SEN. COBURN’S “WASTEBOOK” COMPLEMENTS AFP’S “SPENDING SPOTLIGHT”
By Akash Chougule
$10,000 for a pole-dancing performance, $125,000 for pizza research, and $319 million for a broken health care website; these are just some of the highlights (or lowlights) from Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) annual “Wastebook” released yesterday. The report details a hundred examples of wasteful federal government spending that cost taxpayers $30 billion over the past year, and complements Americans for Prosperity’s new Spending Spotlight tool, which allows activists to find examples of federal waste in their own communities. Spending Spotlight and the Wastebook give credence to the fact that if activists do not hold officials accountable, government will continue to spend and tax with reckless abandon.
Coburn criticizes the government for an attitude of “waste more, want more” in 2013 as it continued to misspend, failed to live within its means, and cut things like White House tours to scare Americans into believing the government needed more revenue. He also prompts readers to ask important questions of themselves and their elected officials, such as, “Is this a national priority or this something benefiting a special interest? Does this fit the role of the federal government outlined in the U.S. Constitution?” For all of the Wastebook examples, and undoubtedly countless others throughout government, the answers are a resounding “no,” and those programs be cut accordingly.
The Wastebook includes well-known expenditures like the failed Obamacare website, but also lesser known occurrences like the USDA leaving taxpayers on the hook for $496 million in home loan guarantee loss claims and the Army cancelling the construction of a blimp after spending $297 million on it. The Coburn report sheds light on an area of government where taxpayers have been well aware of the inefficiency, but previously unable to participate in its improvement. However, thanks to Spending Spotlight, now anyone can find examples of federal government waste and cronyism.
Spending Spotlight opens up the entire federal checkbook into a searchable database. Using this tool, taxpayers can find examples of egregious uses of taxpayer dollars in their own states and communities. There are undoubtedly countless examples throughout the country, and Coburn’s Wastebook is a testament to the fact that though many may be relatively inexpensive alone, together, their elimination could save billions of dollars. If the federal government had cut the programs Coburn lists and saved the $30 billion, “the sequester amount would have been reduced nearly a third without any noticeable disruption”.
Left unchecked, Congressmen will continue to spend hard-earned dollars either wastefully in their own states, corruptly for special interests, or just plain stupidly on bad ideas. As Senator Coburn wrote, “When it comes to spending your money, those in Washington tend to see no waste, speak no waste, and cut no waste.” However, through transparency mechanisms like the Wastebook and Spending Spotlight, taxpayers are empowered to find and expose these heinous instances. Perhaps, with enough unmasking and resulting spending cuts, next time Congress discusses spending levels and the budget, they will be able to live within their means and keep their own promises to the American people.
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