The group Citizens Against Government Waste has a history of investigating wasteful spending and highlighting opportunities for savings. That’s an important mission these days, particularly when you consider that the national debt nearly doubled over the last eight years and is teetering on the edge of $20T dollars at the moment. In a new report titled “Prime Cuts 2017,” they have identified hundreds of wasteful programs where cuts could be made and the figures are truly eye opening.
If accurate, CAGW has identified savings which could add up to $336B in the first year and $2.3T over the first five years. Just imagine for a moment what the world would look like if we actually had elected officials in Congress with the backbone to take on that challenge and deliver those sorts of savings. We could stop having these never ending battles over the debt ceiling every year and potentially even be able to get Washington back to the regular order of business.
I wanted to highlight one potential savings target from the report which was explained in a recent piece from the Free Beacon. It deals with the EPA and their ENERGY STAR program, instituted as part of the the Clean Air Act in the 90s. You’ve probably seen the labels on any number of products, showing how much energy they consume and what your savings might be by using less juice to operate them. But what you might not be aware of is that the system is seriously open to fraud and abuse. The EPA relies on a mishmash of 24 different certification agencies and spot inspections to enforce efficiency on far too broad of a range of products, including buildings. And this program is costing the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every year to run.
But is it really that open to abuse? CAGW found that the GAO previously put them to the test and the results were not pretty. (Emphasis added)
At the Environmental Protection Agency, if Congress were to eliminate the ENERGY STAR program, which is a labeling program to identify energy-efficient products, it could save taxpayers $52 million in just one year.
“A March 2010 GAO report found that the ENERGY STAR program is vulnerable to fraud and abuse,” the report said. “The GAO submitted 20 phony products for certification, 15 of which were cleared, including a gas-powered alarm clock.“
So the GAO submitted 20 imaginary offerings and someone at the EPA responsible for approving ENERGY STAR clearance applications let 75% of them go by. And yes… one of them was allegedly a gas powered alarm clock. What was it using to turn the hands on the clock… a lawnmower engine? Sure, that probably eliminates the need to plug it into the wall and use electricity but the exhaust fumes building up in your bedroom and the sound of the engine running all night would have to be problematic at best.
Read through the rest of the Free Beacon piece and you’ll see the other, frequently much larger potential savings which have been identified. It should either fill you with excitement or anger, depending on whether you’re suddenly optimistic about the future or frustrated that we’re currently wasting this much money. Medicare is the biggest target, obviously, because it’s such a massive behemoth and so open to people filing false claims in relatively small dollar amounts all across the country. That’s a low risk, high reward crime for many because there are simply too many claims being filed every day for more than a tiny percentage of them to be checked.
There are plenty more beyond that. Could we actually make these reductions? Unlikely, since it involves asking government bureaucrats to give up power and their slice of the budget pie. That’s historically a non-starter. But just imagine if we could. Or, failing that, if we elected a new crop of people to Congress with the backbone to do it.
Hey… don’t knock me for dreaming.