Big government expectations
Uncle Sam doesn’t need to do more, he needs to do less
The government has grown so large that nobody really knows where its $3.8 trillion in annual spending goes. Each year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) tries — and fails — to make sense of federalagency ledgers. On Thursday, GAO refused once again to certify the official balance sheets because they are so shoddily kept.
The green eyeshades complained that Defense Department books are so bad they can’t be audited. Throughout the rest of the government, there are “hundreds of billions” in unreconciled funds. These are the same conclusions the GAO has come to yearafter-year for the past 15 years, and yet Uncle Sam still refuses to get his act together.
Private companies would never be allowed to get away with maintaining ledgers this sloppy, but Washington gives itself a pass. The numbers don’t add up for a simple reason: The bureaucracy doesn’t care about spending your money wisely. Bureaucrats don’t even care enough to keep track of it.
Instead of replacing ineffective programs, congressmen love to create all-new ones dedicated to addressing the same goals. That results in a lack of focus. “If you’re spreading your talent out across more systems than you really have to, and you’re not concentrating on managing the performance of a fewer number of systems properly, you’re going to have even bigger problems,” Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro testified at a House Oversight subcommittee hearing Thursday.
Last year alone, the federal government spent nearly $80 billion upgrading information-technology systems. Even these overpriced computers couldn’t keep up with the federal leviathan.
Social Security and Medicare were among the worst offenders because their books relied on implausible projections of future revenue. GAO used classic understatement to describe the imminent collapse of FDR’S old-age Ponzi scheme. “Social Security is now in a negative cash-flow position,” the GAO report deadpanned. “The growing gap between revenues and spending that is built into the current structure of the budget leads to continued growth in debt held by the public as a share of GDP; this is not sustainable.”
That imbalance has put America’s fiscal health in great jeopardy. According to the official 2011 financial statements for the U.S. government, our public debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio will be 352 percent by the year 2085. That’s double the indebtedness that hurled Greece into bankruptcy.
President Obama claimed he was going to go “line by line” through the budget to cut wasteful spending. It hasn’t happened. Washington is spending more today than ever, and Mr. Obama continues to propose yet more government programs to address old problems. The government can’t even do what it’s doing now properly; it makes absolutely no sense to try to do more.