Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Primer on Government Inefficiency - 'Fed Style'

Remember when $10 million dollars meant something? Nowadays, such denominations are merely rounding errors for many of our Federal Government agencies and their myriad profligate spending programs.

In today's Wall Street Journal, reporter Damian Paletta reminds us in his 'Billions in Bloat Uncovered in Beltway' article of how millions quickly add up to billions.

Thanks to the stalwart fiscal oversight of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla), a report was commissioned on the Fed's cornucopia of redundancy, inconsistency and mismanagement -- also known as -- waste, fraud and abuse.

According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office,

The U.S. government has 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs to help the homeless and 80 programs for economic development.

This GAO report unfurls some interesting tidbits and is merely a microcosm of a wider problem -- the explosive growth of government. Just think, the savings alone in some of the proposed agency and program consolidations equates to the gross national product of many small countries.

And of course, it's not like president Obama hasn't made infrastructure one of his main tenets for his 'Winning the Future' campaign.

The report adroitly reveals,

The report said five divisions within the Department of Transportation account for 100 different programs that fund things like highways, rail projects and safety programs.

One program that funnels transportation funds to the states "functions as a cash-transfer general-purpose grant program, rather than as a tool for pursuing a cohesive national transportation policy," the report said. Similarly, it chided the government over encouraging federal agencies to purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles while having policies that agencies reduce electricity consumption. It said government agencies have purchased numerous vehicles that run on alternative fuels only to find many gas stations don't sell alternative fuels. This has led government agencies to turn around and request waivers so they didn't have to use alternative fuels.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said the president's budget for fiscal year 2012 "proposes to cut waste, inefficiency and bureaucracy by consolidating over 55 separate highway programs into five core programs, and by merging six transit programs into two programs."

The aforementioned subterfuge reminds me a lot of our very own DelDOT agency. But I digress.

While Congress is mostly to blame, it is incumbent upon any president as executive leader to not-so-subtly remind the legislative branch that the fox can't always be expected to watch the hen-house.

However, I do give president Obama kudos for his Jan 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed where he calls for a federal regulations review so the business community isn't hampered so much.

Obama points out,

Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance. And today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government.

This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It's a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.

Let's hope that real and serious reports like the GAO one becomes the rule rather than the exception. And likewise, the president makes good on his promise to streamline anti-business regulations that punish, rather than reward, entrepreneurs.

As hardworking taxpayers, we could use a dose of equilibrium on our nation's fiscal ledger. Currently, our spending promises far outweigh our ability to reconcile with something called reality.

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