The one thing the “sequester” did was to get people asking why government spending could not be reduced. Adding to the drama of the automatic cuts was the sky-is-falling, government-services-will-stop, and comparable lies the President and his cabinet secretaries told until it became obvious that the public was not buying it.
What the President did not talk about was the incredible, obscene waste of taxpayer’s money that goes on every day in every department and agency of the U.S. government. Americans are so accustomed to hearing everything described in the billions and trillions, they have lost sight of what these numbers really mean and this is particularly true in light of the nation’s huge, growing debt and deficit.
It’s not like independent organizations like Citizens Against Government Waste don’t keep watch and report the waste. It has gained some fame for its annual “Pig Book”, a list of absurd spending. To its credit, the Government Accountability Office occasionally issues a report on waste when some member of Congress requests it.
Even a casual bit of research turns up item after item that, were Americans not so apathetic and indifferent to government waste, it would result in huge rallies in Washington, D.C. calling for change. There is none.
Here are some examples, a mere handful from the many anyone can discover by simply Googling “government waste.”
# The government spends $1.7 billion for maintenance on empty buildings it owns, although some sources put the figure at closer to $25 billion. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that 55,000 properties are underutilized or entirely vacant.
# The federal government owns approximately one-third of all U.S. land. It does not need more land and it could be argued that it should not own 80% of Nevada and Alaska, and more than half of Idaho. That said, it wants to spend $2.3 billion to purchase more land and the National park Service currently has a backlog of maintenance tasks totaling $5 billion. These include parks that the Obama administration was saying would all have to be closed down because of a sequester reduction of a mere 1.2% of all federal spending.
# Homeland Security’s Janet Napolitano was issuing statements about the sequestration cuts to her department, but according to Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, the department has $9 billion in unspent preparedness funds. How much of that will be spent on purchasing more DHS ammunition? They have already purchased enough to shoot every American five times.
# Republican lawmakers in Congress took the sequester fear-mongering as an opportunity to note, as Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) said, “There are pots of money sitting in different departments across the federal government, that have been authorized over either a number of months or years.”
# Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is a leading budget hawk who identified programs to fund a space ship to another solar system, funds for advancements in beef jerky from France, and $6 billion for research to find out what lessons about democracy and decision-making can be learned—from fish!
# While you’re trying to figure out how to pay your 2012 taxes, give a thought to the National Science Foundation $350,000 grant to Purdue University researchers on how to improve your golf game.