Tags: govt | waste | return | investment

Wasting Away in Washingtonville

Thursday, 31 Jan 2013 07:40 AM

By Neal Asbury

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As an entrepreneur and business owner, I run my business based on a basic guiding principle: Return on investment (ROI). In other words, for every dollar I spend, what do I hope to get in return? Every successful organization uses this as a yardstick for profitability — except one: the federal government.

Total federal debt in 2012 surpassed $16 trillion, while federal spending reached $3.6 trillion, or 22.9 percent of a share of the overall economy. This equates to $10 billion per day.

And what is the ROI for the money invested by the American taxpayer? No one knows because the federal government is riddled with waste without accountability.

Just a quick trip on the Internet finds examples of waste galore. For example, in 2010, the government wasted $125 billion for improper payments in federal programs, including Social Security checks to the dead or incarcerated, free lunches to schoolchildren who didn't qualify and unemployment benefits to the employed.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released his "Wastebook 2012" report, which pointed to 100 items that with proper prioritizing and oversight could have saved taxpayers $18.9 billion.

Coburn’s report includes the accounting of a grant for $325,000 to the National Science Foundation to develop a robotic squirrel to observe how rattlesnakes react, so they can study the interaction between predators and prey.

Another $27 million was spent by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to train Moroccans to make and sell pottery around the world. But the report, which cited a USAID inspector general report, says the program was riddled with problems, including having a translator at classes who was not fluent in English, and by using dyes and clay not available in that country.

If you really want an example of a federal program that is sucking money out of our economy, look to President Barack Obama’s green energy initiative. He has allocated $5 billion of taxpayer money to put 1 million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015.

Want to know how that’s working out? Just over 31,000 battery-powered and plug-in electric vehicles have been sold during 2012, which is a paltry 0.28 percent of all vehicles sold last year. The message from consumers is loud and clear: electric cars haven’t proven to be technologically reliable and the price tag remains prohibitively high.

Is it any wonder that Americans think the government is wasting its money? In fact, a 2010 Gallup Poll found that most Americans think the federal government wastes more than half of the tax dollars it collects — the highest level going back at least 32 years that Gallup has been asking the question.

The Gallup survey also equated belief in government waste with the level of trust people have in government, which fell from 60 percent in 2002 to 19 percent in 2010.

And most of the blame goes to Congress. According to a Rasmussen Report survey in December, just 5 percent of likely U.S. voters now rate Congress’ performance as good or excellent. Sixty-nine percent view its performance as poor.

These negative ratings clearly indicate frustration over Congress’ inability to get anything done. And it also indicates displeasure over two leading causes of government waste: cronyism (awarding federal money to friends and contributors) and pork barrel politics (spending that is intended to benefit a politician’s constituents back home in return for their votes).

The latest example is The Western Bypass, a 6.2-mile road to provide a limited-access bypass of the commercial area on Route 29 around the Charlottesville, Va., metropolitan area. The price tag for this 6.2-mile road? $240 million, which many people indicate has very little regional or national ROI.

I find it appalling that the Obama administration is asking for higher taxes when a significant sum of what it already collects is wasted. Waste is well-documented and we only know the tip of it.

To fund this waste we are taking away the financial resources of the most productive part of society (our risk takers and entrepreneurs) and giving it to the most unproductive part of society (government). If our government made a sincere effort to reduce waste and still was not able to balance the budget, I would understand the need for higher taxes.

Paying our government more of our hard-earned dollars is denying our businesses the ability to grow and create jobs. Let’s be clear: the government does not create jobs.

It should be apparent to everyone that increasing taxes has nothing to do with balancing the budget or fiscal responsibility. It is part of a failed ideology of transferring wealth from the private economy to the government. This has the potential to create a country where the government gets everything and individuals get nothing.

Taxpayers must demand more transparency over how their money is being spent. Future generations should not look back and wonder how we squandered our wealth and their economic security through careless spending and unabated waste.

Patrick Henry wrote: "The liberties of a people never were, or ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."

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