Wonderful: GAO report identifies $100-200 billion in duplicative annual federal spending

The logical next step is for Congress to start eliminating redundant programs and consolidating others, but … I just can’t imagine them doing it. Some sort of excuse to minimize the downsizing, probably by splitting hairs about how, for example, the 15 different agencies overseeing food safety (no joke) all serve slightly different functions and are therefore irreplaceable, will be found.

To eliminate any one would be “draconian.”

The GAO examined numerous federal agencies, including the departments of defense, agriculture and housing and urban development, and pointed to instances where different arms of the government should be coordinating or consolidating efforts to save taxpayers’ money.

The agency found 82 federal programs to improve teacher quality; 80 to help disadvantaged people with transportation; 47 for job training and employment; and 56 to help people understand finances, according to a draft of the report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal…

There have been multiple efforts to cull the number of federal programs in recent years, but they often run into opposition from lawmakers in both parties who rush to defend individual spending provisions. In fact, GAO’s recommendations are often ignored or postponed by federal agencies and lawmakers, particularly when they could require difficult political votes…

The report says there are 18 federal programs that spent a combined $62.5 billion in 2008 on food and nutrition assistance, but little is known about the effectiveness of 11 of these programs because they haven’t been well studied.

The bottom line on $100-200 billion in potential annual savings comes not from GAO but from Tom Coburn, who pushed for the report. Watch below to find him railing against redundancy to Dylan Ratigan. I’m not sure how to react to his numbers: On the one hand, like Coburn says, we’re talking about savings into the trillions in just a few years if Congress acts quickly. There’s no reason for them not to (aside from lobbyist pressure, natch), as it’d be a politically safe way for both parties to build credibility on deficit reduction. And it might get the ball rolling on more meaningful spending cuts like entitlement reform. On the other hand, I have the same worry that DrewM does, that trimming $200 billion in pure fat from the budget will give Democrats the political cover they need to claim that the heavy lifting on fiscal responsibility is done. It isn’t. That number isn’t even 15 percent of this year’s deficit. It pains me to carp about “messaging” after goofing endlessly on the left for it, but unless the public understands that the only path to solvency is through entitlement reform, we’re never going to get there. Do it first, do it now, or you may never build a critical mass to do it at all.

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