Dec 03, 2015

Senator Highlights Endemic Waste Across the Federal Government

Post by Mary Kate Hopkins

Only Washington could find such creative ways to waste taxpayer money as spending $5 million on a Twitter account, $8 million on solar panels that were never used, and $5 billion in fraudulent IRS payments.

Following in the tradition of his predecessor, Dr. Tom Coburn, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) this week released Federal Fumbles, a new report detailing one hundred different ways the federal government “dropped the ball” by mishandling and wasting taxpayer dollars.

The list is painful proof that Congress is not able or is unwilling to ensure that every dollar taken from hardworking American taxpayers is spent with the same care and efficiency that would be exercised by the person who earned it.

Here are some quick hits from the list:

$36 million for an empty command center in Afghanistan: After the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction found the Department of Defense facility was both unused and unnecessary, the United States transferred the facility—which was larger than an NFL football field—to Afghan control.

$8 million on solar panels that were never used and thrown out two years later: The panels, installed at a VA facility in Arkansas, remained inactive the entire time they were installed, but it would have taken 38 ½ years to save taxpayers enough money on energy costs to justify the project.

$542 million over the next 10 years to subsidize private sports stadiums: According to Bloomberg Business, over the life of all federal tax-exempt bonds issued to build stadiums since 1986, taxpayer-funded subsidies will total $4 billion.

$856 million in “double-dipping” payments from Disability Insurance and Unemployment Insurance: Unemployment benefits are supposed to provide for unemployed Americans seeking jobs, while Disability Insurance payments go to those unable to work. In 2010, however, 117,000 people received those contradictory benefits simultaneously.

$104.4 million to subsidize public housing for families that don’t qualify: the inspector general for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that in 2015, there were more than 25,000 people with incomes that exceeded HUD’s maximum income requirements living in subsidized public housing.

$2.8 billion to treat just 28 patients for Ebola: The 2014 Ebola epidemic was devastating, and the complete and utter failure of the Departments of State and Health and Human Services to respond to the crisis only hindered attempts to combat it. The U.S. built 11 treatment centers in Africa and deployed thousands of troops to the region—but only managed to treat 28 patients. That works out to $72 million per patient—the result of “aimless and reactionary” foreign aid.

$5.75 million for ambassador “slush funds”: The government calls it the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, but slush fund seems more appropriate—and there are plenty of other funds in existence for our ambassadors to spread goodwill abroad without funneling money into such things as international historic reconstruction projects.

$5 million for an anti-terrorism Twitter account: From the account’s bizarre “think again, turn away” (from terrorism) message to its questionable $5 million dollar budget (to operate a free Twitter handle), the program has yet to show any progress in dissuading would-be terrorists.

$5 billion in fraudulent refunds from the IRS: The IRS’s “pay first, ask questions later” approach to tax refunds results in billions of dollars being paid out each year to identify thieves who fraudulently file tax returns in other people’s names—before even verifying the information against the filer’s W-2.

$17.7 billion paid out in improper payments on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for 2015: No matter the good intentions the creators of the EITC had, the credit itself is woefully flawed. With a 23-28 percent error rate, it is estimated that $133.9 billion in improper payments have been made over the last ten years.