By Printus LeBlanc
The U.S. is broke. The debt is $20 trillion and growing. Debt servicing is eating up a more significant piece of the budget pie every year. Despite Republicans winning elections because of out of control government spending, and despite Republicans having control of the budget, Republicans have not made the necessary cuts. Taxpayers should not pay tens of thousands of dollars for Doggie Hamlet. Yes, that actually happened. Congress is getting ready to vote on the budget or continuing resolution this week and many will complain about the deficit, as they should, but will still vote to fund frivolous projects.
What is most egregious, Congress knows where the government waste is. In fact, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) puts out an annual 100-page report detailing 100 examples of government waste called Federal Fumbles, essentially outlining what Republicans have failed to cut since assuming control of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014.
In 2015, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it would no longer fund biomedical research conducted on chimpanzees. Doesn’t seem like a problem until you realize the NIH operates a facility called the National Center for Chimpanzee Care (NCCC). The next logical step would be to close the facility and release the animals into the wild, donate to zoos, or private collectors. After all, it cost the taxpayers $2.6 million per year to keep the facility open.
Unfortunately, that has not happened, the facility is still open, housing 139 chimpanzees. U.S. taxpayers are spending $18,700 per year on each chimpanzee. It is a slap in the face to taxpayers working two jobs to have to pay for this. If Congress truly wants to cut spending, they can start here.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an important agency within the Department of Homeland Security. The agency was created with the purpose of coordinating responses to disasters that overwhelm state and local authorities, as witnessed this summer. The agency responded quickly to devastated areas in California, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and the Carribean.
However, there is a program FEMA is running that does not appear to be in its spectrum. FEMA is spending $120 million to support local food banks and homeless shelters. This seems like a good idea, but the program is not for areas recovering from a disaster. It happened despite FEMA asking for more funds to help in areas affected by disasters. While FEMA was asking Congress for money, it was spending money in non-disaster related regions.
Not only was FEMA spending tens of millions in non-disaster related funds, but it was also a duplicate program. Two other federal agencies run similar programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture runs the Emergency Food Assistance Program which is $318 million, and the Department of Health and Human Services runs has block grant programs for food banks that give out $713 million. Why is the federal government duplicating programs?
Having multiple programs doing the same thing is about as inefficient as it gets. The taxpayer must now pay for numerous buildings, computers, and employees to do what one agency can do. If Congress cared about spending, they would cut duplicate programs.
President Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget should work closely with House Appropriators to root out duplicate programs, consolidating where appropriate and ending the wasted resources devoted to similar or sometimes cross-purposed goals.
During the Presidential campaign, both sides touted the need for infrastructure spending. It is one of the few areas President Trump, and a good many Democrats and Republicans agree. President Trump has indicated he wants a massive infrastructure spending bill in the near future, but the Department of Transportation has a few problems to work out first.
In 2016, San Diego got a $1 billion-dollar grant to expand a trolley service for 10.9 miles. The project is going to cost a hair under $100 million per mile and serve only 24,000 people per day. Meanwhile, a four-lane highway can cost $10 million per mile and help hundreds of thousands of people per day. Which one seems like the better investment?
American for Limited Government President Rick Manning stated, “Congress needs to go over every spending item with a fine-tooth comb and defund any project that isn’t critical to the ongoing security or basic needs of the United States. The big lie that there is nowhere to cut in government is just that, a big lie. And now with a trillion-dollar deficit threatened for FY 2018 Congress must aggressively utilize their power of the purse by cutting unnecessary grants and putting limitations on agencies grant-making authority.”
These are just a few examples, but it is the same every year. If it was Doggie Hamlet this year, it’ll be Guinea Pig Romeo and Juliet next year. Congress must stop writing blank checks to bureaucrats and take responsibility for how the hard-earned money of the taxpayer is being spent. If members are complaining about voting for tax cuts for hard working people because they don’t like the deficit spending, maybe they should try cutting the deficit spending.
Printus LeBlanc is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.