CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2009--Continued -- (Senate - March 11, 2008)
Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I am going to spend a little while tonight talking about the budget. I have listened to the budget debate all day, just like I did yesterday. I came in yesterday and listened to the debate. I have heard about tax increases and I have heard about spending and I have heard the things going back and forth. But what I did not hear was anything that had to do with this: This is the oath of a Senator. There are some interesting things. Let me read it first:
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
The interesting thing about that oath is nowhere in that oath does it mention your State. There was, by design, never any intended part by our Founders that we would place parochialism ahead of our duty to this country. Yet where do we find ourselves today? With $9 trillion, almost $10 trillion, at the end of this fiscal year, in direct debt.
We have heard all sorts of numbers quoted today. The actual number for the obligated unpaid-for liabilities that our next generations will face is actually $79 trillion. It is interesting where that comes from because that comes from the retirement benefits for our service personnel, the retirement benefits for Federal employees, including people who work in this Chamber, Medicare payments, Medicaid payments, all the various trust funds we have set up through the years, such as the Inland Waterway Trust Fund, the trust funds associated with other distinct obligations in terms of infrastructure in this country. We are stealing all that money every year that is supposed to go to it. As a matter of fact, the budget deficit this year will be, in real accounting standards--not Enron accounting standards--$607 billion, of which about $160 billion of that is going to come from Social Security and about another $30 billion to $35 billion from all these other trust funds.
So when you hear a number that comes from Washington, I want us to be very suspect because we are much like the CEO at Enron, Ken Lay. We are not going to send you the real number. It is not because we do not intend to be honest; it is because we have sold out to parochialism.
Now, I want us to think about that for a minute. Later on, I am going to show some examples. I am going to go through $350 billion-plus worth of waste that occurs annually in this country. But how is it that we have $350 billion--by the way, it is not going to be disputable. There is going to be an absolute reference to either a GAO study, a CBO score, a congressional hearing or published reports that are out there. So it is not going to be TOM COBURN's estimate. It is going to be a factual basis of what is occurring in our country.
But how is it we got to the point where Members of Congress--both of the House and of the Senate--have all of a sudden forgotten what their oath is; that, in fact, their primary means is: How do I send more money home to my State? How is it that we have gotten to where we have $79 trillion in unfunded liabilities? We have $10 trillion in true debt, at the end of this fiscal year. We are going to have a $600 billion deficit--real deficit--this year, which we are going to obligate our children to pay for.
I would put forth: We forgot our oath. We forgot what it is about. Our State is not mentioned. When I am parochial for my State, there is no way I can live up to the oath I took when I came into this body. There is no way, if I am parochial for Oklahoma or Ohio, I can possibly make a decision that is in the long-term best interest of the country, when I am thinking about the best interest of my State in the short term.
So, consequently, what came about from that? Well, here is what we saw in terms of earmarks, the growth of earmarks and the growth of Government spending. Isn't it interesting, we have heard all the debate today about tax increases, but nobody, except Senator Brownback, talked about cutting spending. Here we have the earmarks in 2006. In 2007, there were another 11,800 earmarks. So it went to 12,000 earmarks. But the spending continues to rise. There is a correlation between earmarks and spending, and it is this: Earmarks are the gateway drug for overspending.
Let me explain how it works. If I want something for Oklahoma and I submit a request and the appropriators are kind enough to honor that request and I do not vote for the bill, regardless of whether I agree with the bill, the next time another appropriations bill comes up and I have a request, I will not get it. So all of a sudden my earmark blinds me on a parochial basis for what is best for Oklahoma, but I do not do what is best for the country. So you see this trend going up, and it continues to go up. If you had one for debt, you would see that. If you had one for unfunded liabilities, you would see the same thing.
Now, what did our Founders have to say:
Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated.
This is Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the Democratic Party. This is what he said:
As it was never meant they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers.
Earmarks are not enumerated powers. The only power they are is how we find ways to get ourselves reelected. That is the power they are. Here is the founder of the modern Democratic Party who now chastises us with his words about what earmarks are.
Yet what do we do? We are going to have a vote. We are going to have a vote on this budget on a moratorium on earmarks. I am very thankful to Senator DeMint for bringing that up.
The argument about earmarks is over everywhere except in Washington. If you look at all the polling data throughout the country, in every State, it does not matter if you are Democrat or Republican or Independent, it is over. They have already decided the issue. Eighty-five percent of the people in this country say we should not be doing it. It does not have anything to do with age. It does not have anything to do with party. Do you know what it has to do with? Those people who are getting them and are well heeled and well connected to politicians, they are the ones who do not want the earmark party to be over. That ought to send a warning signal to the rest of Americans that there is something wrong with this process.
