Dear Chairman Enzi and Ranking Member Sanders:
As Chairman of the Federal Spending Oversight subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee I am charged with examining all federal expenditures and protecting taxpayers from waste. In that capacity and pursuant to Section 301 (d) of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974, this letter sets forth my views and estimates of the President’s budget and current fiscal situation of the United States and I ask for your consideration and inclusion in the FY 2017 budget.
The Federal Government has racked up over $19 trillion in federal debt, over 100 percent of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product. That comes out to over $60,000 per person alive today. Some believe we never have to pay this, that we can simply outlive and inflate away our debt burden. I do not share that view, but even those who do cannot ignore our interest burden. President Obama’s budget assumes $303 billion in interest payments next year. That is almost $1,000 per person (including children) that must be paid this year and even more next year. We must balance our budget and begin paying down our debt. Our problems are real and cannot be ignored or glossed over.
During my time in the Senate, I’ve proposed three budgets that balance within 5 years. I believe this is a critical course of action and ask you to pursue the same. It means truly looking at the role of government and doing only what is within the Federal Government’s charge as laid out in the Constitution.
On September 28, 2008 then Senator Obama said in the course of seeking the office he now holds, “[a]nd when I’m president, I will go line by line [through the budget] to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely.” The budget submitted on February 8, 2016 was President Obama’s eighth and final budget. It is $618 billion, in real dollars (inflation adjusted) larger than when President Obama made that pledge. With a 20 percent increase in real spending, it is unfathomable that the President made any really attempted to live up to his campaign pledge to go through the budget line-by-line to eliminate unwise spending.
Fortunately, I and several other members of the Senate have been going through the budget line by line, identifying wasteful, unneeded, and ridiculous spending. My approach is to issue a report each week documenting just one example of wasteful government spending. Though some weeks we identify a boondoggle costing just a few thousand dollars in less than a year I have chronicled over $1.12 billion in clearly wasteful spending.
Despite this, I was shocked to find that HR 2029 the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriation Act (which both of you and I voted against) actually increased funding for many of the agencies and programs where I and others have specifically found substantial waste.
This highlights a clear problem, there is a disconnect between the politics of spending and the responsibilities of governing. Some champion increased funding for science but ignore the National Science Foundation using the money it already has to fund a climate change video game to be used as propaganda, or their study of how to have to perfect first date, or when the National Institute of Health funds a conference on balding. We all want to support our Veterans, but we let them and every American down when returning solders are relegated to waiting lists while the VA finds somehow $8 million for solar panels it never used.
The list just goes on and on. Some rail against the cost of college yet never bat an eye at spending millions of dollars bringing foreign kids to America to attend our community colleges, but not for long enough to get an Associate’s degree. Others have made a career advocating for education funding, pointing to outdated science labs and diminished sports programs; but those same advocates never give a second thought to why we are paying for Pakistani kids to go to Space Camp or funding a professional cricket league in Afghanistan. Some talk about the need for more funding to the military to build the best fighting force on the globe, but never ask how losing $29 million of heavy equipment or build historic models of Air Force bases does any good for our troop on the battle field.
It is hard to see how programs can be underfunded politically, while operationally they have money to burn. I hope you will take this waste of taxpayer dollars seriously. Former Budget Chairman, Senator Patty Murray often said a budget is more than numbers, that it is really a statement of our priorities as a nation. My staff has estimated that some 155,479 average American taxpayers saw their entire tax liability go to this wasteful spending last year, just on the waste I have exposed. When the government wastes money, is says to those hard working Americans who paid those tax dollars that they are not a priority. I hope you will make them a priority in this budget.
I’ve included each of my waste reports, including today’s, at the end of this letter and have categorized them by budget function. I recognize the budget resolution cannot proscribe specific policies but rather sets overall functional totals and committee allocations. I recommend you incorporate a reduction in spending equal to these items of waste as you make your policy assumptions for each functional total and reflect those savings in the 302(a) committee allocations. In instances where a spending reduction is inappropriate, I recommend you include spending neutral, cap adjustments or reserve funds to facilitate greater oversight and program integrity activities.
Additionally, I recommend you incorporate to the extent possible, several process reforms. Earlier this year, I introduced the Legislative Performance Review Act of 2016, which aims at dealing with the over $300 billion in appropriations made each year to programs whose authorizations have expired. I recognize that not all of this spending is wasteful, but when programs have not been reviewed for over 30 years in some cases, it is hard to believe they are still as effective as when they were created if they ever were. This creates significant peril in the budget process; how can you make informed assumptions in building your budget when so much discretionary spending is left on autopilot? I believe it is appropriate, within the jurisdiction of the Senate Budget Committee, and the parameters of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to at the least include in a budget resolution a point of order to strike from appropriations acts spending that is not made pursuant to a current authorization.
