PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

November 2, 2012

Vote out government waste

Kent Conwell
The Port Arthur News

PORT NECHES — In a couple days, you’ll be out voting if you haven’t done so already.

We popped into the Port Neches Library Friday week ago and carried out our responsibility as U.S. citizens. I hope you do also.

If you do not, don’t you dare complain in the coming four years. Voting gives you the right to fuss and gripe. Not voting means keeping your mouth shut.

I’ve said it for years. We need a change, not just in the White House but in most of Congress. Most of the research I’ve read concerning the intents of our Founding Fathers was they did not mean for legislators to make a career out of legislating.

Pardon the cynicism, but much of the legislating that goes on in Washington and state capitols today is legislation benefiting those doing the legislating.

But let’s just talk about the federal guys and gals.

Trish Turner of Fox News reported on the waste of taxes documented by the Government Accounting Office, the GAO, one of the few trustworthy sources of federal finance.

Do you have any idea how many job training programs are funded by the federal government? How about 10? 20? Would you believe 47? And would you also believe that 44 of that number overlap in duplication of services.

How about 80 overlapping programs for the ‘transportation disadvantaged’? You know, people who don’t have cars.

And keep in mind, we’re just talking about federal programs, not state.

Ms. Turner went on to point out that the GAO stated the feds have 82 programs spread across 10 separate agencies designed to improve teacher quality, a task every school district in every state has been working on for the last two hundred years.

How does something like this happen?

Pork! Earmarks! The fodder for re-election. "Let’s build a bridge even if we don’t need one." The community picks up some unexpected income and the political sponsor of that project picks up another term in office.

The problem is, as you all can now see, is 16 trillion debt — and climbing by three billion daily.

Representative Eric Cantor claims the GAO report “confirms what most Americans assume about their government. We are spending trillions of dollars every year and nobody knows what we are doing. The executive branch doesn't know. The congressional branch doesn't know. Nobody knows."

Ms Turner reported that Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn stated "This report also shows we could save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year without cutting services."

Without cutting services?

That’s hard to believe, but read on. This information comes directly from the GAO report. Look at the duplication.

1. Fifty-six programs across 20 agencies dealing with financial literacy.

2. More than 2,100 data centers — up from 432 a little more than a decade ago across 24 federal agencies. GAO estimated the government could save up to $200 billion over the next decade by consolidating them.

3. Twenty programs across seven agencies dealing with homelessness. The report found $2.9 billion spent on the programs in 2009. "Congress is often to blame" for fragmentation, GAO wrote in this section, explaining that the duplicative programs in multiple agencies cause access problems for potential participants.

4. Eighty-two "distinct" teacher-quality programs across 10 agencies. Many of them have "duplicate sub-goals," GAO said. Nine of them address teacher quality in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

And now our president wants to spend more money of math and science teachers.

5. Fifteen agencies administering 30 food-related laws. "Some of the oversight doesn't make any sense," the report stated.

6. Eighty overlapping economic development programs.

And there are many more, writes Ms Turner in her analysis of the GAO report. “In some cases, the programs in question struggled to account for what they did. In the domestic food assistance initiatives, for example, 18 such programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services with GAO estimating $62.5 billion spent on them. States the GAO, "little is known about the effectiveness" of 11 of those programs.

And of the 47 job-training programs run out of the federal government, only five could provide an "impact study" since 2004 looking at outcomes.

About half of them have provided no performance review at all since 2004.

Now stop and think about the last couple paragraphs. Political parties be damned. We’re talking taxes, yours and mine.

In the domestic assistance, $62.5 billion is spent on 18 programs and those monitoring have no idea just how effective are 2/3s of the programs.

And of the 47 job training programs, around 90% failed to come up with impact studies since 2004.

If a private citizen ran his business like that, he’d be bankrupt even before he got started.

There is much more, but you get the idea of the waste going on. Sooner or later, we’ve got to do something about it.

 Kent Conwell of Port Neches is a retired educator. Contact him at rconwell@gt.rr.com. Conwell blogs at kentconwell.blogspot.com.