One of Washington, D.C.’s biggest lies about federal spending will be endlessly repeated in coming weeks by President Barack Obama, congressional Democrats, special-interest advocates and the liberal mainstream media.
The myth is that the federal budget really cannot be cut except on the margins because government programs are managed efficiently with minimal waste, fraud and abuse, and they deliver essential services that cannot be provided any other way. Two reports focusing on federal job-training programs that were made public Wednesday — one from the Government Accounting Office and the other from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. — put the lie to such claims.
Nine federal agencies simultaneously operated at least 47 work-force training programs at a cost of $18 billion in 2009. That total represented a $5 billion increase since 2003, thanks to added funding from Obama’s economic stimulus program. Here are some examples from among many Coburn cited on how those tax dollars were spent:
Grants to a thief: In West Virginia, Martin Bowling — an admitted thief with a long rap sheet — was the main beneficiary of a $100,000 federal worker-training grant, and was put up for another federal job-training grant worth $1 million by his mother, a state official at the time.
Tampa Bay binge: Florida’s Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance used federal job-training funds for lunches at Hooters, valet parking for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory (topped with $9 slices of cheesecake), $20 delivery fees for cupcakes, $443.99 on flowers, 300 Koozie drink holders and more.
$4 for bureaucrats, $1 for workers: A Montana trade union that was supposed to manage a half-million-dollar federal job-retraining grant spent four times as much on salaries as it did training displaced workers.
Ghost employees: A U.S. Department of Labor official approved fraudulent invoices for ghost employees in exchange for cash bribes and a vehicle paid for by a Jobs Corps contractor.
Job-training executives frequent casinos during work hours: Iowa work-force executives conspired to enrich themselves with $1.8 million in bonuses — paid for with federal funds — while engaging in sexual relationships and frequenting casinos during work.
Did any of the 47 programs achieve their goals? The government does not know, according to the Government Accounting Office: “Only five programs have had an impact study completed since 2004 to assess whether outcomes resulted from the program and not some other cause. Almost all federal employment and training programs, including those with broader missions such as multipurpose block grants, overlap with at least one other program in that they provide similar services to similar populations.”
These results emphasize the truth of Coburn’s observation that “we create new programs with great fanfare, then never bother to measure their effectiveness.” Politicians and others who say a $4 trillion annual federal budget cannot be cut by hundreds of billions of dollars simply are not telling the truth.