This past Thanksgiving was the fourth anniversary of one of the worst plays in a football game: the infamous “butt fumble.” Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ran headfirst into his own lineman while playing the New England Patriots, losing the ball and costing the Jets a touchdown. Yet as embarrassing as this play was, it’s nothing compared to the slip ups documented by Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford in his new report, “Federal Fumbles.”
This year’s report documents the worst of the worst of inefficient government spending and overregulation throughout 2016. In total, the report details $247 billion of spending on wasteful and duplicative programs, as well as the regulatory cost of red tape strangling businesses. With a current debt of $19.7 trillion and wage growth remaining largely flat, Americans can’t afford these costly fumbles.
The largest drivers of the national debt aren’t the taxpayer dollars doled out to fund silent Shakespeare plays or million dollar murals although both are documented in Federal Fumbles. Rather, the culprit is mandatory spending on programs such as Medicaid. Spending on Medicaid alone accounted for almost 10 percent of the federal budget.
Although it’s important to help vulnerable populations, Medicaid last year had almost $30 billion in improper payments, projected to rise to $39 billion in 2016. These benefits were often paid to people who used fake Social Security numbers, didn’t qualify for Medicaid, and even those who were dead. These improper payments steal funds from the truly needy and add to our spiraling debt.
On the discretionary side of spending, government grants provide some of the most egregious examples of wasted taxpayer dollars. Even though spending for these grant programs is a drop in the bucket, it’s incumbent on lawmakers and bureaucrats to be good stewards of all taxpayer dollars. This year’s worst of the worst government grants included $180,000 to develop an effective way to count ducks, $25,000 to fund a documentary on libraries, and $412,930 on a study that culminated in a paper entitled “Glaciers’, Gender and Science: A Feminist Glaciology Framework for Global Environmental Change Research.
Needless to say, a paper about the feminist way to study Glaciology is probably not a priority for most taxpayers.
While the funding of these absurd programs certainly attracts headlines, red tape and regulations are often the costliest fumbles of all. A study from the Mercatus Center found that if regulation had just stayed constant from 1980 onward, the economy would be $4 trillion dollars larger in 2012 than it actually was. Rather than stop these perennial mistakes, the pace of regulation has instead sped up considerably – especially in the energy sector.
As Federal Fumbles notes, the Obama administration has issued 400 regulations impacting the energy sector since 2009. These regulations have required 40 million hours of paperwork from businesses and cost consumers almost $500 billion. At the same time, American taxpayers are fronting $24 million to develop renewable energy programs and energy regulations in other countries.
America’s top export shouldn’t be burdensome regulations and costly, ineffective energy programs. Additionally, the Obama administration pledged $3 billion to support the Green Climate Fund as part of the recent Paris Climate Accords. Because the Senate didn’t approve this agreement or its spending, the President instead rerouted the $500 million initial payment from the infectious disease fund during the height of the Zika crisis. America’s energy policy shouldn’t be expensive regulations at home and taxpayer subsidies abroad.
Federal Fumbles is definitely entertaining and humorous, but it’s also an important tool in showing everyday citizens just how much waste, fraud, and abuse happens every day in government. It’s also a crucial resource for policy makers, providing a guide to potential reform. Using last year’s report politicians and bureaucrats took steps to fix many of the most egregious programs and errors, including phasing out the $6 billion Wind Production Tax Credit, removing many ineligible recipients from public housing assistance, and stopping costly food labeling regulations.
Rather than getting in the way of our own team, it’s time to open a running lane for the American people to reach the end zone. After all, most Americans would rather be Tom Brady than Mark Sanchez.