Sunday, July 24, 2011

Must We Sacrifice Social Security Checks? Whatever Became of the GAO Report on Waste and Duplication in the Federal Government?

Today’s Sunday talk shows obsessed with the possibility of default. Treasury Secretary Geithner made the rounds with doomsday warnings: The elderly will not get social security checks, the unemployed will miss unemployment benefits, and the poor will be denied medical care, if the rascally Republicans force a default on sacred government debt.

Geithner refused to spell out what steps his treasury department is taking to prepare for the possibility that a deal will not be reached in time. According to him, there are no plans. There is no prioritization. The only possibility is a disaster from which we will not recover. Surely, it is time for the recalcitrant Republicans to come to their senses.

We seem to have forgotten the May 25, 2011 GAO report entitled “Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue.” Less than two months have passed since its release. Washington, I guess, has a very short memory span.

The GAO report was prepared to meet the statutory requirement to identify federal programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives—either within departments or government-wide—that have duplicative goals or activities. In this report, the GAO identified 81 areas of opportunities for eliminating duplication, reducing operational costs, or enhancing revenue. Although the total savings are difficult to add up, they equal hundreds of billions of wasted federal dollars.

The reaction of one Senator to the report sums it up well: “At a time when our country has an unsustainable debt of $14 trillion, there simply can be no excuse for such waste, duplication, and inefficiencies.”

I include for Secretary Geithner a link to the GAO appendix (Appendix 1) that identifies federal-government waste and duplication. (

In particular, he might look at the seven agencies for the homeless, ten agencies on teacher quality, twenty four agencies on federal data, thirty one agencies for war fighter urgent needs, and five agencies for surface transportation.

I recommend to the treasury secretary that he consult this appendix to prepare for the doomsday scenario. There are more than enough cuts that can be made without jeopardizing the effectiveness of the federal government. More than one agency is already taking care of the problem. In some cases, we have more than thirty doing the same thing.

The treasury secretary is fortunate that the GAO has done his work for him. Let him cut the areas of waste and duplication so that he can send out the social security checks on time.


  1. Yes, this would make sense, but Geithner the tax scofflaw would rather play Chicken Little than serve the public. As would his boss.

  2. In particular, he might look at the seven agencies for the homeless, ten agencies on teacher quality, twenty four agencies on federal data