90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
GAO: Duplication, Waste Cost Taxpayers

A new GAO report finds billions in bloat in the federal government. Can we get the cutting right?

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Rep. Darrell Issa, Sen. Daniel Akaka, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Ron Johnson, and Comptroller General Eugene Dodaro discuss the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) "High Risk Series" report. (AP)

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Rep. Darrell Issa, Sen. Daniel Akaka, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Ron Johnson, and Comptroller General Eugene Dodaro discuss the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) "High Risk Series" report. (AP)

Budget fever all over now.  It’s a real issue, around deficits and public spending.  And it’s a hot political billy club that can be swung pretty wild.

Today in Washington, is another chapter.  The non-partisan General Accounting Office, the GAO, was ordered to go out looking for duplication and overlap in federal government.  They went out, and they found it.  Fifteen agencies overseeing food safety and fifty-six programs to help people understand finances.  Redundancy on redundancy at the Pentagon.  Now what?

This hour On Point: Tightening up, and targeting austerity.

 

              – Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Damian Paletta, reporter, Wall Street Journal

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Director of the Fiscal Policy Program at the New America Foundation. The Wall Street Journal called her “an anti-deficit warrior.”

Linda Bilmes is professor at Harvard Kennedy School. She was Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of Commerce, from 1999-2001.

You can read the full GAO report here.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VDH4GYJMIUFU373W3XUQVD2V4E Patrick

    Let me guess, the old dead horse of “Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.”

    GIVE ME A BREAK. Shut down the Pentagon and end corporate socialism in the “defense” industry.

  • Cory

    Ah yes… a bunch of old farts posing for a photo op decrying that waste exists in bureaucracies. Thanks for the revelation! I would suggest that the trimming of waste begin with the “magnificient seven” pictured above and their whole silly blue ribbon panel! It is like funding a million dollar study to discern whether or not monkeys like bananas.

    Here is the real revelation. Money in bureaucracies and most human institutions is like a handfull of sand. The tighter you squeeze it, the more it slips through your fingers.

    By the way, be careful of Joe Lieberman. If it is to his advantage he’ll switch sides and tell you tomorrow that there really is no problem with waste!

    • Zeno

      Its tough work. Massa be tellin’ us we gotta eat less cause he be been chargin too much to our credit cards. It be supposed I not be askin no questions?

    • ThresherK

      “Be careful of Joe Lieberman” is all-purpose advice, like “be careful crossing the street”.

      • Harry

        Ha ha ha Police State Joe. I’ll bet he is reconsidering his retirement in Israel with the middle east throwing off their dictator and thug regimes.

  • Zeno

    I have noticed that congress likes to draw a comparison between the cuts a family would make in their household budget to what the government should do.

    Lets compare: Households will cut out wasteful and unneeded expenses (like cable TV, buying fancy electronics, travel) and keep the the necessary expenses (like food, heat, fuel, insurance).

    The government has so far cut: food, health aid, fuel, etc. and kept the wars, travel, health care, weapons, subsidies, etc.

    …So in conclusion American households should take the governments lead and: go out and buy guns, start a war with several neighbors, try to incite new wars, if sick just go to the ER, do nothing to conserve energy, hire mercenaries to fight your wars, protect neighbors who give you kickbacks for running their Ponzi schemes against your neighbors, tell the neighborhood that its time for THEM to tighten their belts.

    In summation; tell your victims that your abuse of them is very tiring, and explain why they are not working hard enough for you. Kinda like whipping a slave for not picking enough cotton, and not to question whats going on up at the big house, because hes too stupid to understand it.

    • Yar

      The Post Office is in trouble because of healthcare and retirement. They have the same issues as the rest of the country. If your view of the country is that people are expendable, than it isn’t a problem, until the people realize the you don’t care and decide to revolt. Then you better have another plan, because mobs are not very manageable. The biggest savings our country can make is single payer healthcare, why isn’t it on the table? I doubt we can survive as a nation without real healthcare reform.

      • Zeno

        Well that is the ever present blindness of power isn’t it. Whats next are they going to tell us that the protesters are drugged members of al-Qaida, and the people really love the the great leaders?

      • Thebestgrandkids

        This time I disagree. The Postal Service is in trouble in large part because Congress allowed other private companies to “cherry pick” the delivery process. NONE of the other package delivery companies is required to: (a) go to EVERY address in the United States (even one 50 miles down a dirt road); (b) put EVERY type of mail (including “junk”) in EVERY mail box in America; (c) do all this EVERY DAY, regardless of the weather; (d) make repeated efforts to forward and deliver mail with poor or missing addresses; etc.
        Ask you buddies at UPS, Fed Ex, or a local package service if they’d like to play by the same rules the USPS is saddled with!

        • Yar

          Congress that passed laws with different goals in mind. The post office was intended to allow for rural development, we were an agricultural society when these laws were passed. Even UPS and Fed use the USPS for remote addresses. Rural development is feeding the country with just a few individuals. Do you think that was a bad investment?

    • Beverly

      Don’t forget to fire teachers. Get rid of them, preschools, (IOWA), libraries, birth control, (Planned Parenthood), all help for mothers & their infants, labor unions, Democrats, & everything else that might make America’s future bright.

      While we’re at it, in the most prosperous states, let’s hire Republican governors, who can unbalance formerly balanced budgets in just a few days; even faster that Dubya got rid of HIS surplus.

      Let’s make sure we don’t allow health care, or help of any kind. We can’t allow those tax cuts to ever expire, except for middle & lower classes.
      First & foremost, if we’re REALLY serious about ruining America, we MUST elect Republicans, famous for their ignorance, & lack of common sense; the folks who brought us to where we sank in 2008. They can do it again, & I’ll bet my life that they will. (I’ve checked the history books.)

      They’re already well on the way to bringing us down even further, & are working hard to weaken our economy, schools, & infrastructure, & to shower money on the Fat Cats, taking rights away from the rest of us.

      If we want to fail, we only have to elect Republicans. We’ll slide down rapidly, to find ourselves among the most primitive, backward, authoritarian countries.

  • Yar

    Where is wisdom of King Solomon when you need him. We are in a civil war! This war is between two very bitter parents. It messier than any divorce and our future is in jeopardy. The republican/tea-party/conservative leaders believe Government should be limited to protecting property through rule of law. The democratic/liberal/socialist leaders believe our nation should protect our people from each other and themselves. This ideological war has been simmering under the surface for decades.
    The Bush/Cheney reign pushed the pendulum in the direction favoring property and Obama is attempting to push toward people.

    What is waste?
    Anything that doesn’t directly benefit me!
    http://img.timeinc.net//time/cartoons/20110218/cartoons_06.jpg
    This is the root of our disagreement and we have to redefine the problem to reach any solutions, otherwise our nation will be cut in pieces. We can’t reach agreement without seeing how property and people are related.
    Would we save all of the cost of duplication if food safety were merged under one agency? Maybe a little, but maybe it would cost more from the cost of merging. Yes, there is duplication and waste, but that is not the true target of those who are attacking our current system. They want to fundamentally change government away from protecting people to protecting the property they have accumulated under this current flawed system.
    Before we can use the GAO report to become more efficient we must reach agreement, on what our people believe our society should do.

    http://media.kentucky.com/smedia/2011/03/02/06/110302pett.aurora_standalone.prod_affiliate.79.jpg

  • Yar

    Where is wisdom of King Solomon when you need him. We are in a civil war! This war is between two very bitter parents. It messier than any divorce and our future is in jeopardy. The republican/tea-party/conservative leaders believe Government should be limited to protecting property through rule of law. The democratic/liberal/socialist leaders believe our nation should protect our people from each other and themselves. This ideological war has been simmering under the surface for decades.
    The Bush/Cheney reign pushed the pendulum in the direction favoring property and Obama is attempting to push toward people.

    What is waste?
    Anything that doesn’t directly benefit me!
    http://img.timeinc.net//time/cartoons/20110218/cartoons_06.jpg
    This is the root of our disagreement and we have to redefine the problem to reach any solutions, otherwise our nation will be cut in pieces. We can’t reach agreement without seeing how property and people are related.
    Would we save all of the cost of duplication if food safety were merged under one agency? Maybe a little, but maybe it would cost more from the cost of merging. Yes, there is duplication and waste, but that is not the true target of those who are attacking our current system. They want to fundamentally change government away from protecting people to protecting the property they have accumulated under this current flawed system.
    Before we can use the GAO report to become more efficient we must reach agreement, on what our people believe our society should do.

    http://media.kentucky.com/smedia/2011/03/02/06/110302pett.aurora_standalone.prod_affiliate.79.jpg

  • Yar

    Where is wisdom of King Solomon when you need him. We are in a civil war! This war is between two very bitter parents. It messier than any divorce and our future is in jeopardy. The republican/tea-party/conservative leaders believe Government should be limited to protecting property through rule of law. The democratic/liberal/socialist leaders believe our nation should protect our people from each other and themselves. This ideological war has been simmering under the surface for decades.
    The Bush/Cheney reign pushed the pendulum in the direction favoring property and Obama is attempting to push toward people.

