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Coburn to Congress: ‘The Problem Is Us’

He said government has grown so big that only one government agency actually knows all of its programs.

by
Rodrigo Sermeño

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January 16, 2014 - 12:29 am
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WASHINGTON – A push to eliminate waste across government programs has been hindered by Congress’s own failure to do its job, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told a congressional committee last week.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee heard testimony from Sens. Coburn and Tom Carper (D-Del.) and representatives from various think tanks about ways to reduce government waste.

As part of the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, Congress must conduct oversight hearings and hold agencies accountable for meeting program goals. Under the law, agencies are to determine performance metrics for programs together with Congress and ensure those goals are being met.

In 2010, Congress passed the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act that directed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce an annual report on duplication across government. Since then, the GAO has released three annual reviews outlining ways the government can save money by consolidating programs.

“I thought it would embarrass us into acting,” Coburn, said at the hearing, referring to the legislation he sponsored requiring the GAO to produce the report. “Boy, was I wrong. We haven’t done anything.”

Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, spoke to the committee about the numerous cases of overlap in federal programs.

Schatz said there are 56 programs from 20 different agencies devoted to promoting financial literacy “intended to improve the fiscal acumen of the American people.” Fifteen of those programs cost $30.7 million in fiscal year 2010.

“While it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad, there is no reliable data on the total cost of the financial literacy programs, and a government that itself is going broke is trying to teach others how to balance their checkbooks,” Schatz said in his written testimony.

Coburn recently released his “Waste Book,” an annual compilation of wasteful projects, which identifies frivolous spending on programs that include $3 million spent by NASA to learn how Congress works, and $1 million by the National Endowment for the Humanities over three years to study popular romance in multimedia.

“I’m embarrassed that we, as members of Congress, have allowed this list, with the multitude of programs that are on there, with the duplicity that’s in it, that we haven’t fixed it,” Coburn said. “And we don’t have an excuse. We’re guilty of not doing our jobs.”

Coburn, who is the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the report contains 100 examples of wasteful and low-priority spending worth about $30 billion.

He said government has grown so big that only one government agency – the Department of Education – actually knows all of its programs.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the committee’s chairman, promised his support to Carper and Coburn, and said he would guarantee a vote on any bill addressing government waste in his committee.

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All Comments   (10)
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47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, this is where the Tea Party could prove their bonavide's to the general public.
If you ever want to get rid of useless head start programs, start here!!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good luck - Ha!!!!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
It’s partly the politicians and partly the people who elect them. For decades, we’ve told our Congress that we want lots of stuff but don’t really want to pay for it. Spending? Bring it on! Taxes? Don’t even think about raising them! And our Congress has heard us. And here we are, with a huge entitlement state that is deeply in debt. Until the “folks” are willing to live with less government (i.e., fewer entitlements and benefits) or are ready to pay for what they actually get (i.e., higher taxes), or some combination of the two, the decline will continue. As for the Congress, they’re elected to legislate, which once meant making choices. They don’t make any. One might think that old, outdated and useless programs could be eliminated in order to use the funds to pay for new, more urgent projects. But as Coburn’s tireless efforts indicate, such choices are never made. Every program passed since the New Deal is still on the books, with new spending piled atop the old spending. Priorities simply don’t exist. Both the politicians and the people have abdicated their responsibility.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Like the cartoon character POGO famously said..."I have met the enemy and he is us."
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) panels were more or less successful.

Each of the other departments (and independent agencies) needs to be placed under PRAC (Program Realignment and Closure).

There then needs to be an Omnibus IaRE (Interagency Redundancy Elimination) committee.

BRAC was a congressional activity. PRAC and IaRE need to be congressional activity as well...rules are simple:
1. No new programs without PRAC and IaRE review...
2. Any new program MUST consolidate any and all existing.
3. New programs MUST be funded by elimination of old programs and,
4. Each move must be a net decrease in money and manpower.
ta
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Great start!!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee condemned the government’s profligate spending."

Well, of course because they are pointing the finger at each other and "everybody else".

Ask the elected officials to give up their limos, the jet-rides, the perks, the stuff that has crept into their day-to-day activities that they've become so accustomed to in their comfy chairs on Mt Olympus. They will all demand that senator so-and-so give up theirs before they give up their own.

When you understand that you're dealing with petulant, adolescent "adults", it's easier to determine that the parents (the American people) have to deny them the car keys.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I tend to agree with Sen Coburn, but would add, if the Congress would honor their oath of office this could have been avoided. Congress has without constitutional authority delegated their authority to various agencies to free them up for fund raising and campaigning for re-election. We are not a country run by laws, we are run by regulations put out by agencies. We have ceased to be constitutional government elected by the people and are run by unelected people appointed to agencies.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem has never been congress, it is the apathy of the US Citizen.

Congress will continue to waste trillions, wallow in corruption, and create obstacles for Americans because its citizens continue to allow it too.
When Americans finally get involved in their own government and ignore extremes of both parties, things will get better.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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