Government Waste and the Debt Limit

By Allen Tharp

By Allen Tharp

According to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Congress has until November 5th before the federal government hits its borrowing limit.

Every time the debt limit is reached, Democrats get on their soap boxes to tell the nation that it must be raised yet again or the U.S. will default on its loans and chaos will ensue.

They claim that this is not a point for discussion and even discussing it could endanger “the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government.” It all sounds quite scary! They decry fiscal conservatives who try to rein in their unbridled spending spree and warn the public that conservatives are about to bring down the economy unless the spending spree continues unabated.

Their fear mongering is blatantly false, but the media has never let that stop them before. Doomsday stories fill the news time on all channels.

The facts are that the OMB estimates that tax receipts for 2015 will total about $3.2 trillion. This money continuously pours into the Federal coffers and is available to cover essentials like the debt service, national defense, Social Security, and Medicare without raising the debt limit.

This year Washington politicians plan to spend about $600 billion more than they take in through taxes, but that overspending can be eliminated without jeopardizing programs that matter and they wouldn’t have to borrow a dime.

So what kind of things would we not be able to pay for if we did not raise the debt limit? Mostly things the Federal Government should not be doing anyway or things that could certainly be put on hold while debt negotiations take place. Scientific research, the federal Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, the National Labor Relations Board, the EPA, and the USDA are just a few of the nonessential programs that [they claim] can’t be put on hold while we figure out some necessary spending reforms. Until we eliminate these unnecessary programs, they will still receive funding; they’ll just have to wait a little while for their money. However, the highest priorities—paying our debt service, keeping us safe, and fulfilling our Social Security obligations—will be in no danger.

The Treasury can prioritize the most crucial payments. Interest payments on the debt—which keeps us from defaulting—would obviously come first. That equals about $230 billion for 2015. Next comes national defense, about $600 billion. Then you have Social Security, Medicare, and income security, all the stuff that the White House threatens to take away when they want to scare people about the need for more debt. That totals only about $1.9 trillion, and remember we are taking in about $3.2 trillion.

Below is a list from Heritage of 20 other examples of government waste that should be eliminated. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

  1. Medicare Part B paid nearly six times more than Medicare Part D for the same drugs and equipment to treat cancer. Medicare Part B paid $132.9 million for the same medical supplies for cancer treatment for which Medicare Part D paid $22 million.
  2. Two federal projects, one concerning the creation of a facility to produce fuel for nuclear reactors, and the other concerning a building to dispose of liquid waste from the first facility, remain incomplete. The National Nuclear Security Administration has already spent nearly $7 billion on these two unfinished projects, which were supposed to cost only $4 billion overall.
  3. The construction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) headquarters was supposed to be complete in 2003. It is nowhere near completion and has already cost taxpayers nearly $4.5 billion.
  4. $2.4 million intended for cotton subsidies was misused by Department of Agriculture employees to purchase laptops, two Ford Explorers, and office artwork, among other items.
  5. The Department of Defense is set to destroy $1.2 billion worth of ammunition because it does not have an effective inventory system to track supplies across the military services. The services each use different inventory systems, preventing proper data sharing and leading to excess materials.
  6. The Department of the Treasury spent $112.7 million on a public relations firm to raise domestic and international public awareness of the new dollar bill’s minor design changes.
  7. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) paid an informant working for Amtrak $854,460 over 20 years to disclose passenger names. The DEA could have received this information free since the Amtrak Police Department, which has access to passengers’ names, is willing to share information with law enforcement partners.
  8. After Hurricane Sandy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) spent $500,000 to completely replace equipment that was not damaged beyond repair. Instead of repairing the equipment at lower cost, NOAA used the opportunity to purchase brand new equipment.
  9. The Internal Revenue Service will reportedly pay Microsoft $500,000 for one more year of custom support for Windows XP after failing to meet a deadline that would have secured its operating systems. The IRS is still paying for support for the outdated Windows XP, because it failed to complete the software move to Windows 7.
  10. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) has been accused of multiple cases of fraud in the development of the Washington, D.C.–area’s light-rail line to Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia. This includes nearly $139 million in purchases for which the MWAA cannot provide documentation.
  11. The Department of Defense spent nearly $500 million to purchase military transport planes for the Afghan Air Force, which have since been scrapped. The planes did not meet operational requirements, and the maintenance of the planes was too expensive for the Afghan Air Force.
  12. The Defense Department overpaid by $3.3 million for radios for the Afghan Army because the Defense Department did not follow contracting procedures, which would have prevented overpayment.
  13. The Department of Homeland Security has one of the largest vehicle fleets of any federal government agency, but according to a recent report by the DHS inspector general, 59 percent of the vehicles are driven less than 12,000 miles a year. In 2012 alone, these underused vehicles cost taxpayers between $35 million and $49 million overall.
  14. The Postal Service lost or cannot confirm receiving 37 trailers from a leasing company. The Postal Service continued to pay the lease for the trailers—despite the fact that they were missing—for two years before deciding to buy the titles for the missing trailers. The leasing and the titles purchase cost$287,000 for trailers that remain missing.
  15. The IRS bought $11.6 million worth of computer software that remains unused because the IRS did not have the space for it. This happened because the IRS did not have an effective way of keeping inventory for computer software.
  16. For more than $6 million annually, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is renting office spaces that remain largely unused or are being misused as storage spaces. According to an Office of the Inspector General report, several of the SSA’s offices are less than 50 percent occupied.
  17. Federal agencies paid nearly $50 million to the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service for information that is mostly available free online.
  18. During the last few days of the 2014 fiscal year, the State Department purchased a $24,969 LED HD TV for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
  19. According to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General report, employees at the EPA had used government credit cards to purchase$79,300 worth of “prohibited, improper, and erroneous” goods and services. Included in the purchases were gym memberships for EPA employees and their family members, DVDs, and academic memberships.
  20. The Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri received up to $100,000 from the U.S. Forest Service to add a 23rd bike trail to the park.

Allen Tharp is President of the San Antonio Tea Party.


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2 Responses to "Government Waste and the Debt Limit"

  1. Gary Brewer  October 24, 2015 at 9:18 am

    I agree with every item of waste and or fraud you posted. In my opinion with sufficient access and time there are probably thousands of instances of Fraud, Waste and Abuse within the Federal Government I could identify. The first and maybe the most fallible is the budget process within government. Once a budget is approved every penny that is not spent is decreased in your next yearly forecast. In other words you are forced to spend every cent that is approved. The DOD calls money not spent in September of every year FALL OUT MONEY. This money is spent on materiel you didn’t really need. If Commanders do not spend this money their next years budget is REDUCED.

  2. Jerry Harben  October 21, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Allen, I respect you, but you know darn well when the debt deadline arrives Obama won’t cut any of the things you list, he will cut defense, the Border Patrol and anything else that is legitimate federal spending. And you know darn well the Republicans will surrender and approve more borrowing so they can fund those things.The higher debt is only going to pay for spending they have already approved. The place to fight is the spending, not the borrowing.

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