In a budget nearing $4 trillion a year, it strains incredulity to hear members of the so-called "supercommittee" say they're still no closer to finding $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade.
This is the budget-cutting target set for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that was part of the deal in this summer's debt limit agreement. The 12 House and Senate members sitting on this bipartisan panel have until Thanksgiving to come up with their deficit-cutting plan or else face deep, automatic, indiscriminate cuts throughout the budget, including entitlements.
"If it was easy, it would have been done by now. No decisions have been made," said Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a budget hawk and former director of the Office of Management and Budget.
But does anyone really believe we can't find massive budget savings in a government that is awash in wasteful spending and rampant duplication; programs that are rife with corruption, fraud and inefficiencies; and agencies that are outdated, outmoded, unworkable, unneeded and, most importantly, unaffordable.
This isn't rocket science that requires special skills. But it does require common sense and an rigid intolerance for waste and wantonness that's rampant throughout an over-padded, over-paid bureaucracy made up of thousands of departments, agencies, commissions, boards and other programs.
Making this panel's failure even more unacceptable is the realization that much of their work has already been done for them over many decades in countless federal investigations, reports, audits and exposes whose pages could wallpaper the Washington Monument from top to bottom 100 times over.
The programs ripe for the ax have been richly detailed by watchdog agencies like the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Inspector Generals offices, and in sweeping earlier reports like the Grace Commission in the 1980s that dug into every nook of the federal behemoth, uncovering a mountain of waste, fraud and abuse that is larger than ever.
These reports are all still there, gathering dust on the shelves of Congress. The programs they targeted are still there, getting budget increases year after year, and worse, being enlarged and duplicated with new programs when the old ones do not work or are not needed.
There's been little or no actual oversight by Congress itself into how this money is being spent. In most cases members of Congress have no real idea where the money is going, nor do they care to know until it becomes a front page scandal.