Coburn’s Wastebook: Reminding us that every department needs reform

In case you missed it, last week, Sen. Tom Coburn released his final Wastebook, highlighting “the most outlandish government spending.”

And while waste, fraud, and abuse might not always count as the type of major spending that drives our national debt, these examples are instructive because they show that no department is immune from irresponsible spending — that every department desperately needs reform.

Some examples highlighted by Coburn include.

  • Coast guard party patrols – $100,000
  • Swedish massages for rabbits – $387,000
  • Paid vacations for bureaucrats gone wild – $20 million
  • Pentagon to destroy $16 billion in unused ammunition — $1 billion
  • Rich and famous rent out their luxury pads tax free – $10 million
  • Promoting U.S. culture around the globe with nose flutists – $90 million

And the list goes on and on.

Often, politicians like to pretend that there’s “nothing to cut,” that spending reform will be damaging and traumatic to normal functions of government.

Senator Coburn’s report shows the absurdity of such an assumption.

It’s safe to say every department wastes money. Every office can manage some cost-cutting. In such a dire financial situation, we simply can’t afford not to.

Here’s why they lack spending credibility

Speaking on ABC’s This Week yesterday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) provided a stark example of why many politicians — even Republicans who claim a commitment to fiscal restraint — lack credibility on the issue.

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Republicans attack opponents… for reforming entitlements

Often, establishment Republicans will say that big spending on certain discretionary programs they support is, well, acceptable because the real focus should be on entitlement programs, the major drivers of our debt.

While we think they are wrong to make any program a sacred cow, they are right that, at 60% of total spending, mandatory entitlement programs are a massive portion of our budget that must be addressed.

Unfortunately, though, too many of these politicians can’t even be trusted to take on what they say they will.

Politico reports the latest twist in what has been a challenging election season for fiscal conservatism [emphasis added]:

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Senate to Hold Ebola Hearing

Next week, just two days after the Midterm elections, Senate Appropriations will hold a hearing to discuss the government’s handling of the Ebola outbreak.

This comes after the House led its own hearing last week on the topic, and after several recent attempts to blame the crisis on — you guessed it — lack of funding, despite the fact that the CDC’s budget has increased in recent years.

For instance, just in 2012, the CDC saw a $343 million budget increase, and while funding for public health emergencies was cut by $73 million, the CDC received well over $740 million in additional funding from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Healthcare Fund.

It’s obvious that there is mismanagement and bureaucratic inefficiency to address here. But especially with Congress’s recent history of handing out money to failing programs, we should keep a close watch to make sure Congress’s first act during Lame Duck isn’t to throw more money at another problem.

Voters want Congress to cut spending; doubt it will

According to a recent Rasmussen poll, American voters understand more about the nation’s fiscal woes than many would give them credit for — and are pessimistic about Congress’s ability to fix the situation.

In reacting to the nation’s current economic problems, more voters worry the government won’t do enough than that it will do too much. However, they hope the government’s response is to cut spending, not increase it.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 52% of Likely U.S. Voters are more concerned that the government won’t dip enough in responding to the bad economy. Just 38% are more worried that the government will do too much.

There’s good reason for that skepticism. After all, for years, Congress has found itself unable to maintain even the smallest spending cuts. Recent analysis shows that many candidates have stopped focusing on the debt altogether. There’s certainly reason to be pessimistic.

That’s why we’re working to ensure that politicians can’t ignore this issue any longer. It’s high time we make sure that they listen to the American people and cut spending.


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