    What is waste?
    Anything that doesn’t directly benefit me!
    http://img.timeinc.net//time/cartoons/20110218/cartoons_06.jpg
    This is the root of our disagreement and we have to redefine the problem to reach any solutions, otherwise our nation will be cut in pieces. We can’t reach agreement without seeing how property and people are related.
    Would we save all of the cost of duplication if food safety were merged under one agency? Maybe a little, but maybe it would cost more from the cost of merging. Yes, there is duplication and waste, but that is not the true target of those who are attacking our current system. They want to fundamentally change government away from protecting people to protecting the property they have accumulated under this current flawed system.
    Before we can use the GAO report to become more efficient we must reach agreement, on what our people believe our society should do.

    http://media.kentucky.com/smedia/2011/03/02/06/110302pett.aurora_standalone.prod_affiliate.79.jpg

  • bob

    Our tax money in Iraq is used to employ countless thousands of non-americans over there, not Americans. When the Iraq invasion first started the military was dumping bags of American taxpayer’s money out of the helipcopters. How much was dumped out? How much do we spend employing non-americans? How much of the military budget goes to foreign labor?

    Will anyone have the courage to talk about this? Will anyone have the courage to go deep into the defense budget?

    If a large part of this show doesn’t concentrate on what military spending does and concentrates on domestic spending abuse you are not a “public radio”.

  • Zeno

    Where did Congress find the money for this new engagement: http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/03/01/u-s-military-readies-libya-options-with-caution/?icid=main|classic|dl1|sec1_lnk1|204372

    • Yar

      When you think like a tank, solutions are measured in caliber.
      Our first approach to Libya must be an apology for ignoring Gaddafi’s brutal reign for the past 42 years. The people of Libya are asking where were you decades ago? To think we will win hearts and minds with the stench of oil on our breath doesn’t work. How can 2 percent of the world’s population use 30 percent of world resources without being hated? It can’t, we can’t, therefore we must change use less resources. How can the US become model world citizens? Especially, when we think we already are.

      • Zeno

        Well Congress does what the corporations tell them to do. We the people shouldn’t blame ourselves…because we haven’t been in power for over thirty years.

        Our politicians treat the world like they treat us…like ignorant peasants.

  • Michael

    How about the 8.2 billion dollar waste in iraq that the defense department auditors can’t seem to know where it went? 164,000,000 per state.

    Or the 900 Million that is going to the Kabul Bank to bail it out after the bank gave loans to well connected Afgans? 18,000,000 per state to bail

    Or how but the 2/3/4x cost of private contractors who than sub-contract locals who than turn around and fund the Tailban? Currently almost as many Contractor as there are U.S. troops.

    • Zeno

      Hey did you notice the hypocrisy of Obama’s statement about the shooter in Germany? http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-

      How does this compare to our “CIA diplomat” running around Pakistan gunning down their citizens?

      I bet the Germany shooting will be headline news for a long time.

  • Michael

    Or how about this,

    Intelligence spending at record $80.1 billion in first disclosure of overall figure

    Thursday, October 28, 2010; 9:06 PM

    The government announced Thursday that it had spent $80.1 billion on intelligence activities over the past 12 months, disclosing for the first time not only the amount spent by civilian intelligence agencies but also by the military.

    The so-called National Intelligence Program, run by the CIA and other agencies that report to the Director of National Intelligence, cost $53.1 billion in fiscal 2010, which ended Sept. 30, while the Military Intelligence Program cost an additional $27 billion.

    Spending on intelligence for 2010 far exceeded the $42.6 billion spent on the Department of Homeland Security and the $48.9 billion spent on the State Department and foreign operations.

    washingtonpost com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/28/AR2010102807237.html

  • Zeno

    Hey did you notice the hypocrisy of Obama’s statement about the shooter in Germany? http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/02/remarks-president-shooting-american-service-members-germany

    How does this compare to our “CIA diplomat” running around Pakistan gunning down their citizens?

    I bet the Germany shooting will be headline news for a long time.

  • Zeno

    Well Congress does what the corporations tell them to do. We the people shouldn’t blame ourselves…because we haven’t been in power for over thirty years.

    Our politicians treat the world like they treat us…like ignorant peasants.

  • http://www.orient-lodge.com ahynes1

    Probably the best place to start cutting is corporate tax breaks and corporate subsidies.

  • Cory

    What would happen if the US declared Swiss style neutrality, reduced its military spending by 90%, and closed its bases around the world and brought its troops home?

    • Zeno

      That’s got my vote. How about Congress close just half of them this year. NOPE! they are not on the budget cutting table.

    • young college Republican

      An even bigger unemployment problem…you’d never get that state job.

  • Jennifer

    Cutting out waste SEEMS like it would be easy enough for the government to do, however, how does one differentiate between waste and those programs and services which are perhaps not used often, but are essential nonetheless? One person’s bloat may be another’s essential service. Who could possibly be neutral enough to be willing to make hard decisions while still keeping in mind the needs of those living in the margins?

  • paj/ Ipswich

    Time to move out of Afghanistan!

  • paj/ Ipswich

    Time to move out of Afghanistan!

  • twenty-niner

    The title says it all:

    “6 of the 10 richest counties in U.S. are in DC area”

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/6-10-richest-counties-us-are-dc-area

    Not in top 10: the counties that encompass Hollywood, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Chicago, NYC, or the their wealthy suburbs. Not even the Gold Coast area of Connecticut where all the guys who run hedge funds live.

  • http://moreover.myopenid.com/ moreover

    March 1st, Christopher Hellman on Tomdispatch.com just added up the actual budgeted expenses for National Security.:
    The Real U.S. National Security Budget- The Figure No One Wants You to See. His verifiable figure is 1.2 trillion dollars.
    http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175361/tomgram%3A_chris_hellman%2C_%241.2_trillion_for_national_security/

    Read it and weep.
    We must cut the real bloat – the conservative British government just did! Historians argue that military overspending is what brought down the Soviet Union – are we next?

    Martin
    Arlington, Ma

  • Yar

    Here is a 6 minute video from the Daily show that is useful background on today’s topic.
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-march-2-2011/allison-stanger

  • Cory

    Ah yes, nice to see my new Senator, Ron Johnson is part of this blue ribbon panel. He is a millionaire plastics manufacturer who beat Russ Feingold in the last election. Who better to have knowledge of waste than a manufacturer of plastics. I know in my heart that he will represent my working poor family well when deciding what is wasteful and what should be cut.

    • Rob (in NY)

      Ron Johnson has abslutely no place in the United States Senate. Mr. Johnson actual had the audacity to become a multi-millionaire by building a successful company that employs about 120 people in your home state of WI, generally in manufacturing related jobs. He started a plastics manufacturing company from scratch in 1979 and built this company into a success through a combination of hard work, thrift, commitment to quality products and services, and other “evil bourgeoisie” values. In contrast, Russell Feingold spent almost his entire life working as politician with the exception of a 6 year period right of law school working at a law firm, where most of his work was government related, and has never created a single private sector job in his life.

      No sir, successful businessmen like Ron Johnson who actually understand how the economy works have no place serving in the US Senate or House. These positions should be reserved for those with no clue regarding how the private sector economy that employs the majority of Americans actually functions.

      • Cory

        Either public service is noble or it is not. Feingold had ideals, Johnson has cash. That’s why he is in the senate. His senate seat will make a fine trophy on the mantle in his mansion.

        And actually Johnson has the perfect qualification to be in the DC millionaires’ club; millions of dollars. Feingold, by the way is NOT a millionaire. We have enough of a plutocracy without filling government with bored millionaires. I’ll take a principled law school graduate any day.

        • Rob (in NY)

          While I am not a WI resident and do not know everything about both candidates, I can probably agree that Feingold is a principled liberal who means what he says, regardless of the fact that I disagree with much of his political philosophy. However, sometimes you seem to use the term “millionaire” with such visceral hatred. Why? What it so wrong about building a successful business though hard work,discipline, and through the marketplace reliance on voluntary consent of its employees and customers? While I do not know everything about Johnson’s stance on most political issues (as I am not a WI resident), I do not understand how people can hold success in business againist him. The Senate has plenty of principled (and unprincipled) attorneys. I would argue that it greater representation from other professions, including business executives, doctors, academia, labor,etc…. notwithstanding political philosophy

          The fact is that over 80% of US millionaires are first generation wealthy meaning that they did not inherit their wealth.

          • Cory

            Its easy (and nothing personal), this wealth makes an individual’s political voice thousands of times louder than the average citizen. It also makes their political campaigns on the whole much more successful than a principled non-millionaire. I don’t think this gives us the best government.

