Last month Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a report detailing 100 "unnecessary, duplicative, or just plain stupid projects spread throughout the federal government and paid for with your tax dollars this year." The list included a program to boost the mango business in Pakistan ($30 million), a duplicative housing development program ($168 million), and a National Science Foundation grant for a Stanford researcher to observe how voters view political stances on climate change ($200,000). All total, the study notes $6.9 billion that could be wiped away by cleaning up some parts of the government.
The report is great in the sense that it points out number ways we can fix fraud and waste. But it is also a drop in the bucket considering what we're dealing with regarding the budget. As was noted on our blog yesterday, there are hundreds of billions in waste that can be identified and shut down.
What should be the most clear whenever talking about cutting spending though is not so much that the nature of the deficit today is the most inherent problem, but the size and scope of government spending itself. The more projects the government spends money on, the greater these fraud opportunities become-there just aren't enough citizens to watch all of this mess. Moreover, if all of these programs are not just wasting government money but often times are crowding out the private sector. I would prefer a federal budget that spends $5 billion a year with a $500 million deficit as opposed to a government that spends $10 billion a year with zero deficits.