Jean Schara wrote in a recent post:
I’d really like to see a systematic program in Congress to sift laws and programs for relevancy and effectiveness. When they are no longer relevant, they need to be sunsetted. When they are not effective, they need to be scrapped or completely revamped so we get our money’s worth. This should be a regular committee that captures all the budget items, programs, laws, etc and establishes a review schedule.
I think Jean is maintaining an idealism that I gave up long ago. I would really like to see this, as well, but I don’t believe it’s going to happen within my lifetime, if ever. I would also like to see the Tax Code cleaned up, but that’s not going to happen, either. In both cases, there are too many powerful people with too much invested in maintaining the status quo. Money talks. Loudly, in these cases. That makes me very sad. And very angry.
It would be reasonable to suppose that our Senators and Representatives would be reasonable about this, but they will not be. For evidence, see the U.S. Government Accountability Office‘s annual reports for 2011 and 2012 on duplication and waste in the U.S. government’s programs. These reports are not duplicated, by the way. They each identify unique areas that could be improved upon. So far, they are up to 132 items. This duplication costs us, the taxpayers, literally billions of dollars every year. Read them and weep.
Why so much duplication and waste? Pork-barrel politics. As Jean points out elsewhere in her post, bills are saddled with so much unnecessary that they become almost meaningless. Every Congressman wants something for himself or herself in the name of their constituents and is too spineless to put their programs into a separate bill that can be debated in public. Pork buys votes come election time, so every bill includes new programs, many of which duplicate programs already in existence.
Why can’t this duplication be eliminated? Just listen to a group of unhappy 3-year-olds to find out: “You can’t have it! Leave it alone! Mine! Mine!”. Nobody will give up their pet projects, so the waste goes ever on and on. For a graphic illustration, see the comments on the 2011 GAO report in the PDF version of the 2012 report, starting on page 389. “Mine! Mine!”
Unfortunately, the American political system does not run on common sense. Our politicians don’t have time to worry about cleaning up after themselves. Why should they? They have nothing to gain from that. If anyone was serious about cutting spending, these reports would be excellent starting points. Yet they are being ignored. Have any of you ever heard of this before now? Why have your Congressmen not been up in arms about this? Ask them.
Even more unfortunately, in my opinion, most American voters are not interested in common sense, either. They want whatever they can get from their politicians. If it is “free”, then so much the better. Too many of our citizens don’t draw the line that connects government spending to taxes. Or the one that connects their favorite programs to wasteful spending.
As long as our politicians can get re-elected by promising “pie in the sky by-and-by”, as long as they can get away with pointing fingers and calling names instead of taking care of the country’s business, as long as their constituents don’t care, they will continue to maintain the status quo. We cannot afford that. Most unfortunately of all, it looks like we have no choice.
Next time around, let’s all try to look at things with clear eyes and vote for what is best for the country as a whole and not who will bring in the most pork. We really don’t have too many chances left.