Here is what is wrong with the process:
[T]he principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.
This is the same bright man who was very involved in the genesis of our country, talking to us from history about what is important on earmarks.
In 1996, there were less than 900 earmarks. How did we go--in 10 short years--from 3,000 to 15,000? What changed? The argument is: We have an obligation not to let the bureaucrats spend the money. Does that mean all the time before this, when they were much lower, we were not doing a good job? Or could it be that all of a sudden the political tool of earmarks became the soup du jour that politicians use to get themselves reelected and collect campaign money by accomplishing those things?
So I wish to spend a little time tonight talking about the unsustainable course we are on. International markets now doubt our ability to pay off our debt. Our AAA credit rating is in jeopardy. The dollar is declining. Medicare has hit a trigger for the first time in its history that signals we are dipping into general revenues at a rate that is unsustainable. By the way, Medicare was never intended to be paid for with funds from general revenue. Do we have a moral obligation as Members of Congress to do what every other family does in tough times and tighten our belts?
So what I am going to try to do tonight is lay out $388 billion worth of things the Congress could do tomorrow that would save us $388 billion.
Now, somebody may dispute the fact that if we totally changed the Tax Code to either a flat tax or a sales tax we might not have a tax gap--the amount that is owed that is not paid--of $350 billion or $370 billion. We may only have one of $270 billion. I will admit that. So you can take an arrow at that. But the rest of it you cannot take an arrow at. All the rest of it is indisputable.
As a matter of fact, we had testimony before the Budget Committee and before the Finance Committee by the IRS that said if, in fact, you funded them properly, they could get between $30 billion and $40 billion of the tax gap back over a period of 5 years. We know for every $1 we give them in terms of enforcement, they get $3 to $4 back.
The problem in our country is overspending and wasteful spending. It is not undertaxation. It is a moral question whether we will ask the American people for more money when, in fact, we are terrible slobs with the way we control and manage the money they have today, where we are wasteful.
The American people would expect us to get rid of fraud, waste, and abuse before we raise their taxes. Calling for higher taxes is akin to saying you want a performance bonus for us. That is what it is saying. It is absurd to claim the Government is operating at peak efficiency and spending cannot be cut anywhere. But yet we do not see it. It is not just the Democratic budgets. It is the Republican budgets. I will give credit to President Bush. At least he has a park program and at least they have brought forward recommendations of getting rid of programs that absolutely are not functioning, absolutely do not come anywhere close to meeting the goals. Because they have special interests, they are protected by individual Senators. Blocking new spending is not about obstructionism. The real obstruction is wasteful spending and not going after the wasteful spending at a time when we are asking Americans, who are tightening their belts, to give more money to the Government. That is the real obstruction.
Looking for new ways to spend money is not our job. Our job is to conduct oversight and eliminate programs that are not working. We are not doing our oversight. As a matter of fact, the CRS did a study on oversight. If we put this sign right up here and we look at oversight hearings, what you will see is: As the earmarks have gone up, oversight has gone down. Do you know why? Because the only thing the Appropriations staff has time to do is to barely get the bill out and then manage all the earmarks. So where is the oversight to see what is working and what is not? It isn't there.
The other assumption with this budget is that we have a blank check--and with Republican budgets, not just the majority's budgets--to spend money however we desire, however we choose. Well, that does not appear in the Constitution. We have totally thrown it away when it comes to spending. We have totally thrown it away under the concept of either the interstate commerce clause or the general welfare clause. We have decided that those do not mean anything, even though the significant Founders of our country believed they did.
So let's go back to the oath. Does the oath mean anything? I will ``defend the Constitution'' is what it says. Oh, that means I will twist it to make sure I can do parochial things that make me look good at home. Is that what it means? Can I fully represent and do what is best for our country when I am worried about doing what is best for my State and me?
Which one is the more moral position?
James Madison, the father of our Constitution, was very clear on this point. He said:
With respect to the two words ``general welfare,'' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers enumerated in the Constitution that are connected with it. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.
In other words, when you are starting to fudge the deal, that is not what we intended, guys. When you are starting to play games with the Constitution, that is not what we intended. And he spoke it in anticipation so that he would be on record. And we would know what his record was about, what they intended about general welfare. The arguments we hear in defense of earmarks would be ridiculed by our Founders after they got over their nausea.
President Reagan criticized the 1987 highway bill because it had 152 earmarks. As a matter of fact, the one before that he vetoed and sent back, and it had even fewer than that. So this isn't an old phenomenon; this is a modern phenomenon. This is something modern that we need to change.
