White House

Joe Biden Believes There Is No Government Waste

President Joe Biden speaks before signing executive orders at the White House, January 28, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Waste-busting ‘Sheriff Joe’ hangs up his badge.

Since the beginning of the Reagan administration, the federal-budget submission to Congress has included a list of proposed budget cuts, terminations, consolidations, and savings, along with a management agenda. Every president since then thought it was important to provide this information, until President Joe Biden decided that there is not a single penny of the taxpayers’ money being misspent throughout the entire federal government.

The Biden-Harris administration’s $6 trillion budget for fiscal year (FY) 2002 is 37 percent greater than the $4.4 trillion spent in FY 2019, which was the last budget before the pandemic. Even with a $4 trillion tax increase, there is still a $1.84 trillion deficit, which is 86 percent greater than the $984 billion deficit in FY 2019. Deficits will exceed $1 trillion for each of the next ten years, pushing the national debt to more than $39 trillion from the current $28.4 trillion.

When he served with President Barack Obama, Mr. Biden was a key member of the administration’s efforts to promote its budget on Capitol Hill. He was involved in the negotiations over the Budget Control Act of 2011, which set spending caps and helped to somewhat restrain the growth of spending until it expired. President Obama tasked the then–vice president with leading his Campaign to Cut Waste, saying, “I know Joe’s the right man to lead it because nobody messes with Joe.”

Mr. Biden called himself “Sheriff Joe” for his work with the Recovery Board, which tracked expenditures under the $831 billion stimulus bill, along with the Government Accountability and Transparency Board, which was established to identify ways agencies could eliminate waste and improve performance. Mr. Biden said the transparency board would be looking at every dollar of government spending.

According to an April 19, 2019, Government Executive article about how then-candidate Joe Biden would approach managing the government as president, he had said the success of the Campaign to Cut Waste “would be measured by results, not rhetoric.” He said it would “restore trust in government” and do “more than just eliminating waste and fraud . . . by instilling a new culture of efficiency in each of our agencies, greater responsibility, responsiveness and accountability.”

In addition to the campaign and the establishment of the Accountability and Transparency Board, all eight Obama-Biden budget submissions included a volume of “terminations, reductions, and savings,” or “cuts, consolidations, and savings.” The administration said in several of these submissions that it had been going through the budget line-by-line to identify ineffective, duplicative, and overlapping programs. They would be recommended for reduction or termination so that the taxpayers’ money would be used for programs that work as intended.

According to the last Obama-Biden budget for FY 2017, that process “identified, on average, more than 140 cuts, consolidations, and savings averaging more than $22 billion each year.” The proposals were included in a separate volume with the budget submission to Congress. The Trump administration’s four budgets included an average of $50 billion in program eliminations and reductions, making it 40 consecutive years of presidential administrations providing such proposals to Congress. But the Biden-Harris budget for FY 2022 has broken that streak by providing no list of program consolidations or terminations, either separately or as part of the total budget submission.

This complete lack of interest in cutting spending began early in the administration, when President Biden sent a letter to Congress on January 31, 2021, withdrawing President Trump’s 73 proposed rescissions that would have saved taxpayers $27.4 billion, including several that were included in the Obama-Biden budgets for terminations, reductions, and savings, such as the Commission on Fine Arts, the East–West Center, the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program, and Presidio Trust. During his April 28, 2021, address to Congress, President Biden did not say a single word about wasteful spending, nor has he made any other comments or issued any executive orders requiring federal agencies to identify or reduce inefficiency. Vice President Harris likewise has said nothing about these issues.

On April 13, 2011, President Obama proposed a “Framework for Shared Prosperity and Shared Fiscal Responsibility,” which proposed $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years. A little more than ten years later, on May 28, 2021, President Biden proposed a $14.5 trillion cumulative increase in deficits over ten years.

After aiming at government waste during the Obama-Biden administration, Sheriff Joe has clearly hung up his badge.

Tom Schatz is President of Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit organization that exposes and eliminates waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

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