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My Turn: Cutting wastes comes before raising revenue

By Steve Pender

Government waste has been a problem for decades, but it has reached new heights in the last few years. I just finished reading the 345-page document from the Government Accountability Office (March 2011) called “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue.” This report reveals that well over $100 billion could be saved if we followed certain guidelines.
And that’s just one report. Here’s another one. In the last five years, over half a billion dollars was paid out in Social Security checks to federal employees — after they were dead. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; there are hundreds of millions of dollars lost to waste and fraud in the entitlement programs alone. This is no secret; elections are often won by acandidate promising to stop these abuses. I recently had a conversation with a wonderful lady who was in a position to see entitlement abuses first-hand. She reported them, but was ignored.
It’s not just entitlements, and it’s not just lost money. The BP oil spill was the direct result of government fraud and waste, and so was the fact that Bernie Madoff was able to steal so much money for so many years (I’ll save these stories for another time). Millions of dollars were lost in the Solyndra and the Fast-and-Furious scandals, and now another $5 billion in “green jobs” was just approved. Much of this money, as usual, will benefit relatives of (or donors to) certain politicians. We’re sending money to more than three-quarters of the countries that exist in the world today, even though many of them hate us. We maintain lavish embassies in virtually every country, not to mention military bases. Add another trillion dollars for the stimulus package and bailouts. Solargate, Muffingate, Climategate, Ecotality, Tesla Motors, high-speed rail; the list is endless.
This isn’t restricted to either political party or any one president. Since Ronald Reagan became president, the national debt has grown from under $1 trillion to almost $15 trillion. Under President George W. Bush, the national debt climbed $5 trillion in eight years. Under President Obama, another $5-6 trillion will be added during his first term.
The government has become addicted to spending. Lobbyists get rich. Politicians can influence votes and make deals with fellow politicians. Anyone who actually tries to stop waste and fraud faces an uphill battle. He would be demonized with vicious lies and accused of everything from racism to not caring about the poor or elderly.
We’re witnessing thisnow. A small number of new (“freshmen”) GOP representatives in Washington are taking a stand. These freshmen are referred to as the Tea Party Republicans (some of these members aren’t really Tea Party representatives — they just saw the wave coming and decided to ride it). A massive effort was started immediately to discredit them in the eyes of the public.
Last month, a spending bill was passed in Washington that drew little or no attention. The Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011 (H.R.2887) is a six month extension of current programs. Its cost is more than $200 million. It was called a highway safety program, but it won’t do anything to improve safety. I guess that since Congress and the president agreed to borrow another $2 trillion after the last debt deal, they needed to start spending it somewhere. The bill was introduced Sept. 12, passed in the House Sept. 13, passed in the Senate Sept. 15, and signed by President Obama Sept. 16, which tells me that no one read it before voting. I took the time to read it, but it was too late. Another $200 million is gone, and none of us will ever see it. It’s just one more interest payment to pass along to our children. They’ll keep making these interest payments by paying higher taxes, and then pass them along to their children.
We are now being asked to support the president’s plan to raise taxes on the rich. It’ll help the economy, we’re told, and then later they’ll cut spending somewhere down the road. We’ve been down that road before. Government doesn’t deserve any more money. Stop wasteful spending first, and then we can talk about more revenue.
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Steve Pender lives in Rockwell.
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