The irresponsible spending in Washington has reached a new level. On June 7, 2012, a report released by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) called out the federal government for literally doing nothing with a significant amount of taxpayers’ dollars. Sen. Coburn identified more than $70 billion left unspent by the federal government dating back to 1996.
The unspent money is the “result of poorly drafted laws, bureaucratic obstacles and mismanagement, and a lack of interest or demand from the community,” according to Sen. Coburn. This includes money for road-building projects, unspent funds for the 1996 Olympics, undisbursed grant money, and abandoned earmarks.
The report outlined a failure of government to protect taxpayers’ interests. “The exception to the proverb ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’ is the government, where an unspent dollar represents lost opportunities to reduce the debt or to assist an individual, a family, or a community,” the report said. “Whether fixing crumbling roads and bridges, assisting homeowners with mortgages, providing health care to patients in need, or protecting the security of our nation, this report demonstrates the real challenge is not finding more resources but better managing the available resources.”
It is not uncommon for the federal government to hold money for future expenditures. In fact, the government will carry $2 trillion into fiscal year (FY) 2013. However, according to Sen. Coburn, about a third of this amount has not been allocated. It is irresponsible for the government to put money aside that could clearly benefit the individuals it came from. If this money is not spent, it should be returned to taxpayers or used for deficit reduction.
In April, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) issued a letter in support H.R. 962, the Forgotten Funds Act. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), would rescind unobligated discretionary appropriations that have gone unspent since the end of FY 2008 or earlier and require that such funds be used for deficit reduction.
Taxpayers should expect their tax dollars to be put to good use. Sen. Coburn’s report demonstrates the most irresponsible form of waste in Washington, as lawmakers have shown a blatant disregard for taxpayers’ interests. It is simply common sense to use unspent tax dollars to help put the country back on a sustainable fiscal course.