It is interesting that so many in this body seem more interested in adhering to the constitutional scholarship of Jack Abramoff rather than James Madison, much to our detriment. Why do you think we have between an 11 and 22 percent confidence rating from the American people about whether we are doing their business in the best interests of the country, rather than our business?
Another argument I hear often is that we know better than faceless bureaucrats. Yet if we don't like what an agency is doing, we don't have anyone to blame but ourselves. We have the power of the purse and the power of oversight. The problem is we only use the power of the purse to spend, not to restrict. The last time a rescission bill--and for those who don't know what that is, it is a bill that decreases rather than increases spending--went through Congress was 1995.
Overcoming our addiction to earmarks will help us confront the massive waste that is in the Federal budget. We have to do a top-down review of everything in this country if, in fact, we want to hold to the things that are really important, the things that are really worth our sacrifice, which is the next two generations.
Now, it is really interesting that the Government Accounting Office says that every family today is responsible for an unfunded liability of almost a half million dollars. If we think about what that means in terms of carrying that interest, paying your regular taxes and then carrying that--the other thing is if you divide the unfunded liability by the 200 million kids who are going to come on between now and the next 75 years, what we are talking about is $400,000 per child; $400,000 per individual child who is born starting today and moving forward that we are going to add. Think about carrying the interest. Think about what will happen to them.
Now, let me put up a chart, and we will go through this for a minute. This has $383 billion--actually a more recent chart shows $385 billion--in annual expenditures that are wasted. I would like to spend a minute on that, but let me describe what it is. It is $3,000 for every American household in this country down the drain. It is a full 4-year scholarship for two-thirds of all of the college students in this country. It is enough money to buy a new home for 2 million Americans, based on the average price of a home. It is enough money to get the 2 million Americans who are facing foreclosure out of foreclosure and pay for their entire mortgage. That is what we are wasting in one year. It is enough money to pay for the health care of everybody in this country who is either underinsured or uninsured. All 47 million who are uninsured and the 35 million who are underinsured, we can pay for them, just by getting rid of this waste.
It is more than the gross domestic product of 85 percent of every country on Earth. How much we are wasting through fraud and abuse and waste is greater than 85 percent of the gross domestic product of every country on this Earth. It is more than the gross domestic product of 40 States in our Union. It is enough to meet the one campaign's annual goals to end extreme poverty over the next 10 years, over 10 times not enough. More importantly, it is enough to build 1,500 bridges to nowhere over every river in the world, times 10. That is how much money it is.
So what are the crises that we face? It is important that we put ourselves in the shoes of the typical American family in this time of tightening. What do they do? They reassess. They look for waste. Their debt is fixed. They try not to get additional debt. They try to spend less money. They try to conserve. They try to turn the thermostat down. They try to only drive when they have to drive. They try to buy cheaper foods. They don't buy the things they would like to buy. They buy and spend money only on bare necessities, if they can.
Well, a $607 billion deficit this year, a $10 trillion debt, and a $79 trillion unfunded liability ought to cause us to do the same thing, except we have only heard 1 percent in 2 days of debate talk about eliminating wasteful spending, and that was Senator SAM BROWNBACK from Kansas.
In the short term, we will get through this economic slowdown. Hopefully, energy prices will become more affordable for us. But everybody knows in this body, whether we want to admit it or not, we are approaching the day of reckoning that we would not get through. As David Walker, who is the Comptroller General of the United States, a nonpartisan position, said: We are on an unsustainable course. It is absolutely unsustainable. The question is whether our kids are worth us making the hard choices.
Economists on the left and the right from groups ranging from the Brookings Institute to the Heritage Foundation recognize the course we are on. We hear all the time that the only problems are the mandatory programs: Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. I am going to show tonight that it is not the only problem. It is a lot of the problem, there is no question about it. It is not just the demographics of it and the growth. There are a lot of management problems that we fail to address.
Each family's share, which I spoke about a minute ago, of the unfunded liabilities is over $450,000 right now. By 2040--and this is not my number, this is the Government Accounting Office--total Federal spending will have to be cut by 60 percent or we will have to double Federal income tax rates.
Now, we heard Senator Hatch talk about how 50 percent of the country now pays 97 percent of the taxes. What happens when we double our tax rates, or another question is, what happens when we don't have any Government programs except Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security? No military, no Department of Education, no NASA, no NIH, no CDC. All of those are gone in a very few short years. More importantly, in 2012, my generation starts heavily hitting Medicare and Social Security, the first baby boomers. What happens if we don't address that?
We would be wise to remember the words of Will Durant:
A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.