          • young college Republican

            Wow..that’s a surprise

  • Anonymous

    Linda Bilmes also worked with Joe Stiglitz on the study that showed the true costs of our current wars. I look forward to hearing what she has to say.

  • Markus

    Can anyone comment on the substance of this show today? I see all these comments about war, intelligence spending, corporate greed, some cheap shots at the people in the picture as well as the usual comments about the oppressed little guy.

    I too agree with pretty much all that’s been said about corporations and military/intelligence spending. We are idiots for becoming policeman to the world, but I don’t think this is the topic today. I do know something about the internals of government and could easily see cutting 25% out of the federal government’s operational budget while increasing its’ responsiveness. Simply consolidating the overlapping programs would save a ton of dough and simplify things for recipients.

    Best I can tell, the federal government has never gone through the exercise that nearly all private sector companies go through periodically where the CEO says we need to cut 5 or 10 or even 20% of our costs. Cost containment is a yearly event, major cost reductions seem to come every 10 years or so with downturns. The feds deal with this superficially.

    • Anonymous

      “Cost containment is a yearly event, major cost reductions seem to come every 10 years or so with downturns. The feds deal with this superficially.”

      You’d think. But here’s the hitch. It’s not “the [nameless, faceless] feds” that deal with this superficially, it’s Congress. And who be Congress, Markus? Thee and me. We elect them, eyes wide open, and perhaps with very naive expressions on our faces and even more naive expectations.

      We have seen the feds and they are us.

    • Cory

      I’d like to recommend Markus to be the 8th member of the above blue ribbon panel. Do I have a second?

    • ThresherK

      And in the private sector, you stop selling something because you can’t make enough money on it. Or the people who like it aren’t rich enough and won’t go along with it if you upscale it.

      A corp can jettison poor people as customers. A government can’t.

    • Thebestgrandkids

      Markus: Perhaps this will be a time and a way to examine more deeply where we are and where we want to go. Start with a whole new approach to government budgeting, based on C. Northcote Parkinson’s lesser known Second Law: “Expenditures rise to meet income.” To wit, in “good times”, programs and agencies become bloated; when “bad times” come, shrinkage of these luxuries causes great pain and knashing of teeth.
      Let us also consider: a balanced budget amendment (with an exemption for times of public emergency); term and SESSION limits for Congress; prohibition for members of Congress to exempt themselves from any measure they adopt for us; reduction of Federal departments to those specified in the Constitution; no agencies, commissions, etc. outside the seven departments; no Federal rules or regulations effective until and unless approved by vote of Congress; all votes of Congress by name and on the record; no action of Congress valid unless a majority of members actually present…… etc.

    • Rob (in NY)

      While I agree with the substance of this specific government report, it is important to acknowledge two points here:

      1) No large enterprise, whether it is government or a large business, can ever eliminate 100% of waste, fraud, and abuse. At a certain point, the cost of trying to identify efficiency related savings will exceed the actual savings realized. I suspect that the US government is not even close to this point because as you note they really never go through a major exercise in cost reduction.

      2) We are kidding ourselves if we believe this exercise will even make a dent in our deficit and overall spending problem. Non defense discretionary spending (where most of these savings will be realized) is approximately 15% of the federal budget or about $525 billion for FY10. Even if we eliminate 25% of this budget through “efficiency”, this only accounts for about $130 billion in savings. Our FY10 budget deficit was about $1.5 trillion. We are kidding ourselves until we start dealing with the “big 4″ areas of Defense, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

      Regading entitlements, I believe the best place to start is with social security because it is in the best shape of the three financially and the easist to address as a result of the Reagan/Tip Oneil compromise in the eary 1980s. For example, over 65% of social security’s long term actuarial problems can be fixed by means testing benefits of weathy recipients and by phasing in a long term increase in the standard retirement age from 67 to 69 through 2075. The remainder can probably be addressed through some combination of COLA adjustments and/or payroll taxes. Even though Americans are skeptical of the GOP, most polls over 60% of Americans would support the first two steps,. I hope that GOP House passes a bill with these first two reforms in Congress even if the Senate and President do not act.

      • Jim in Omaha

        Yes, I would say that social security is in “good shape”. And that is a huge understatement. People like me have paid enough to totally fund our future benefits such that there is a surplus of more than $2 trillion. That is, unless the treasury bills purchased with that money are “worthless”, as some would claim. Now THAT would be a shocker to China, wouldn’t it?

  • Zeno

    Could there be bloat in the IRS? They sent me a postcard this year stating they would not be sending me any tax forms. The entity billing me not only makes me do the accounting, but has stated they don’t want to waste any paper for the process of billing me?

    How can it cost too much to send a bill?

  • Raht_Ketusingha

    GAO, is it The General ACCOUNTABILITY Office or The General ACCOUNTING Office? Thanks?
    Raht Ketusingha

  • http://www.dogoodgauge.org The Do Good Gauge

    Is it too much to ask where organizations acquire their funding? I guess this is to the heart of the Supreme Court’s corporate lobbying ruling. I hope the GAO is a legitimate organization protecting the rights of the average citizen against wasteful overspending. Though I couldn’t tell how they were funded from the website.

    Give credit to the conservatives for developing well reasoned arguments to sway the political discussion to the favor of corporate interest. They’ve used their money wisely to recruit and pay citizens to word smith the agenda. They’ve also figure out a way to disguise where the arguments are coming from.

    I don’t suggest the GAO is the right arm of a conservative think tank. Even if it was, the problems Americans face should not be blamed on a conservative ideology. The blame belongs to an apathetic citizenry unwilling to incubate their own argument. What it cost to develop an encyclopaedia article for Wikipedia, is the same amount the average citizen could spend to express an intelligent well reasoned argument worthy of higher demographics.

    Let’s start the conversation on building a cost effective public incubator allowing Democracy to Rule.

  • Zeno

    The only way to fight duplication in government agencies will be to create a new agency to over see the duplications. How about 8000 employees, and a $200 billion budget?

    • Anonymous

      How about us doing the job? Aren’t we supposed to be the Charles Grodin (accountant) to Kevin Kline’s president “Dave”, looking out for government spending?

      Ah yes. But we have to know first. And now we have the web. Every damn jot and tittle of the federal budget should be available online for nitpicking (= heroic) citizens to keep and eye on things. And yes, I do mean the military and intelligence expenditures as well. Post those terabytes of homework for the responsible citizen to do.

    • Anonymous

      Just one agency?

  • ThresherK

    “Targeting austerity”?

    Cool! I’m all for it. Austerity has made the sniffles into pneumonia as state and city cuts have pretty much “made up for” the spending segment of the Stimulus.

  • Kevin

    First of all, thanks to the WSJ for reporting this story in the first place. Second, well done On Point for choosing this as a subject topic. The discovery of billions of dollars in waste gives lie to the notion that cutting spending is somehow an inhumane idea. It’s something that HAS to be done, and apparently there is no shortage of possible cuts according to this study.

    • Cory

      Don’t worry Kevin, that stuff on your leg is rain.

  • TerryTreeTree

    FAT CHANCE that Congress will REALLY do much to get rid of the programs that the lobbyests, who finance their campaigns, and give them all kinds of payback! Each party has their own PET-PORK, and have traded their kick-back factories for decades. Many of the most effective programs, get the least funding, while the PET-PORKs get the most. This is also a way to hide the BLACK budget.

    Terry, in Brewstertown, Tenn.

  • thinkfreeer

    What, on earth, do you mean by “railroaded” on cuts?

  • Zeno

    If the government ever got to cutting jobs or agencies, then I would be willing to bet that everyone cut from those agencies would be hired back as “contractors” at three times the cost.

  • WINSTON SMITH

    Not at all surprised by the duplication of effort and waste of money. I wonder if the public employee unions will fight against this as some people may lose their cushy job?

  • ThresherK

    Tom,

    “Reign in spending without hurting the country” is window dressing. The GOP only cares about the deficit when they’re the opposition. When they’re in power, the sky’s the limit.

    Nothing a Republican can do will get the mainstream press (and therefore NPR) to revoke the “birthrighteousness” of fiscal responsibility. No matter what a right-winger does, no matter how many budgets they blow out of the water, no matter how it gets messaged as fiscally responsible.

  • WINSTON SMITH

    Yes, Let’s add a new department to deal with duplication called the Department of Duplication, or DOD. In order to help people trying to contact the Department of Defense (also DOD), we could create yet another department or agency to deal with that as well. I nominate Robert Reich to head up that department since he is such a fan of big government (“do I look like big government to you?”)

  • Dave

    -lack of regulation of housing finance industry
    - 2 wars
    -Homeland security/ there was a lobbying feeding frenzy in DC after 9/11
    -lack of regulation of finance industry
    - multiple overlapping intelligence agencies, gov, mil and contract ( TOP SECRET AMERICA)
    Economic stability is the foundation of our national Security, stability. Not violating our citizens privacy.

