Imagine taking $175 billion in cash and flushing it down the toilet. Well, that is what our federal government did last year, according to a new survey from the government’s watchdog.
Every year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) tracks the amount of improper payments made by various federal agencies and programs in the form of waste, fraud, and abuse. The audit does not subjectively judge whether a program itself is wasteful, but whether, based on the program’s own guidelines, there are payments made that should not be. For fiscal year 2019, the GAO found that the federal government made $175 billion in improper payments, a 15 percent jump from FY 2018.
While we will never tackle the federal deficit crisis by combating waste and fraud alone, these numbers do add up. $175 billion is roughly the cost of the entire annual budget for the gargantuan federal civilian and military retirement pension program. According to the GAO, the federal government has wasted $1.7 trillion on improper payments alone since 2003. That’s when Congress began requiring this annual audit.
Here are some other key takeaways from the report, which was published yesterday.
What’s so tragic about this is that both parties always talk about cutting “waste, fraud, and abuse” as a cop-out for actually addressing the systemic problems in major government programs and the premise of the federal government’s involvement in various aspects of our lives. However, when it comes time to actually cutting waste, they never do it. Why is it that they are constantly increasing spending to record levels and then passing even more emergency spending bills without ever trying to genuinely combat what is universally regarded as improper payments?
It’s also sad how so much of the waste is embedded in socialist transfer-of-wealth programs, such as Medicaid and refundable tax credits, aka welfare through the tax code. These are programs that many Americans pay for but never receive benefits from. Taken together, the tab for improper payments among all the refundable tax credits was $26.7 billion. That is more than a quarter of the entire cost of refundable credits, estimated to cost about $96 billion!
With the debt surging past $23 trillion and with endless trillion-dollar annual deficits as far as the eye can see, one would think this report would spawn a bipartisan effort to at least combat universal waste. Sadly, the only bipartisanship in Washington is a commitment to waste even more taxpayer funding, subsidize more favored industries, and redistribute even more wealth.
Meanwhile, with 5,000 deportation officers for over 3 million criminal aliens, they can’t fund a few billion dollars to remove other countries’ violent criminals, one of the most important jobs of a national government.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.