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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why can't the government be more frugal?

I just received a letter from the IRS--dated May 12--telling me that my rebate check was deposited in my account on May 9. As if I hadn't been checking my ING account on an hourly basis since May 5th. How much money did the government spend (and how many trees were killed) to tell me something I already knew?

I. Just. Don't. Get. It.

Why is it that ordinary Americans (like me, and probably you) are living frugally, economizing, buying generic groceries and taking public transportation in order to make ends meet, but my government feels that it's necessary to send me snail mail to inform me of an event that has already passed, and for which no action is required on my part?

In a general Yahoo search on government waste, I came across a website called Citizens Against Government Waste. According to the website,

"Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is a private, non-partisan, non-profit organization representing more than one million members and supporters nationwide. CAGW's mission is to eliminate waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the federal government. Founded in 1984 by the late industrialist J. Peter Grace and syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, CAGW is the legacy of the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, also known as the Grace Commission."
This site focuses primarily on government waste related to pork barrel projects, and even names the Porker of the Month (politicians who have shown a blatant disregard for American taxpayers).

Another website, called The Heritage Foundation (warning: I think this is a conservative site) has an interesting list of examples of government waste, including:

The Missing $25 Billion
The government knows that $25 billion was spent by someone, somewhere, on something, but auditors do not know who spent it, where it was spent, or on what it was spent. Blaming these unreconciled transactions on the failure of federal agencies to report their expenditures adequately, the Treasury report con­cludes that locating the money is “a priority.” The unreconciled $25 billion could have funded the entire Department of Justice for an entire year.

Unused Flight Tickets Totaling $100 Million
A recent audit revealed that between 1997 and 2003, the Defense Department purchased and then left unused approximately 270,000 commercial airline tickets at a total cost of $100 million. Even worse, the Pentagon never bothered to get a refund for these fully refundable tickets. The GAO blamed a system that relied on department personnel to notify the travel office when purchased tickets went unused. Auditors also found 27,000 transactions between 2001 and 2002 in which the Pentagon paid twice for the same ticket. These additional transactions cost taxpayers $8 million.

Embezzled Funds at the Department of Agriculture
A recent audit revealed that employees of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) diverted mil­lions of dollars to personal purchases through their government-issued credit cards. Sampling 300 employees’ purchases over six months, investigators estimated that 15 percent abused their government credit cards at a cost of $5.8 million. Taxpayer-funded purchases included Ozzy Osbourne concert tickets, tattoos, lingerie, bartender school tuition, car payments, and cash advances.

Credit Card Abuse at the Department of Defense
The Defense Department has uncovered its own credit card scandal. Over one recent 18-month period, Air Force and Navy personnel used govern­ment-funded credit cards to charge at least $102,400 for admission to entertainment events, $48,250 for gambling, $69,300 for cruises, and $73,950 for exotic dance clubs and prostitutes.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Have you noticed any abuses of government funds? Well, guess what? There's actually an eHow website letting you know how to report it! Unfortunately, the site advises us to contact our elected officials---isn't that kind of like warning the fox that we've noticed our chickens disappearing at an abnormally high rate?


SavetotheFuture said...

Funny thing is that if we compared our government to a business, we can say that they are heading to bankruptcy. Our spending is so out of control, that I'm not sure we can save ourselves. Groups like The Heritage Foundation might have some conservative opinions but they help open the dialogue of communication with regards to our government.

Finally Frugal said...

I completely agree! Can you imagine if we all purchased airline tickets and then didn't use them---and didn't even pursue a refund?? It's simply unbelievable to me! And, it was funny: most of the websites that I visited with this topic (government waste) seemed to lean to the right, although I think government waste is definitely a non-partisan (or maybe bipartisan) endeavor! Heritage Foundation definitely had some interesting and useful information, so I recommend it, regardless of your own political leanings. . . .

thanks for the comment!

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