total of $62.5 billion in 2008 on food and nutrition assistance – how many different programs do we have spending how much money to make Americans less fat???
The Food and Drug Administration makes sure that chicken eggs are "safe, wholesome, and properly labeled" while a division of the Department of Agriculture "is responsible for the safety of eggs processed into egg products." I’m glad that the Department of Ag is responsible for the egg products; I just don’t trust the FDA for anything other than whole eggs.
Really, though, of great concern to me is not necessarily that so many different programs exist towards the same end, but rather how duplicative they are and whether we are wasting money by running them all separately. Fortunately for us, the report also addresses this, specifically regarding the 82 programs intended to improve teacher quality - "many have their own separate administrative processes." Hmmm. . .sounds like we might be able to save a little bit of dough by consolidating the administration and getting rid of all the extra administrators.
I do wonder, honestly, how much money we could save by cutting out the extraneous waste, or how much more effective these programs could be if they didn’t just repeat what some other program is also doing? I’m all for smaller government (cutting out the waste), but at the very least, couldn’t we have more effective government (yes, I realize this is somewhat of an oxymoron, but bear with me here)? I’d like to save the taxpayers money by eliminating the multitude of redundant programs, but let’s say that you are addicted to government spending (hypothetically speaking, I’d have to assume you are a Democrat) – if we must spend the money, don’t we owe it to ourselves and whatever cause towards which we are spending the money to get the most bang for our buck? Surely paying multiple administrators to administer essentially the same project is unacceptable.
Some politicians, though, will probably see this report as what the federal government truly can accomplish – employment. After all, why hire just one guy to do a job when you can hire another 10 or 12 to do the same job? And while that was a joke, it is, I fear, why most of the reforms that pretty much just punch you in the face with obviousness will not be made. Most elected officials who attempt to address this issue will balk at making any tough decisions that are to the detriment of their constituents – “with all of this redundancy, we can get rid of three of these four guys, so let’s keep my guy.” But of course, the other politician wants to keep his guy, as do all of the other politicians, and the resulting compromise will be that everyone keeps his job and stay employed (see the redundancy?).
Although I’m sure we are all alarmed by the revelation that the government wastes money, it does make me wonder exactly how much money they spent (wasted?) trying to figure out how much money they waste (something we all know about) by doing stuff they already do.