The federal government is spending far beyond its means, putting taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars in debt. Nextgov Executive Editor Frank Konkel notes, “Two months into fiscal 2021, the federal government has spent nearly twice as much money as it has taken in through revenue after posting a 14th consecutive month of deficit spending.”
Before the pandemic hit, the deficit surpassed $1 trillion. With relief spending, the deficit ballooned to a whopping $3 trillion shortfall for the previous fiscal year. Clearly, the new Congress needs to do all that it can to slash spending and allow struggling taxpayers a break in time for tax day. Fiscal responsibility may not be easy, but Republicans and Democrats need to come together to save future generations from a deluge of red ink.
In its quest to cut spending, the 117th Congress should start with the low hanging fruit. Sen. Rand Paul’s recently released “Festivus Report” details profligate waste that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should be outraged by. For example, the Kentucky Republican highlights that the Defense Department spent more than $23 billion over two decades to unsuccessfully replace the M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Since 2000, the Pentagon has repeatedly requested and spent money trying to bring about a next-generation vehicle program, only to scrap plans due to immature technology and overly aggressive requirements.
Paul also highlights:
- $217 million for duplicative Medicare customer service access.
- $110 million for the bungled building of a drone base in Niger.
- $48 million for helping “disconnected Tunisian youth not feel like a problem.”
- $37 million for studying why stress makes hair turn gray.
- $1.5 million to study lizards on a treadmill.
This may seem like small potatoes in the grand scheme of the federal budget, but Paul has identified $55 billion in waste that amounts to more than $400 per household – enough for significant tax relief. And, if Congress can’t make the “easy” decision to get the lizards off the treadmills, they surely won’t be able to address larger drivers of debt.
Outrageous line items are just one part of a deeply dysfunctional budgeting process. Federal spending is riddled with corporate welfare, which benefits well-off, politically connected corporations and individuals despite the original mission of the spending program(s). Taxpayers reacted with dismay after learning that celebrities such as Kanye West and Robert De Niro benefitted handsomely from Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans designed to help small, struggling businesses. Dozens of large, publicly traded companies also took these loans and held onto them, diverting resources away from the companies needing them the most.
This problem extends far beyond the umbrella of coronavirus-related relief. Under President Donald Trump, direct farm payments have significantly increased. Tax subsidies to large, affluent agribusinesses spiked to $22.4 billion in 2019 from 2017’s total of $11.5 billion. And in 2020, payments totaled an astounding $37.1 billion. By all indications, this problem will get even worse under the Biden administration.
Too often, corporate handouts accrue to businesses that are perfectly capable of standing on their own two feet. As part of the year-end omnibus-COVID relief bill that no one read, lawmakers inserted $300 million and $130 million per year (through 2025) respectively for solar and wind research and development. Except, development and production costs for these technologies have fallen considerably over the past decade and the industry doesn’t need taxpayers’ help.
Moreover, frivolities such as electric vehicle (EV) subsidies are little more than handouts to well-off households. According to a 2018 study by Pacific Research Institute Senior Fellow Wayne Winegarden, about 80% of EV tax credit payouts went to households earning six figures. Clearly, these “renewable” technologies are benefitting from declining costs and affluent, well-developed consumer bases. The truth is that special interests aren’t satisfied with simply competing on the open market. They are determined to leverage taxpayer dollars to get on top, regardless of the consequences to Americans down on their luck.
Getting the budget under control means ending these giveaways to the well-off and extending broad-based tax relief to all Americans. Lawmakers must act now before the sea of red ink becomes a tsunami of despair.
Ross Marchand is a senior fellow for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.