Despite the looming fiscal crisis and near-nonexistent economic recovery, Congress continues business as usual, by refusing to plan for the future, set priorities, or cut spending. Federal spending is at an all-time high, and as a nation we are looking down the barrel of record trillion-dollar deficits and a more than $13.5 trillion debt, more than $42,000 per citizen.
Taxpayers are sending nearly a trillion dollars of their income to the Treasury every year, just to watch Congress waste it on thousands of programs that duplicate other federal, state, and private efforts and cannot demonstrate any measure of success. Despite promises from Washington politicians that government programs can solve every challenge—taxpayers are being ripped off.
Ignoring their responsibility to conduct oversight and determine if a given federal program is effective, members of Congress are often beholden to special interest groups and would rather continue funding an old program instead of eliminating it. At the same time, Congress will then create new programs that do the very same thing and do it just as poorly. There's no ineffective, inefficient program that the government can’t recreate at an even higher cost.
Thoughtful and careful legislating is a thing of past, and instead, Congress is in the business of creating press release programs, established not to truly fix a problem, but simply to give the appearance of action and concern. The result is a maze of bureaucracy and overlap, hundreds of billions of dollars spent on thousands of duplicative programs, and government waste and mismanagement as far as the eye can see.
Even worse, the more we spend, the more the problems stay the same. Congress has created a program (or several in most cases) and poured billions of dollars into these programs, to address nearly every issue and problem faced by any individual, group, or entity across the country. And yet, many of these problems and challenges still exist today, as if the government never even tried to address it.
Many of these challenges such as homelessness, poverty, education, juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, and hundreds others, remain today—homelessness rates, education testing, juvenile crime rates remain unchanged and unimproved, despite decades of federal programs and billions of dollars in taxpayer funding spent to alleviate and address these concerns.
We spend billions of dollars on hundreds of education programs, yet scores continue to fall and dropout rates are rising.
We spend billions of dollars on housing programs, yet thousands are still homeless.
We spend millions of dollars on dozens of job training, yet thousands are looking for work.
It is nearly impossible fully comprehend the vast expanse of federal programs that exist today. Although various sources, including USA Spending and documents released by OMB and CBO produce partial lists of various government programs, there is not an exhaustive list of federal programs. Every federal department is now administering programs that address challenges tasked to be addressed by other agencies. The government has grown so large and unmanageable, that even the experts, and the departments themselves, cannot compile a list of all federal programs within their purview.
In response, this January, the Senate passed an amendment directing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to annually identify federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives with duplicative goals and activities, to estimate the cost of the duplication, and to make recommendations for consolidation and elimination of the duplication.
GAO has been working long and hard on a report, as mandated by this provision, and early next year we hope to see the first in a series of reports fully outlining the extensive duplication throughout the federal bureaucracy. It will then be up to Congress to look objectively at GAO’s finding and begin eliminating and consolidating the thousands of duplicative government programs.
Examples of Federal Duplication
There are over 14 programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education related to foreign exchanges and designed to increase opportunities for students to study abroad.
According to GAO, to the tune of $30 billion, the federal government funds more than 44 job training programs, administered by nine different federal agencies across the federal bureaucracy.
The federal government administers at least 20 federal programs across 12 different federal offices and agencies, dedicated to the study of invasive species.
There are at least 17 offender reentry programs across five different federal agencies, costing taxpayers over $250 million annually.
A May 2007 report of the Academic Competitiveness Council revealed there are at least 105 federal programs supporting science, technology, education, and math education, with aggregate funding of $3.12 billion in FY 2006.
There are at least nine federal programs tasked with researching and developing biofuels, costing taxpayers nearly $300 million annually, and over $800 million was included in the Stimulus bill for these initiatives.
Click here for an outline of federal savings from the elimination of waste and duplication.
Click here for a general background of Dr. Coburn's speech highlighting government waste.
SEQUESTER THIS: DUPLICATION NATION. Dr. Coburn sent the following letter to OMB highlighting more than 1,362 duplicative programs accounting for at least $364.5 billion in federal spending every year as identified by the Government Accountability Office.
Duplicative Federal Programs brief here.
Duplication chart one here.
Duplication chart two here.
Duplication chart three here.
The following links provide examples of more than 700 duplicative federal programs across the Washington bureaucracy.