  • http://twitter.com/data4all W. David Stephenson

    As I wrote in an op-ed last week http://j.mp/dMvvJm we need to use 21st century tools — especially mapping data flows using XBRL — to do an efficient 21st-century reorganization

  • Rob

    The real reason for the overwhelming bulk of the deficit is a decade of two untaxed wars. A HUGE amount of money spent , and what have we really accomplished on improving the security of the American people? Time to call the politicians to task in an equally HUGE way . . .

  • Dt03044

    When I was in the military, I saw incredible waste. At the end of each fiscal year, we purchased all kinds of things we didn’t really need, simply because we had money left over. If we didn’t use the money, we’d lose it the following year. Congress must get past its fear of cutting the Pentagon budget. There are huge cuts that could be made which wouldn’t adversely impact our self-defense.

  • Knowledgeinsight03

    Thank you Maya and Tom. Please comment on how private and no-bid contract have added BILLIONS to Pentagon and other illegitimate expenses without transparency about what that money was spent on or what was ACTUALLY accomplished .

    I am not UPSET at republican or democrats. I hold congress overall responsible. This is not the act of one Administration.

  • http://twitter.com/data4all W. David Stephenson

    I’m from other side of the aisle, but passage of Rep. Darrell Issa’s S. 303, which would mandate that all agencies standardize on a single reporting approach (probably XBRL) and require the same from businesses reporting to them, would address the problem GAO had with trying to find out exactly what had been spent. http://j.mp/h3ySKO

  • Zeno

    So Congress will control the spending caps? Fox meet Hen house.

  • Anonymous

    The quick summary is…

    The US government is inefficient in almost every way.

    Because of this the people are now becoming slaves to the government because the progressives think the US constitution puts no limits on what the government can do to us and take from us.

    • Ellen Dibble

      I wonder if the newly organized nations in North Africa can create constitutions that actually put limits on their governments. I guess we are stuck with the Constitution we have. Maybe I’ll emigrate or become part of the government, which is after all “of the people,” right?

      • Anonymous

        Our constitution is not the problem, the people we elect that ignore the constitution at worst, or creatively change the meaning of the words and intent of the constitution at the best.

        Our constitution gives the most power, closest to the people. It is time to take back that power at the state and local level.

        • Ellen Dibble

          I’m tryin’, but it doesn’t work so long as the “voice” of corporate (and other) money outweighs the personal “voice” of individuals. Media might help, but insofar as media’s “voice” is in the pocket of money, it creates a very huge blur. And the “people” end up taking back what the corporations need, not what the people need — in spite of themselves.

  • ThresherK

    Tom Coburn [R-OK] argued his math will work in the future if you ignore the past, “Continuing the [Bush] tax cuts isn’t a cost.”

    That’s the guy who’s a hero to budget cutters?

  • Bobmiddleton48

    The report missed some big issues. 1) why don’t we combine the Forest Service with the Bureau of Land Management? Potential savings of at least $1 Billion per year. They manage the same federal lands, have essentially the same mission and their offices are usually located in the same towns and or even buildings.

    2) Why do we keep adding federal protected land to our inventory using the Antiquities Act or by purchasing outright. Every time we do this, we need the bureaucracy to manage the new land and costs to taxpayers goes up.

  • TerryTreeTree

    Thanks, Tom and Guests, Cuts in the EPA, so Rich Corporations can poison more poor people, Cuts of Consumer Protection Agencies, so Rich Corporations can kill more Children and Working Class people, Cuts to Social Security, so that people that paid into it suffer more, Cuts to Renewable Resource Power, so that Rich Big Oil, and Rich Big Coal, and other polluters get RICHER, while killing more people, Cuts to National HealthCare, so Corporate Hospitals and Big Pharma Death Panels, can deny services paid for by policyholders , and kill more , and a host of more perverse Cuts, seem to be the proposals of the Conservatives. Conservative of WHAT??

    • Anonymous

      Who exactly did the EPA prevent a sure death?

      What Rich Corporations killed children this year?

      You are C$R!A&Z^Y!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VDH4GYJMIUFU373W3XUQVD2V4E Patrick

        obvious troll is obvious

  • Markus

    At the core of the problem is that politicians are rewarded for bringing home the bacon. The metaphor I heard is that each congressman has a credit card with Congress as the payer. So, they get 100% of the benefits of spending while incurring only a fraction of the cost.

    I don’t know how you change this, but without doing so, it’s hard to see progress.

  • Gerald Fnord

    It’s very hard to create a budget that will help government work well within the means reasonably available to it when one of your partners claims to hate government, refuses to acknowledge that it _can_ do anything right (defence, outlawing abortion, contraception, and all ‘unnatural’ practices, and subsidies to large firms excepted), and has an unreasonable view of what the means decently available to it might be (taxing the poor is impossible, taxing the middle class [or what's left of it] is unpopular, taxing the wealthy is ‘punishing success’, that is, ‘touching the LORD’s Anointed’ as John Galt and King Charles I put it).

    For the current crop of Republicans, government failure is success.

  • Zeno

    Maybe Congress can cut the tax benefit for outsourcing labor. Oops I forgot that is about jobs, and will not be discussed.

  • Anonymous

    We have spent so much that there is little chance we will ever dig out of the hole. Business Insider has a great article that shows we must grow the economy by 3x the historical average consistently for 5 years and then by 1.5-2x for the next foreseeable future to have a chance to get our debt to GDP down to the historical average.

    • Jim in Omaha

      If you are correct, the the decades after we last ran up such a debt, following World War II, would have been decades of misery. But they weren’t. To the contrary, economically they were the best years ever. So why not do what we did then: extremely high tax rates on upper incomes, a heavily unionized and well paid labor force. In short, the wealth created by “our” economy was more equitably shared.

      Or maybe you can explain why that similar debt didn’t ruin us then but will now.

      • steve

        Jim,

        please place your arguement in historical context.
        Once that has been done, then show that your analogy is valid.

      • Anonymous

        Economic growth post WWII was fueled by rebuilding from worldwide destruction. Most of the industrial infrastructure around the world had been damaged or destroyed other than the US.

        Unions had nothing to do with it.

        Today, why will demand increase once we get past this hurdle? when will we get past it? Why will the demand go to us businesses and not Chinese, or Indian businesses?

        • Jim in Omaha

          Economic growth post WWII was fueled by the demand created by the average U.S wage earner getting a much bigger portion of the economic pie than they do today, made possible in large part by the fact that their top bosses and those getting their income from capital gains didn’t suck up the lion’s share of the economy’s output and productivity.

          And unions and the people the helped elect had A LOT to do with that.

  • Heidi Nepveu

    Not only is there a lack of structure, we lack a national economic strategy. China has a decades long plan for their economy, why don’t we?

    • BHA in Vermont

      Because we are a nation of “show a profit for THIS quarter”

  • Wilde Bill

    I see this discussion as significant but out of order. Talk of patching the budget is a distraction from the ruin which is at the door. A simple analogy might be to see the nation as an out of control Semi hurtling down the slopes of Everest. The steering is out. The brakes are shot. The tires are flat. Talk about fixing the budget is like trying to fix the tires while the vehicle hurtles into the abyss.

    We need an honest evaluation of the issues which are responsible for the failures of the budget and address those issues, first.

  • Bdbartel

    We can do this right, but many people have lost faith in the agency heads/bureaucracies. 8 years of putting semi-competent party hacks and industry insiders in charge of government agencies surely doesn’t help.

    Privatizing our military (mercenaries by another name) doesn’t seem to help.

    Borrowing $900B to give the wealthy tax breaks surely doesn’t help either. It does not sound like “sharing the pain” to me.

    Cut the military. Continue reforming health care. Raise taxes on the wealthy/estates. Stop neglecting infrastructure.

    • budget dreamer

      May I add, go after Wall St, AIG etc. We need another Spitzer with the guts and know how to put a spot light on the guilty and send them for a rest with Madoff. Also take a good look at Corp. tax evasion and Gov. tax breaks (gifts).

      Based on reading some of the earlier comments there seems to be many places to save money for the government. But we seem to be voiceless. It helps to write comments for gastric relief but that’s all. If only the people could take a red pencil to the budget I think it would look very different. The rich people and corporations would not be happy. And lets take a look at the petagon’s budget while we are at. Chop…chop!

  • Yar

    Dollar for dollar, money spent on the young returns more than at any other point.
    Instead of guns or butter, now we have schools or prisons.

    • Thebestgrandkids

      You may be right, but the difference is minimal. Have you listened to a sixth- or seventh-grader read recently? We have spent so much on “getting along” that we have no time for “getting ahead.”

