Is it any surprise that the government wastes as much as has been reported recently?
Specifically, reports going back to 2004 show $2.3 trillion in improper payments between 20 federal agencies. In 2019 alone accounted for $175 billion, or $15 billion per month.
The reports explain that improper spending accounts for a small percentage of the outlay for these agencies, but ‘government watchdogs’ suggest that improper spending errodes trust in the government.
According to the reports, most improper payments are made through the Medicaid and Medicare program, as well as Earned Income Tax Credits through the Internal Revenue Service.
If those three sound familiar, that’s most likely because they are always on the list of programs that need ‘reform.’ In 2019, between the three agencies, over $120 billion was misappropriated.
An amount that could have covered federal salaries and labilities, among other things, in that fiscal year.
And yet, as mentioned, these three amigos continue to dominate headlines for programs and departments that need financial checks and reforms. The fixes have become mostly partisan, sort of – democrats continue to suggest expansion (and sometimes win those suggestions) and republicans used to say ‘cut,’ and some still do. However, many republicans have kind of ‘lost their way’ when it comes to fiscal responsibility, as shown in both the George W. Bush and Donald Trump area where spending was rampant and debt accrued quickly.
The problem comes when it becomes readily apparent that neither side is correct without the other. Medicare and Medicaid by necessity expand, due to aging population and the way wealth has skewed higher in most recent years. But Republicans struggle to combat the issue with fiscal responsibility. It’s a balancing act that the current political schism will never hope to achieve – at least not under the landscape Washington, D.C. has cultivated.
Part of that has created an atmosphere of ‘cut’ or ‘spend’ without much thought or oversight toward the future.
What’s the actual fix? The details will be left to the administration and legislature who actually choose to address the problem, but finding a president who appoints cabinet members who immediately process a fiscal audit on their departments is a start.
Mending fences between democrats and republicans will be second, because the third issue will be processing executive orders and legislation through congress and the senate to try and reduce the debt and increase opportunity for individuals and businesses – probably through direct infrastrucutre investment.
Because if the country’s response to COVID has taught us anything, it’s very difficult to respond to a disaster when you’re broke.
McHugh David is publisher of the Livingston Parish News.