Some years ago, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York came to me about a “saving for college credit” she wanted to sponsor to have implemented into the Internal Revenue Code. The concept was that if people put money into government bonds, and then used the bonds for college, they’d never have to pay interest or taxes on that money. I informed her that several years before, that provision had already been put into the code and was part of our current tax law. She then asked if I could help her think of a benefit that was a little different, so that she could call it her own.
I was reminded of this episode recently when the GAO report documenting the massive duplication of government programs was released. Although the report was helpful in uncovering billions of wasted taxpayer dollars, it made me think — why isn’t anyone talking about the failure of Congress implementing these programs in the first place? It has to be one of two scenarios: either a) due to their incompetence — they didn’t realize it was duplicative at the time, or b) they knew it was wasteful but didn’t care as long as they gained political advantage.
The GAO report is not only a staggering denunciation of how our Congress really conducts business, but it also raises some difficult yet necessary questions: why is there is virtually no discussion about what Congress is going to do to ensure this kind of abuse of taxpayer money is not repeated? How are we going to now make sure that future legislation doesn’t result in a duplicative or redundant program?
But even more important– the GAO report should be viewed not only as a mechanism to reduce the budget going forward, but also as a major indictment of our legislators’ past actions. We should look at the repetitive programs, find out who sponsored them and pushed them through, and hold them accountable for all the billions of dollars wasted upon the backs of the taxpayers throughout the years. Only when those who have been responsible for the problems actually take responsibility for their actions can reform truly occur.