Further, I want to draw your attention to end-of-year spending. Research has shown that spending the last week of the fiscal year is as much as five times higher than the average of the preceding 51 weeks. More troubling is that the last day of the fiscal year, and only that day, spending significantly moves to the Pacific Time Zone to allow three more hours of spending. The only possible reason for this is to expend funds before they expire and is clearly wasteful. I’ve introduced legislation, The Bonuses For Cost-Cutters Act to afford federal employees, who see this waste first hand, a sort of whistleblower process run by Inspectors General to prevent this kind of waste. I ask that you make a policy assumption in Function 920 that reflects some level of saving that result from the adoption of this legislation.
Finally, each year the Government Accountability Office issues a report on duplicative spending within the federal government. It is clearly wasteful to have multiple programs, each with their own overhead, working to combat the same problems. I ask that you assume some reduction in spending related to consolidation of duplicative spending. Just as important, is that Congress not create new duplication. I ask that you include in your resolution a direction to the Congressional Budget Office that they include in their cost estimates of legislation some assessment of the extent to which such legislation creates new duplication in the Federal Government, recognizing this will likely require them to coordinate with the Government Accountability Office. Since the Budget Committee has jurisdiction over CBO and both CBO and GAO are agencies of the Legislative Branch, I see no reason why such provision in a budget resolution would violate the budget law and could not be included in a concurrent resolution.
I believe, with over $19 trillion in federal debt, we can no longer proceed with budgeting as usual. These cuts and reforms will not balance the budget, although that is in fact what we need to do. I have proposed three balanced budgets that show it can be done, and there are other plans worth reviewing such as your Penny Plan as well. The recommendations in this letter are just a few modest, but critical steps toward that end. We must go line-by-line to root out waste and we must be creative in how we budget. I hope you give these recommendations the seriousness of thought that I have given them and include them in your budget.
Senator Rand Paul, M.D.
Chairman-Federal Spending Oversight Subcommittee
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
Function 050 National Defense
$8,100,000* for study of people’s email response habits – February 1, 2016
Note: actual funding unknown funding cobbled together from multiple questionably related grants
University of Southern California (Los Angeles) – DOD
$29,000,000 of lost heavy equipment purchased for Afghan Army Corps of Engineers – January 28, 2016
Afghanistan – DOD
$40,000 on a model of Fairchild AFB for historic preservation purposes – January 25, 2016
Fairchild Air Force Base (Spokane, WA) – Airforce
$43 million for a Compressed Natural Gas station in Afghanistan- November 12th, 2015 (Special Report)
Afghanistan- Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (Department of Defense)
$218,000 to Investigate Mitigation of Invasive Burros – Sep 21st, 2015
Ft. Irwin, CA; Los Cruses, NM (New Mexico State University)- Department of Defense
Function 150 International Affairs
$500,000 to register people involved in making Moldovan Wine (including peasant farmers) – January 19, 2016
$50,000 spent helping El Salvadorian deportees start businesses back home – January 4, 2016
El Salvador- Inter-American Foundation (USAID)
$400,000 spent to combat over regulations in Armenia, while the U.S. adds 81 new major regulations (those costing the economy $100 million) each year. December 7, 2015
Armenia- U.S. Agency for International Development
$6 million to promote Albanian tourism – November 2nd, 2015
Albania – U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Note: the U.S. spends $100 million to promote U.S. Tourism.
$15,070,000 to pay for foreign kids (including from India) to come to America for 1 year of community college, while also promoting community college in India with a picture show – October 26th, 2015
Worldwide – Department of State
$50,000 to finance a Jazz Band’s Performance in Turkey – Aug 24th, 2015
Istanbul, Turkey- Department of State
$250,000 for Pakistani Kids to attend Space Camp – Aug 10th, 2015
Islamabad, Pakistan; Huntsville, AL; Pigeon Forge; TN- Department of State
$850,000 for a Professional Afghan Cricket League – June 8th, 2015
Afghanistan- Department of State
Function 250 General Science and Technology
$30,000 to study the gambling habits of small business owners in Uganda – February 16, 2016
University of California (Berkeley) and Uganda – National Science Foundation
$2,500,000* for a study of the best practices on a first date – February 8, 2016
Note: actual funding unknown funding cobbled together from multiple questionably related grants
Sanford University- National Science Foundation
$150,000 Studying if poor students sabotage their own academic success in college – January 11,2016
Northwestern University- National Science Foundation
$450,000 on a Climate Change Video Game for High Schools- November 30, 2015
Note: the game is set 110 years in the future and intended to combat HS kids not buying into the climate catastrophe narrative the Administration wants them to.