      • Yar

        It is not enough to only take care of your own kids and grandkids, we must invest in the society at large or we can’t build tall enough fences to be safe. We must demand more accountability, and that can be accomplished along with organised labor. The important thing is to put our true goals on the table and then negotiate toward them. My hypothesis is that we are saying we want one thing when in fact we desire something completely different. I raise bees, if I cut back on management they will swarm and fly away or starve after I rob them of honey. The same is true in our society, the difference is some managers only care about this year, and not about what will happen next. The difference in tax cuts or investments in the next generation. We are on the same page when it comes to efficiency, (I think) but we may differ on the goal of investing in our next generation.

        • steve

          Very nice analogy.

          On one side the government (and the pursuit of freedom and individual liberty at the expense of responsibility) has spent decades destroying the common voluntary bonds that had historicall held this country together.

          On the other, the hell-bent pursuit of short term wealth at all costs(and the consumer class complicite in the slavery) has sought to make slaves of all but the most wealthy.

          I live in Wisconsin and am currently watching this battle play out.

          • Yar

            This is where I see age playing a role in the civil war, The real gap in resources is about to hit the fan with boomer’s retirements. Private industry has shifted the burden to the public, (airline, auto industry and shifts to 401K.) States and local governments are now trying to shift the burden, but there is nowhere for it to go. Unions are getting the blame, however the real deal is that the money already promised is not simply not there. What is the answer? We have to lower healthcare costs and other living expenses for the elderly. This is the first time ever when large numbers of people are facing old age with negative equity. It is actually worse than the stock market currently shows. Once boomers start to withdrawing en masse, inflation will rise and stock values will drop. I base this prediction on basic market principals. When there are more sellers than buyers the price drops. Who is going to buy the boomers pension fund cash outs? This is a bubble that has been developing since V-J day in 1945. All those babies are about to need an old age living, and who will do the work to support their lifestyle. Money only has value when people are willing to trade work for it. I see a bubble of inflation as the wave of boomers compete for resources over the next decade.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The caller is talking about hemorrhaging jobs, and I heard two economists this morning talking about how (a) the age of oil is over because countries that produced oil will be running scared of their young males and put their money into making jobs rather than building new oil facilities; and (b) the age of oil will advance apace because those countries need the money flow from oil.
    Um, how does it COST money to create jobs. Will Saudi Arabia do a FDR-style make-work program?
    How this relates back to us is that are we thinking of jobs as a COST to the federal government, or jobs as actually contributing to our national wealth.
    I don’t think we’re being “played” by focusing on a GAO report. Not any more than we were being “played” by being told we could get rich quick by purchasing real estate and participating in a national financial churning endeavor.

  • Steveob

    If taken seriously, the GAO report could prove the base for both reducing expenses and improving service and outcomes. Reducing duplicative efforts would obviously save dollars. It should also increase speed of action, and reduce the time energy and poor decision making that occurs due to turf protection battles. To properly implement such an effort would require some patience (perhaps a two to three year effort to complete but decisions would come much sooner), cooperation by Democrats and Republicans, and serious leadership by Obama. Unfortunately, we see little evidence of any of the above.

  • ThresherK

    It’s a laugh and a half to hear McGuiness about fielding calls from all those Beltway Inbred “professional journalists”. “You must be furious about the deficit”, she quotes them as asking her. And then she has to school them on what the business cycle is.

  • Chris

    There nothing wrong with investing, but if I hear another academic/ex-gov’t official say “high speed rail”, I will throw up.

    • ThresherK

      Yep, it’ll be just as big a boondoggle as AmRoad, the private automobile paving service. Why, AmRoad has never come close to paying for itself! What an embarrassment!

      • Sam Wilson

        ThresherK,

        The AmRoad would never be self sustainable unless it has a better business and customer service plan. Except for North East Corridor there is no reliable (even in North East its not at par even with Indian Railways) service.

        People will come, if the quality of the service on AmRoad / Amtrack is better and reliable.

        You know what, Indian Railways the largest employer on earth, which is a Government Entity runs in Profit!!!!

        • ThresherK

          Sam, you misunderstand my cheek.

          “AmRoad” is just a fun term for every mile of asphalt in the USA, especially interstate highways without tolls. Those people who are adamant to make Amtrak “pay for itself” seem to believe that the subsidy fairy makes motoring “free” without public policy and tax dollars. And they have no idea about what “induced traffic” is.

          I live close by some of those rails shared by freightlines, the ones which qualify for “National Register of HIstoric Places” plaques.

          • Sam Wilson

            Ah… sorry friend, i misread that completely.

            I am so shocked to blind eye Americans have towards the Railroad (passenger) after traveling last year from Vienna, Austria to London, England.

            The ease and the comfort is much better than on similar distance on a flight or road.

    • Harry

      Well Chris, when gas is 10, 20/gallon it might be the only way to get anywhere. So that’s why it is being pushed because it is coming to that. Ever hear of peak oil?

      Every other industrial country has great rail service but us. Puke all you want. But you will be walking without it.

  • AD

    It might be worth pointing out how big these numbers really are:
    If you count at a rate of 1 number per second:
    It would take about 10 DAYS (non-stop) to count to 1 MILLION.
    30 YEARS non-stop to 1 BILLION
    30,000 YEARS non-stop to 1 TRILLION

  • twenty-niner

    At my last duty station in the Navy, I was part of a team that helped build a state-of-the-art data center costing 10′s of millions on the Navy Yard. I was there long enough to see all of the expensive main frames get boxed up and shipped to PA a few years later, where they were also building a state-of-the-art data center to handle the exact same workload at the same time. After wasting millions in tax-payer money, no one was fired, or even reprimanded. In fact, people received commendations for making the draw down of a brand new data center as smooth as possible.

    The guys who really cleaned up: the contractors. For those who are not familiar, they’re the ones driving the really expensive German cars around the beltway.

    • Ellen Dibble

      By the way, a contractor who makes a bundle, has retirement 401K of a million dollars, happens to hit the recession and be out of work in sub-freezing weather, decides to buy property with that retirement money, does he or she look flush to the government? Do the assets look good or bad? They can look bad; such a person is technically unemployed and indigent, eligible for government-paid lawyers and so on.
      I am one who has all my money in retirement accounts, and I notice that the banks do not consider those assets, although I use those accounts depending what the interest rates the banks offer are.
      The bottom line here is: There is a big loophole for those with retirement funds. Apparently you can declare bankruptcy and still have a million dollars; something like that.
      Is there something that needs to be fixed there? Where is Elizabeth Warren when we need her.

  • Ellen Dibble

    http://money.cnn.com/2011/03/02/news/international/Libya_investment_reach/index.htm
    That is where Libya’s national profits (oil profits) are currently deployed. Granted they are frozen. But it gives you an idea what a government could do (for its elites anyway), and in the way of warping the world (in this case sowing turmoil in Africa where possible, apparently).
    Where is our money? All promised. All in stockpiles corporations are sitting on. All in savings that are likely to shrink when inflation strikes. What would prevent that? Surely budget oversight for starters.

  • amyc.

    I worked briefly for the military, and my husband has worked for two branches of he military, for the Federal Government, as well as a contracted company supporting the war effort. In all of that interaction with the government operations, I am astounded all the time by the wasteful fiscal culture that exists there. Every year in September, the different squadrons or organizations go on a spendig binge, making sure they drain every cent from their allotted budget in order to ensure the renewal of their full allotment in the next budget year. There is no incentive for saving money, for spending less and working more efficiently. regardless of one’s personal feelings about he work the DoD or the whole government is doing, it makes sense to change the government’s culture to one of stewardship and thriftiness. These are values that everyday Americans and their families are being asked to live by during this economic downturn. No less should be expected and demanded of the government that is spending our money.

  • Thebestgrandkids

    Perhaps after we cut way back on obviously duplicative and wasteful spending, we can start to eliminate spending for which there is no Constitutional sanction whatever! If the Congress and the White House taxed and spent only as authorized by the Constitution, our taxes would decline by about 90%!!!

    • Stevkerens

      Every thing spent is constitutional. If not constitutional, then the Supreme Court would have found delcared it as illegal. There is nothing in the constitution that says that corporations are people and entitled to the privileges of citizenship found in the Bill of Rights. The Supremes say that they are, though. The document is subject to interpretation and social updating. If not, then the right to bear arms would only regulate ball and burst muskets since those were the only firearms available. I would be in favor of outlawing all fire arms except muskets, but doubt that the NRA would agree with such a narrow construction of the constitution in this instance.

  • Harry

    What is the plan since it is obvious we are never go to be able to pay this debt back?

    Kill the dollar and enslave the American people to pay back the debt of Wall Street, the Oil and Gas and Coal Industry and the Military Industrial Mercenary Congressional Complex?

    • Anonymous

      Harry, The unsustainable debt is ours, not corporations. Their debt is completely separate.

      • Harry

        Ever hear about the taxes they don’t pay? Exxon Mobil $0. Bank of America $0 Goldman Sachs 1%. etc

        I guess not because it doesn’t fit into your world view.

