8. Welfare Kings. Corporate welfare is an easy thing for politicians to bark at, but it seems it’s hard to bite the hand that feeds you. How else to explain why corporate welfare is on the rise? A Cato Institute report found that in 2006, corporations received $92 billion (including some in the form of those farm subsidies) to do what they do anyway—research, market and develop products. The recipients included plenty of names from the Fortune 500, among them IBM, GE, Xerox, Dow Chemical, Ford Motor Company, DuPont and Johnson & Johnson.
Corporate Welfare: $50 billion
Running Tab: $709.5 billion + $50 billion = $759.5 billion
9. Been There, Done That. The Rural Electrification Administration, created during the New Deal, was an example of government at its finest—stepping in to do something the private sector couldn’t. Today, renamed the Rural Utilities Service, it’s an example of a government that doesn’t know how to end a program. “We established an entity to electrify rural America. Mission accomplished. But the entity’s still there,” says Walker. “We ought to celebrate success and get out of the business.”
In a 2007 analysis, the Heritage Foundation found that hundreds of programs overlap to accomplish just a few goals. Ending programs that have met their goals and eliminating redundant programs could comfortably save taxpayers $30 billion a year.
Obsolete, Redundant Programs: $30 billion
Running Tab: $759.5 billion + $30 billion = $789.5 billion
10. Living on Credit. Here’s the capper: Years of wasteful spending have put us in such a deep hole, we must squander even more to pay the interest on that debt. In 2007, the federal government carried a debt of $9 trillion and blew $252 billion in interest. Yes, we understand the federal government needs to carry a small debt for the Federal Reserve Bank to operate. But “small” isn’t how we would describe three times the nation’s annual budget. We need to stop paying so much in interest (and we think cutting $194 billion is a good target). Instead we’re digging ourselves deeper: Congress had to raise the federal debt limit last September from $8.965 trillion to almost $10 trillion or the country would have been at legal risk of default. If that’s not a wake-up call to get spending under control, we don’t know what is.
Interest on National Debt: $194 billion
Final Tab: $789.5 billion + $194 billion = $983.5 billion
What YOU Can Do
Many believe our system is inherently broken. We think it can be fixed. As citizens and voters, we have to set a new agenda before the Presidential election. There are three things we need in order to prevent wasteful spending, according to the GAO’s David Walker:
• Incentives for people to do the right thing.
• Transparency so we can tell if they’ve done the right thing.
• Accountability if they do the wrong thing.
Two out of three won’t solve our problems.
So how do we make it happen? Demand it of our elected officials. If they fail to listen, then we turn them out of office. With its approval rating hovering around 11 percent in some polls, Congress might just start paying attention.
Start by writing to your Representatives. Talk to your family, friends and neighbors, and share this article. It’s in everybody’s interest.
*All figures are estimates.