Instead of summoning the guilty from the General Services Administration for a round of Capitol Hill pomp, posturing, and threats, members of Congress should be on their knees thanking the GSA for giving them something inconsequential to be outraged about. Gross abuses of our money like tens of billions in improper payments reflect badly on lawmakers during tax season, especially Democrats in the habit of holding out their hands whenever they get the urge to spend (see: Panhandling Democrats Had Revenue and Taxes for Extensions). The GSA’s less than $1 million splurge is the perfect opportunity for Congress to show it is in control of waste by our government and its valuable employees because the losses are slight by Washington standards. The GSA scandal does not call attention to the enormous waste of tax revenue from entitlements, or money lost to failed projects and bad contracting decisions. If they are lucky, lawmakers can retrieve a few dollars to waive as a trophy to distract taxpayers who are losing the farm to big league government abuses that go unnoticed because they make for boring headlines.
Why does Congress even pay attention to waste that has not skyrocketed into the billions? Politicians never tire of talking about finally getting a handle on improper payments, fraud, and the abuse of our money. Lawmakers wage fierce partisan battles every time an unemployment benefits extension rears its head because of the never ending Obama recession. Last year’s revelation of $16.5 billion in unemployment benefit overpayments handed out in 2010¹ was a black eye for Democrats bent on justifying outrageous entitlement spending. Hilda Solis, diverted from her efforts on behalf of illegal immigrants, used the numbers to beat up on states for their lack of oversight, citing an even higher $17.5 billion in bad unemployment payments² (see: Government Blames States While Illegals Cash Benefit Checks). A current improper payment rate of 12% for unemployment insurance and a goal of wasting nearly 10%³ speak to how little has been accomplished to fix the problem of government waste as Congress treats us to a new scandal.
Medicaid fouls up 8.1% of outlays, with $21.9 billion in improper payments. Medicare Advantage is worse, with $12.4 billion in bad payments and 11% mistakes.4 With $34.3 billion lost by just two entitlements, the hearings about the GSA’s paltry abuses are just another waste of our money by lawmakers with much larger problems to fix. They should make sure the guilty are fired and then do something useful to save some serious tax dollars.
If I spent my days on Capitol Hill I would much rather do some self-righteous grandstanding on behalf of taxpayers over a Vegas bash than highlight immense problems that speak to our government’s fundamental inability to manage its day to day functions without hemorrhaging tax revenue. Congress has a lot more than $800,000 to answer for. Is the tab for Colombian hookers next on their agenda?