        • Anonymous

          XOM actually got a +$40mill Refund last year. REFUND!!!!!!

        • Anonymous

          That is GREAT because Corporations by economics definition don’t pay taxes no mater what the rate. This is not because they aren’t charged taxes, but because no mater what you tax them, the tax is passed on to the consumer of their goods in the form of increased cost. We don’t need higher gas prices or higher interest rates.

          The US should eliminate all corporate taxes on goods made in the USA! We will get more than enough tax money from sales tax, and personal income tax on those making the goods.

      • Yar

        Public and private debt together exceeds 57 trillion dollars. That number alone has no meaning. To understand the size in respect to labor, the entire world (from infant to centarian) would have to work over 1000 hours at a wage US wage of 7.25 per hour to work off the debt. This is just the debt, it doesn’t allow these workers to be fed or other living expenses from that wage. The only way debt gets written off is for inflation to make it insignificant, or revolution to cancels it altogether. Pick your option.

        • Jim in Omaha

          U.S households have NET assets of more than $55 trillion. So apparently there are a lot of people who won’t have to go to work as you suggest. They can eat steak every night any spend a lot going to the spa to take off the fat.

  • Civil Rectitude

    This conversation on NPR is exactly why we need to continue to fund NPR. It is informative and important dialogue that engages the American people

    • http://www.dogoodgauge.org The Do Good Gauge

      Engaging yes. Motivating us to participate in the political discussion is questionable. NPR is definitely an ally worthy of public support. If only the collective wisdom of this blog could be channelled. That would go beyond engaging the American people.

  • Kat

    Why don’t we quit funding the slaughter of horses, bison and all animals on our federal lands out west? Using federal tax payer dollars, the USDA rounds up wild horses, haze the last known truly pure strain of bison in Yellowstone, sets cyanide traps, sets necksnares, sets leghold traps, and kills hundreds of animals all as a subsidy for the livestock industry that pays a pittance to have their personnal animals on my federal property in addtion to privately held lands.

    My tax dollars fund the agricultural community with subsidies then my federal tax dollars fund this wholesale slaughter of the naturally occuring animals on the public lands in the states.

    This on top of the waste in the military, the waste in FEMA constantly paying for people to build in floodplains, earthquake zones and the like and our legislators accepting “bribes” from big business to pass bills that support one industry over another.

    Simplify running the country and the costs should go down.

  • mayflowertwin21

    A big problem is in sole-source no bid contracts, with the recipient of the contract often the drafter of the request for proposal or bid. See Halliburton and others. There is a huge amount of waste and fraud in government contracting. Maybe it’s time to seriously evaluate the so-called value of privatizing. How do I know? I worked in gov’t contracting for years and saw the backscratching and favoritism in awarding government contracts.

  • MadasHellinOmaha

    The comment by Sen. Connie Mack was just a political cheap shot. When Obama walked in, he had to cope with averting a Depression and doing something about military commitments. And he did some other things, too.

  • Loring Palmer

    Lor [male] from Somerville: Yes, a mess of boondogles and the vultures are circling. And a question: why has there been a stone-walling of an audit of Fort Knox? The rumor is that ALL the gold is gone. Looted? Given away? Squandered? Is it too late to investigate this fiasco?

  • Rickmathes

    The D.O.D. budget is part of the “untouchables.” Elected officials have their hands tied & are unable to vote on budget cuts without the “publics” help. The public sector has to flood all elected offices in congress & senate with requests, emails, letters, etc. until real cut are passed. This will allow the elected representatives to “save face” with the “military powers” and be able to say, “we didn’t want to cut your funding, but the public outcry made us.”

  • Jean

    Zero based budgeting was tried by Carter. ‘If we aren’t funded we will stop work on the bridge.’ Always seemed like a waste of time.

  • Rob (in NY)

    To be fair, three of the top 10 counties are in NJ and relatively close to NYC and Nassau County, NY is number 11 so NYC is still represented wel on this list. Like you, I am surprised that more counties in CT are not included near the top of this list. It is ironic (and somewhat sad) that that DC is so high on this list

  • Suzanne

    What about Medicare fraud? 60 Minutes on CBS did a show investigating how Medicare crooks set up phone medical supply stores, steal SSnumbers (e.g., from dead people), and bill millions for walkers or bedpans, or even artificial legs billed to people who still have all their limbs. By the time the feds locate the “store,” it’s been shut down and moved to another anonymous office building or strip mall, where a few walkers or a hospital bed in the windos makes it seem legit. There’s got to be a better way to document delivery of legitimate services and items needed before Medicare pays the “bills.” There was talk of getting more undercover Medicare investigators (there aren’t nearly enough to do all the investigations quickly enough to catch the bad guyss), but nothing much seems to have happened.

    Where’s the mainstream media to keep doing the investigative reporting on stuff like this? NY Times and WashPost looking into it? Not. Oh yeah, we don’t need reporters anymore–certainly not on TV or radio. Just ten hours on the Academy Awards to distract the booboisie. How about some “Waste, Fraud, and Abuse” reality TV shows?

    • Stevkerens

      there are more tax dollars stolen in Iraq and Afghanistan in a day than is stolen by the medicare crooks. I think we should look for corruption everywhere, whether by crooked medical groups or Cheney’s old company Halliburton.

    • William

      It is amazing that Medicare fraud just continues and the people in gov. accept it. I have often felt that more than one gov. official is getting some of this money.

  • Dainbug

    Just to be clear, some of the “Entitlements” are debt neutral. Please don’t mislead the public as to the things that are causing the problems.

    Has the changing of or tax policy (Progressive to Regressive) really caused this problem?

    • geffe

      Yes.

  • Dainbug

    Sam is RIGHT ON!

  • Dainbug

    Given the tone in washington, how do you have a discussion?

  • Stevkerens

    I worked for a major financial institution. If one were to analyze its world wide operations you would find lots of “duplication”. However, when we looked into it more most were really explainable in terms of specialization. We had asset management departments — same name across the organization, but each department managing a different asset with different characteristics needing different skill sets to manage. I would want to know if the “duplication” that the GAO found is really duplication of actual services, or merely titles?

  • Ben Millstein

    Is it just me or does it seem the height of irony that the “right” is always talking about government intervention and yet seems fine with intervening to destroy citizens’ collective bargaining?
    Rather than reasonable benefits my target would start with Davis Bacon pay scale. Why is it that two people working in the same field in the same town can be paid so differently just because one is working on a government contract?

  • TomK in Boston

    This topic just contributes to far right spin, to the idea that “everyone agrees” we have to cut spending. It diverts attention from the more important problems, such as the rich getting an increasing share of the GDP and paying historically low tax rates, corporations making record profits and paying absurdly little tax, and the Gvt pissing away what $ it does have on useless wars. Also, everyone knows that tax revenues plunge in an economic crash, so one very important thing to focus on re the deficit is simply getting the economy going, so the tax revenues increase, and don’t do anything stupid in the meanwhile. Unfortunately, the austerity mania has a good chance or prolonging the middle class depression.

    Of course gvt should be as efficient as possible, but let’s not kid ourselves, whatever we could get by eliminating “duplication” is chump change compared to what is easily available with the stroke of a pen by returning to reasonable progressive taxation.

    The place to go after gvt waste is in the military, especially in the use of contractors. I’d love to “Xe” and other criminal organizations stopped from ripping off the taxpayers.

  • Rob (in NY)

    Tom and Staff,
    Thank you for another interesting show. I have an unrelated comment. Based on the volume of daily comments on this site denouncing “millionaires”, it might be interesting for On Point to do a show profiling the personal characteristics of American millionaires. man Many of your regular listeners seem to have a misconception regarding millionaires and some use this word with such visceral hatred. Here is the profile of the typical millionaire (most having a net worth between $1 million to $15 million):

    1) Over 80 percent of American millionaires work and are first generation wealthy meaning that they did not inherit their wealth (e.g. ironically, the unhappiest people among American millionaires are those who inherited most of their wealth).
    2) Majorities are either self employed owning a successful business or are engaged in one of the many professions (e.g. medicine, law, accountancy, or occupy management positions etc… )
    3) Common threads appear to be hard work, living below their means (e.g. savings as opposed to consumption) and sound investments
    4) Most spend little on the status symbols commony associated with wealth, such as expensive cars, jewelry, etc…, but spend lavishly on both their own and their children’s education
    5) Most are quite generous with regard to charitable contributions (e.g. accept for the those who accumulated wealth through inheritance)

    On a personal level, I was influenced by a book a couple of years after I graduated college entitled “The Millionaire Next Door” that was coauthored in 1996 by Dr. William Stanley and Dr. William Danko, both of whom I had the pleasure of learning from directly during my undergraduate education. Dr. Stanley has since written similar follow on books, including “The Millionaire Mind”, the “Millionaire Women Next Door”. While this particular book was written about 15 years ago, its basic findings have generally been confirmed by future studies of American millionaires.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Millionaire_Next_Door.

