The waste in the federal government is monumental.
That’s the conclusion from Sen. James Lankford’s second annual government waste and solutions report called, “Federal Fumbles: 100 ways the government dropped the ball.” The report represents $247 billion in wasteful and inefficient federal spending and regulations, but also includes solutions to each of the examples of government waste.
“The American people have signaled a bold new direction for Washington with the election of President-elect Donald Trump,” said Lankford. “Although the federal debt wasn’t a major focus during the presidential campaign, it remains a serious impending crisis that must be addressed. In Fiscal Year 2016 alone, we had a $587 billion deficit and our federal debt is now an outrageous $19.5 trillion. To lower the debt, we need to grow the economy, and we must root out inefficiencies, duplication, and wasteful spending wherever they exist. This ‘Federal Fumbles’ report provides specific examples of wasteful spending and unnecessary regulations that are not in the taxpayer’s best interest.”
Here are some glaring examples and how they are being addressed.
- Subsidized Wind
The Wind Production Tax Credit was originally created as a temporary subsidy to help get the wind energy industry off the ground. The industry is now very successful, yet it receives more than $6 billion in federal tax credits every year. Lankford helped secure a provision in the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations funding bill, which was signed into law last December, to include a three-year phasedown of the wind energy tax credit.
- 25,000+ Ineligible Families In Public Housing
Last year, more than 25,000 families in America received federally-subsidized housing from HUD, despite not being qualified for the program. More than $100 million was spent on families, like one in New York with an annual income of $497,911, who earned far more than the allowable amount for federal assistance. Lankford secured a provision in the annual Senate Appropriations bill for HUD (S. 2844) that requires implementation of an IG report’s recommendations to ensure only those who are entitled to federal housing assistance actually receive it.
- Disability is Only for the Disabled
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has an enormous backlog in disability cases waiting for an Administrative Law Judge hearing. To expedite the backlog, the SSA created a new system to hear cases, but it was found to be costly and legally uncertain. Lankford confronted the SSA with the cost and risk of that scheme and after threats of a subpoena, the SSA reversed their plan and changed direction. This will save the taxpayer millions of dollars of litigation costs and will speed up the disability process.
- Caution: Read Before Eating
A recent food-labeling FDA rule requires grocery stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues to add more detailed information on each food item sold. While Americans should have information on the food they eat, existing labeling requirements are already very detailed, and this regulation would burden the agriculture industry with more than $1 billion in compliance costs in the first year alone. Lankford helped secure a provision in the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations funding bill, which was signed into law last December, to pause implementation of the rule.
- Taxpayers Right To Know
More than 25 pieces of legislation that address an example of waste in Lankford’s 2015 “Federal Fumbles” report have passed a Committee or one House of Congress, and could progress even further during the lame-duck session of Congress, which ends December 31, 2016. One bill is the Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act, which passed the House and has bipartisan support in the Senate. This bill will promote budget transparency, which will result in federal spending that is more accountable to the taxpayer, especially for questionable grants, which make up a significant amount of waste examples in Lankford’s 2015 report.
“This is the way the federal government has dropped the ball, and what we are trying to focus in on, is not trying to pick on one particular agency or entity, but to say we have got to be able to pay attention,” Lankford said. “We are really dealing with four different main areas as we walk through this; grants that need oversight, regulations and regulators that need oversight, agency bureaucracy and inefficiency, and then a lack of coordination between agencies.
“We are not just trying to raise the problem; we are also trying to raise how you solve it. Whether it is an administration action, whether it is a piece of legislation, whether it is just coordination between the two, or some of those things that have already happened, but we haven’t engaged in it enough to provide the oversight needed to actually get the coordination. Every single one of these identify here is the problem, here is the issue, and here is how to solve it.”
The problem is bigger than the report.
“This is not a comprehensive book; this is not trying to list everything in the federal government where there is an issue,” Lankford said. “We are trying to find some key areas that we can identify, and say here are some problems we have seen, and some things that we find as common ground solutions. This builds on last year’s book.
“We have got duplication issues. We have got problems that are around federal foreign aid, which has been an ongoing issue that we have made recommendations on. When we deal with foreign aid, we should simply deal with foreign aid that is to the benefit of the United States. We don’t think that is an unreasonable request. Instead, at times, we deal with foreign aid, like studying fish bones in Tanzania.”
To do his part to help reduce federal spending in Congress’ own operational budget, Lankford has operated his Senatorial office budget far below the allotted amount for each Senator. Since he was elected to the US Senate in 2014, Lankford has given back $230,000 to the Treasury each year.
Federal Debt Statistics:
- The federal deficit for Fiscal Year 2016 was $587 billion, and overall debt is now $19.5 Trillion, according to the Treasury Department.
- The total federal debt of $19,573,444,713,936.79 now equals about $165,575 per household in America.
- In the eight years of Mr. Obama’s presidency, the federal debt has grown by $9 trillion, nearly matching the total amount of debt accumulated by all of his predecessors.
- According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the projected federal deficit is expected to be $594 billion in Fiscal Year 2017.
- Annual deficits are projected to increase above $1 trillion within this decade due to America’s aging population. Between 2010 and 2040, the number of Americans age 65 and older will double – from 41 million to 82 million people.