A new report by the Government Accountability Office reveals an unsurprising fact, that the federal government wastes a ton of money, but exposes it in some surprising ways.
The report found, for example, that about $1 trillion is spent on special tax benefits, many of which are redundant and overlap with areas on which the federal government is already spending money. “For fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Department of the Treasury listed a total of 173 tax expenditures, some of which were the same magnitude or larger than related federal spending for some mission areas,” said the report.
Another area with plenty of redundancy is financial literacy. While more people arguably could benefit from financial literacy training, especially in the wake of the financial crisis, there are 20 agencies in the federal government operating 56 programs dedicated to financial literacy, for some reason, but the GAO and the various agencies can’t estimate what they cost. So much for the value of financial literacy.
Other areas of waste involve food regulation, including of catfish. The GAO found that the Farm Bill assigned the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsibility for monitoring catfish, thus splitting seafood oversight between the USDA and the FDA. Fifteen federal agencies administer more than 30 food-related laws.
The GAO did not provide a specific estimate of the cost of duplication throughout the federal government in its report, but Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who initiated the GAO report after introducing an amendment to a debt limit law last year requiring the GAO to prepare the report, estimated the cost to be at least $100 billion. The GAO report could serve as a template, along with last year’s deficit commission report, for how the federal government can start to tackle the budget deficit and the ever-growing national debt.