    I have also attached a similar link with another later study profiling the six types of American millionaires.

    http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/SavingandDebt/P80541.asp

    P.S. This would be a nice follow-up to your show on savings several months ago. Potential guests could also include Bob Brinker, nationally syndicated host of a radio show called “Moneytalk”, John Bogle,. founder of Vanguard, and countless others that I am sure your quite capable staff can recommend.

    • TomK in Boston

      That’s nice, Rob, but irrelevant, since asking us millionaires to pay a traditional American upper tax rate has nothing to do with “denouncing” and everything to do with fairness. Warren Buffett is not “denouncing” himself when he says it’s ridiculous that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, he’s showing common sense and patriotism. It’s amazing that, in the current climate of deficit hysteria, and given that all the wealth has been shifting to the top since 1980, there is no serious discussion of making the tax structure more progressive. Absolutely amazing.

      • Rob (in NY)

        Warren Buffett is a fairly extreme example as he does not pay the “upper income” tax rate of 35% to which you refer. You could raise the top income bracket to 80% and this would have no impact on Mr. Buffett because virtually all of his income is in the form of capital gains as opposed to ordinary income. The US tax code is exteremely progressive with the exception of capital gains, which is taxed at a lower rate. The Bowles/ Simpson approach would eliminate much of the problem as it would eliminate the gap between income tax rates and capital gains.

        • TomK in Boston

          The code is not progressive as the income tax rate maxes out at a rate that is low by our historical standards, and at an upper middle class income. As a result the total rate on all taxes is about the same for everyone in the USA.

          I don’t think most people understand the implications of our 3′rd-world-like inequality. With a normal income distribution, the top 0.1% or so may be rich, but there are not enough of them to hold a significant fraction of the total wealth. Our inequality is so extreme that the top 0.1% or even 0.01% have a big piece of the total pie, but they are paying the same income tax rate as me!

          We need a tax rate that keeps rising through the new gilded age stratosphere, so the rate on $100 million is greater than the rate on $10 million which is greater than the rate on $1 million, etc. Unfortunately the right’s favorite “reform” scheme is a flat rate, which would redistribute even more $ to the top. It makes sense, since that’s their agenda, but it’s not mine.

        • Jim in Omaha

          I always wondered how federal revenues would be affected if everyone was taxed at the same rate as a person making $30,000 a year: 15.3% of their TOTAL GROSS income, PLUS 10% of the first $8400 and $15% of ever thing above that.

          My cursory calculations would indicate that someone making several hundred thousand in regular income, whose payroll tax (15.3%) is capped at $106,000, and pays tax at a graduated marginal rate after deductions, might actually pay a lower portion of their income than the $15/hour wage earner. And of course those whose income is capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than a minimum wage earner when you count payroll taxes. And that includes hedge fund partners making literally millions, and in some cases, billions, as “carried interest”.

          The U.S. tax code is far from “extremely” progressive in practice.

          I do agree that “the millionaire next door” is often a hard working, frugal, family business owner dedicated to saving as much as is possible and avoiding any debt not absolutely necessary.

          • Anonymous

            “We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle” Winston Churchill

        • geffe

          Rob are you a millionaire?

          • Rob (in NY)

            Geffe, I am not sure this is relevant and I hesitate to give too much personal information about myself on these types of websites, but it really depends on how people define “millionaire” (e.g. net wealth vs. income). I am not a hedge fund or Wall Street executive if that is the point you are driving towards here. I do not make over $1 million per annum. I am in my mid to late 30s and have accumulated a personal net wealth of approximately $1 million, primarily through a lifestyle of savings rather than spending lavishly to impress other people. However, I did invest heavily in my own education, career (e.g. quality of experience), and becoming an expert in my field, especially in the first decade after I graduated undergraduate college and have seen a nice income gain since 2005. I do have compassion for others, understand the need for a reasonable safety net, and contribute to local charities. I support a progressive income tax system without any deductions and lower rates, but reject entirely the idea of confiscatory taxation as un-American.

          • geffe

            Rob I was not trying to trick you or anything. I was just trying to get a picture of who you are in relation to your comments. I would not consider you a millionaire. Well off, yes. I don’t have anything against wealthy people. I’m just not happy how the distribution of wealth is getting skewed in this country. It could prove to be a dangerous thing in the near future and could lead to a lot destabilization. Wisconsin is an example of one such situation that could become a real downward spiral for that state. The governor seems to think he can play with peoples lives like chess pieces.
            If this kind of thing keeps happening and a large enough part of the population becomes marginalized, as they did in Egypt, you could see a lot of rioting. People need to have a sense of belonging and that just does not seem to be the case for an ever increasing amount of the population in this country.

            I too support a safety net and a progressive and fair tax system.
            So I guess we have some things in common despite our huge differences in income. I’m not a millionaire. I do own a house and am luck not to be under water with it. But that’s it in terms of large assets.

          • Rob (in NY)

            Geffe,
            I do not disagree with your point regarding the wealth gap in America and agree that everyone needs to feel they have a stake in our society. It is probably inevitable (and also healthy) that great entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, such as John Doer, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc… accumulate vast sums of wealth when they finance, create and build great companies.

            I would like to see an honest non partisan study to look at some of the root causes here. Conservatives trend to attribute this gap more to market factors, whereas as liberals, such as Krugman, attribute it more to political factors. Regarding the political factors, how much is attributable to tax policy vs. monetary policy or trade policy? For example, I support liberalized trade agreements in theory, but in practice I would not call the US unilaterally lowering tarrifs and barriers to market entry without similar agreements from our trading partners as “free trade”. It sounds more like unilateral disarmament.

      • craig

        And removal of large donor funding from the political process. That would resolve the Union issue, the Corporate issue and the wealthy all in one clean swoop!

    • Zeno

      Those poor millionaires never get enough media attention. I hardly hear about them at all. I guess that’s because the media bombards us with stories about the common working man. NOT!

      If I hear anything more about millionaires and their social stress I’m going to be physically sick.

    • Rob (in NY)

      Tom K and Zeno,

      The primary purpose of this particular comment was not to ask for sympathy, claim some kind of “victim status” or to debate tax policy once again, but to perform the following:

      1) Correct some of the false assumptions many people who comment on this website make about millionaires (judging by the nature of some of the daily comments);

      2) Request NPR and On Point devote an hour to educate its listeners about some of the personal characteristics of American millionaires (e.g. particularly those who accumulated wealth in one generation). I truly believe most people can derive benefit by studying the personal habits of financially successful people, such as deferral of instant gratification, living below their means, savings, hard work, etc….

      Best Regards,

      Rob

    • Kathryn Walker

      It is not the millionaire next door that most folks find greedy. From what I have heard from people of wealth most would not object to paying more tax. Most wealth, while first generation, and entrepreneurial, is made with the help of others. Higher taxes for the 1 – 2% of the ultra wealthy in this country would not change their living standards one iota. This to me is the standard that should be applied when choosing an income level to tax. We’ve heard about “trickle down” economics and most of us are still waiting for the trickle.

      • William

        Would it not be more fair to have the 45 percent of working Americans that pay no federal income tax to start paying something? I mean really, everyone has some “skin in this game” right?

  • craig

    People are denouncing millionaires, teachers and unions. Everyone needs someone to blame instead of working together to find solutions. What a society.

    The Fed’s put the tools in place so companies could get added benefits by moving jobs out of the US. That is one of the biggest causes for the current budget issues we have and no one is talking about plugging the holes or cutting tax incentives to company’s that no other country provides.

    Who pays those incentives? US Citizens are financing hugh subsidies to the oil companies and this week vote demonstrated the Republicians don’t care about anyone or our country except for themselves when there wasn’t one GOP member who voted to cut oil subsidies.

    The democrates are being killed. Why, because they have compassion, granted sometimes too much, for helping others. We have the materialistic me generation in the fore front. Maybe this will finally wake people up to start paying attention to who they are voting for no less.

  • Rob (in NY)

    I agree 100%, but believe any campaign finance laws need to apply equally to unions,corporations, and wealthy individuals. I would even support amending the constitution if necessary.

  • Kathryn Walker

    Recently we visited a friend in the hospital section of Carswell Federal Prison. She’s 71 years old, a recovering cancer patient whose “crime” was a mistake in which no one was harmed. She has a long history of helping the down trodden in our country, received more than a thousand letters of support, and STILL was sentenced to 101/2 years in prison. She was sent to a prison 2,000 miles from her home, far enough away her beloved children and grandchildren cannot visit. Her husband can visit once a month where on each encounter they are permitted one kiss upon arrival and one kiss on departure. I don’t know what the full cost of such an imprisonment is to the tax payer, but I would guess not less than $100,000 per year. This is not only cruel punishment, it is costly and unnecessary. There is not one person or creature endangered by her freedom. If it is true of my friend, I wonder how many others are being kept at tax payer expense unnecessarily. We could start saving money here.