Tampa Bay, FL; University of South Florida- National Science Foundation
$380,000 to study how friends contribute to weight-gain of college freshman (the Freshman 15) October 19th, 2015
Tempe, AZ (Arizona State University) – National Institutes of Health
$15,000,000 to Finance Private Research in Space, Including Golf Club Development – Oct 5th, 2015
Melbourne, FL; International Space Station, Low Earth Orbit- National Aeronautics and Space Administration
$350,000 to study Athletes in the “Zone” – Sep 8th, 2015
West Lafayette, IN (Perdue University)- National Science Foundation
$175,950 for study of Feelings and Decision Making – July 14th, 2015
Irvine, CA- National Science Foundation
$188,000 for a Study of the History of Measurement – June 22nd, 2015
Georgia- National Science Foundation
$850,000 for Winemaking classes at Community Colleges – June 16th, 2015
Washington- National Science Foundation
Function 270 Energy
$50,000 for Cadillac of Treadmills – May 11th, 2015
Oakridge, TN- Department of Energy
Function 300 Natural Resources and Environment
$25,000 spent on the Smokey Bear laundromat – December 14, 2015
Lincoln National Forest (Ruidoso, NM)- National Forest Service
$100,000 to finance a “Flower Show” – Sep 28th, 2015
Philadelphia, PA- National Park Service
$760,000 for Unneeded Sewer Upgrades in Small Town – July 20th, 2015
Ray, ND – Environmental Protection Agency
Function 350 Agriculture
$50,000 spent to promote Christmas trees as a specialty crop – December 21, 2015
Georgia – Department of Agriculture
$72.5 million in Specialty Crop Marketing Grants- November 21, 2015
Note: USDA list 300 specialty crops, like apples and blueberries, and only 32 non-qualified crops.
Nationwide- United States Department of Agriculture
$158,000,000 for School Lunch Money Spent on Lawn Sprinklers – Aug 8th, 2015
Los Angeles, CA- Department of Agriculture/Los Angeles Unified School District
$370,000,000 for Crop Flood Insurance in seasonal wetlands – June 29th, 2015
Dakotas & Minnesota- Department of Agriculture
Function 370 Commerce and Housing Credit
$40,000 to provide Satellite TV onboard a NOAA Ship – Aug 31st, 2015
Pacific Ocean- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Commerce)
Function 400 Transportation
$1,200,000 for “Medical” Vacations – May 5th, 2015
Alaska (Tourist Destination including Vail, CO and Orlando, FL)- Coast Guard
Function 450 Community and Regional Development
$50,000,000 to Pay for Disaster Damages also Covered by Insurance – Aug 17th, 2015
Nationally- Federal Emergency Management Agency
Function 500 Education, Training, Employment, and Social Services
$25,000 for a Hollywood Movie Museum – July 6th, 2015
Los Angeles, CA- National Endowment for the Arts
$7,700 for 3-day Email Class – May 18th, 2015
Washington, D.C.- Department of Education
Function 550 Health
$15,000 on a Balding Conference- November 16, 2015
Miami, FL – National Institute of Health-Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases
Function 570 Medicare
$175 million on Medicare overpayments for Sleep Apnea Studies- November 9th, 2015
Orlando, FL & Nation Wide- Center for Medicare Services (HHS)
Function 600 Income Security
$104,000,000 for Non-poor People to live in Public Housing – July 27th, 2015
Nationally- Department of Housing and Urban Development
Note: this includes millionaires and person who own other homes
Function 700 Veterans Benefits
$8,000,000 for Unused Solar Panels – June 1st, 2015
Little Rock, AR- Veterans Affairs
Note: these were never used because shortly after completion they were torn down to build a parking garage
Function 750 Administration of Justice
$54,000,000 in Extended Temporary Duty compensation for persons on assignment more than a year. – February 22, 2016
Nationwide- Department of Justice
Function 800 General Government
$150,000 for Yoga Classes for Federal Employees – Sep 14th, 2015
Nationally- Various Agencies including State, Energy, & Railroad Retirement Board