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Time for a War on Waste


With President Obama pushing federal spending past $33,000 per household, conservative lawmakers must keep up the drumbeat on how wasteful government already is. They should do so for three reasons: 1) The amount of government waste is simply unacceptable; 2) President Reagan showed that peppering speeches with (often humorous) government-waste anecdotes reminded the American people to be skeptical of liberal promises of an efficient government solving our problems (a quite relevant lesson in the health-care debate); and 3) while entitlement reform would produce larger savings, lawmakers must build public credibility to reform Social Security and Medicare by first picking the low-hanging fruit of government waste.

My new paper highlights 50 examples of government waste, with costs ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $100 billion. Examples include:

 *   $92 billion spent annually on corporate welfare (excluding TARP) versus $71 billion on homeland security
 *   $25 billion annually maintaining unused or vacant federal properties
 *   $123 billion on programs in which government audits cannot find evidence of success
 *   $2.6 million training Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job
 *   $350,000 to sponsor NASCAR driver David Gilliland; and
 *   $3.9 million rearranging desks and offices at the Securities and Exchange Commission headquarters.

Brian Riedl is Grover M. Hermann fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs at the Heritage Foundation.


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