    • William

      She got 10.5 years for what crime?

  • Kim Bailey

    Well, first I’d like to observe that using disqus is probably very weird if not wrong. Programmers and marketers should not control community interact.

    I finally got a chance to listen to this broadcast. Thank you for providing podcasts. The conversation started offf well be seemed to devolve into postition statements on the part of your two guests. Intitially both were willing to get into the question of results based analysis but seemed to loose their way as listener calls presented different aspects.

    In all I was disappointed. I found the GAO report thought provoking and would like to see the government take a four year hiatus on the budgets – freeze everything through 2014 – while the implications of the report, and the background work, is evaluated. Wishfull thinking.

    I suspect my representative will ignore this, and my senators – Mr. Lieberman is one – will make newspaper space but nothing else.

    I hope On Point revisits this with folk who are willing to seriously discuss the GAO reports that have been issued over the years.

  • Anonymous

    “We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle” Winston Churchill

    • Michael

      Yet the Tory(UK conservatives if you didn’t know) party realized that taxes would have to be raised to fix there economy.

      Here’s another quote,

      “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
      John F. Kennedy

    • Zeno

      I guess the words of Churchill should not be taken as words from a godlike oracle. To conflate taxes with prosperity is comparing apples and oranges. Most politicians are idiots in the realm of finance…but they are masters of those memorable words.

  • Brstocker

    “A Pentagon study in January found that it had paid $285 billion in three years to more than 120 contractors accused of fraud or wrongdoing,” according to a Feb 19 article in NYTimes in the link is here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/us/politics/20data.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=fraud%20in%20military%20contracts&st=cse

    That would be a nice start on the budget.

  • Brb

    I so missed Fruitcake scratching her teeth and nails against the blackboard today…Daddy’s pheromones get to her?

  • Maddytiggy

    Really interesting show and good guests. You should pursue this further by checking into one of these duplicate areas and figuring out what all these similar-sounding programs actually do. Like the professor said, we actually have no idea what they all do.

  • Michael

    Great 6 part piece of Norm Chomsky on ME, Labor movements,Wealth,guided age

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZN2X53_vYc

  • Michael

    Part three is great as well,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlS4DtlVyew

    Chomsky talks about the recent bush/obama tax cuts. He uses the word “Sunset technique ” where you pretend you giving a tax cut to everyone but by the time the sunsets the tax cut is going to the right people (the top %)

    by 2010 50% of the 10 year tax cut were going to the top 1%

    He talks about the successful P.R. campaign that even when the majority of the population was against such tax cuts even going so far as to raise taxes on federal workers. While the tax cuts for the upper income got passed, Obama has in fact offer to reduced services to the middle-class.

    Part 4
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBy6Wpn6WkQ

    Sunset Technique where he talks about how the it will be used in 2012 for the Payroll taxes and S.S.

    So the goal is to de-fund S.S., than we have to fund it, than privatize it towards WS.

  • Michael

    A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
    John F. Kennedy

  • Rosebaypro

    With regard to the US budget, I’d like to know where our foreign aid fits into the picture. We borrowed money from China to fund the IMF, and the IMF is giving this money to China, among other foreign entities. We are paying China interest on this money and then giving them the principle also. Our great grandchildren will still be paying China interest on the money we have borrowed from them to give back to them. We are paying them interest on a gift we have given them. This is non-sensical. The IMF has bankrupt our country and still wants more. If we withdraw from the IMF and redirect all our funds currently being sent to the IMF and to all foreign entities back to the USA, we would be able to take care of our American Citizens at home. We would have funds to feed and house our people at home, provide health care for them, refund the social security fund which has been robbed by many entities for generations, to make medicare robust for all Americians of all ages, to rebuild our roads and infrastructure and bring our nation back into the civilized world of the 21st century. Our jobs have been outsourced to foreign countries and with them our resources and our money and our intellectual property. Look at what happened to Great Britain when their lease on Hong Kong expired. Why do we think our industries and businesses will fare any better than they did when their leases for their businesses expire in China. They have invested their money, expertise, etc. building factories and training employees in China. All will be left in China at the expense of our business people when China refuses to renew the leases on the property on which their factories have been built. Our businesses cannot economically compete with the global market because they are required to provide retirement and health care for its employees. Other countries with whom they are competing do not require their businesses to bear this financial burden. Thus their businesses can underbid our businesses in the global market. If our country provided medicare for all US citizens instead of artifically inflating the cost of doing business in this country by requiring our businesses to provide health care for their employees, the playing field would be leveled for them. Then our American businesses could afford to hire US citizens here at home and not be required to outsource our home-grown jobs to foreign countries to be able to compete on a level financial cost field. If you want an incentive for American business and industry to hire American citizens, then provide a level financial cost-based playing field for them to work in. Your current demands on them prevent them from being able to hire us. It would be better to offer all American citizens universal health care and create jobs for our citizens in the process. The illegal aliens are already getting free health care. The only people who do not have health care are those of us who, through no fault of our own, have no health care coverage through our employers because we have no jobs because our businesses have been driven over seas along with all of our tax dollars to build the third world countries. Since our government requires businesses to provide health care for its employees, the health care system and the insurance system have driven the cost of health care out of the reasonable reach of most people, especially those who are unemployed and those who are self-employed. We have American citizens who are going hungry and who have no home to call their own and who have no health care. We need to take care of our own people first. We cannot feed and house and educate and fund the entire world. We are only one nation. We are broke. We need help. Bring our resources of all kinds back home and take care of us. We have been orphaned. We are a pitiful example for the rest of the world to follow. They don’t want our meddling in their business anyway, with a few exceptions though.
    File for bankruptcy. Let’s start over again and take care of ourselves for a change.

  • http://twitter.com/domnogin domnogin

    It’s not that hard! If the unemployment benefits had gone through separately in the 2010 lame duck session, then the unwise (opposed as short-term by Donald Trump) tax cuts of 2001 would have expired and the restored income from the richest 1% would pay back $4T in the next ten years to pay for the $3T in unnecessary wars; the Taliban would have given Osama bin Laden to the World Court but Bush #43 said no, having just withdrawn the U.S. from that body. Legalize and control drugs, which themselves kill far fewer people than tobacco or alcohol each, and the money to punish drug users can go to treat them more cheaply while crippling drug gangs. Restore the tariffs that fell in the 1980′s, and you restore some of America’s lost manufacturing jobs and tax dollars. Repeal the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that presumed the Web would rival television and radio instead of being their add-on and synergy gets replaced by jobs and tax dollars as ClearChannel and others learn to make do with two stations instead of several. Circumvent the Citizens United decision by giving a dollar to every local/county/state/national candidate per race per relevant (D/R/I) registered voter and banning all donations and personal money so that the 2012 election will only cost $2B instead of $10B that costs far more to repay special interests; every private television & radio station would have to donate an hour/day in free airtime to the candidates in exchange for its use of public airwaves. Leave Iraq and Afghanistan by this Christmas, and another $10B/month is saved; mission accomplished.

  • Chadcarlson70

    “Wild” is an adjective. “Wildly” is an adverb.

  • Chadcarlson70

    I wish there was more balance in the call-in discussion.I find this show so informative, but as so typical, there is not once call-in commentary that reflects a conservative point of view on this issue. All the calls are about raising taxes on evil rich people and how we can’t cut spending because of the economy–if not now, when?

    • JonS

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Just now catching up with this program. The left wing callers just regurgitate the same old left wing cliches. It sickens me when they constantly talk about “tax cuts for the rich”. Tax cuts were never enacted. In December tax rates were extended.

  • John Hoven

    Tom, I am constantly astonished by your ability to speak thoughtfully on such a broad spectrum of topics. Kudos to you, and to what I suspect is a small but superb supporting staff.

    You went to the core of the GAO report with these two questions:

    Q: Tom: Does duplication mean waste, fraud, and abuse?
    A: Needed information for program performance is not readily available.
    (Translation: We have no idea. We don’t know whether it is valuable or wasteful to have numerous agencies engaged in similar activities.)

    Q: Tom: Do you presume that duplication or overlap means redundancy and waste?
    A: It may and it may not….We have to figure out where the overhead goes….We have to announce some comprehensive fiscal plan.
    (Translation: Yes, we do presume that. We have to presume it, because there is no logic or evidence to support that inference and the need for a “comprehensive fiscal plan.”)

ONPOINT
TODAY
Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

RECENT
SHOWS
Aug 29, 2014
Beyoncé performs at the 2014 MTV Music Video Awards on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Getty)

Sex, power and Beyoncé’s feminism. The message to young women.

 
Aug 29, 2014
Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Comment
 
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Comment
 
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

More »
1 Comment