For the typical family sitting around the dinner table right now across America, the answer is obvious. It is time for some belt tightening. It is time for us to do the hard work of eliminating the duplication of wasteful programs. From their perspective, if they have to tighten their belt, we should too. It is not our money, it is theirs. Yet in this body we don't believe we have to live by the same set of rules. We have demonstrated that by our behavior. We like to pretend that we don't live in the world of credit ratings and scores. We ignore economic realities and look for ways to spend money on things that aren't necessary--they may be nice but aren't necessary--with little regard to how our decisions are going to affect our ability to pay for things we must pay for.
By arguing that Americans aren't taxed enough, Members of Congress are claiming that Government spending can't be cut any more in the budget because the Government is running so efficiently it deserves a raise. I don't think there is hardly anybody out in America's midsection, northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest, south central, who believes that. That is a fairy tale that is believed here, except we don't confront it.
Every year we have given Congress a performance bonus that has been adamantly unearned. Americans find this absurd. That is one of the reasons our approval rating is so low.
A question we should ask probably is, if our Nation's survival were at stake right now, would we be acting any differently? Would we have this budget, or the Republican budget, from 2006? Would those have been the budgets? No, they wouldn't have been. We would have been thinking long term. We would have been making the hard decisions. We would have said: Our country is worth us irritating some special interest group over some item that is no longer efficient or no longer effective. We wouldn't be worried about weighing the future of our children and our grandchildren against the special interests and monied of this country. We wouldn't worry about it.
Well, the fact is, the future is on the line, and if we don't act in the next couple of years, we are going to fall into Will Durant's trap, as we will have rotted inside our own excesses of politics, as we quietly didn't do the things that we could have done to fix the problems that are in front of this country.
It is called maintenance. It is like when you don't mow your grass or you don't pick up the trash in front of your yard. What happens is the value goes down, the pride goes down. Well, that is what has happened to us because myself and the vast majority of Americans believe overspending is a greater moral challenge than undertaxation.
I want to spend some time now going through what I call 2008, a waste odyssey. This waste odyssey is--I am going to be describing a few areas of Government, and I am going to go through them fairly fast so we can see it, and it will be on my Web site in the next week or so. But I am going to outline at least $385 billion, of which I will guarantee $355 billion of it cannot be legitimately challenged that is not waste; $355 billion annually that is wasted or defrauded from the taxpayers of this country, and we are doing nothing about it. This budget doesn't do anything about it; our appropriations oversight committees don't do anything about it. The committees don't make the amendments to do something about it. We do nothing about it. So we come back to that all-important oath. Mr. President, $385 billion listed, $383 billion on this one chart, $385 billion of which $355 billion nobody will be able to dispute.
(Mr. BROWN assumed the Chair.)
Mr. COBURN. Here is what we know. Medicare fraud, out and out pure Medicare fraud. It is somewhere between $70 billion and $90 billion. I picked the middle, which is $80 billion. We have testimony and studies and lots of data on that that will show us that at least $80 billion worth of Medicare money is being ripped off every year.
Let me give some examples. I will go through some. Here is one company that billed Medicare $170 million for HIV drugs. Do you know how much in HIV drugs they did? Less than a million. But they billed $170 million. There was $142 million for nonexistent delivery of supplies and parts and medical equipment--$142 million.
How about taking Medicare numbers from seniors and billing Medicare for prosthetic arms on people who already have two arms? That came to $1.4 billion last year. Think about that--$1.4 billion was billed to Medicare for prosthetic arms for people who don't need prosthetic arms.
How about 80 percent of the drugs billed across the entire United States for HIV under Medicare went to the State of Florida, which has less than 10 percent of the HIV patients who are eligible for Medicare. How is that possible? How about one wheelchair that got billed to Medicare? It was never sent, but they billed $5 million to Medicare through multiple billings. It is easy to add up to $80 billion.
I could go on. How about fake Medicare providers for the elderly, when they steal their number and send multiple bills to multiple locations throughout the country for the same Medicare patient. That is $10 billion in improper payments. The actual improper payments were $37 billion the year before last, and $27 billion last year and of that, $10 billion of it is unrecoverable. We paid too much or we paid the wrong person. That is $10 billion out the door, which is $250 per man, woman, and child in this country in improper payments on Medicare.
Medicaid is another one. There was $30 billion worth of fraud. It is higher than that; that is only the Federal Government's portion of it. It is easily documented, but we cannot document it because Medicaid doesn't file improper payments like the law says they are supposed to. Why? It is because we have not had the guts to put any teeth into forcing HHS to have improper payments. Last year, finally we got 6 months of improper payments on only direct payments to doctors. They found $13 billion worth of improper payments. We have a report that says there is probably $15 billion worth of fraud in Medicaid in New York City alone, of which the Federal Government's share would be about $8 billion to $9 billion.
How about the fact that we paid, in 10 States, over $30 million for payments for Medicaid services to people who are dead? Yes, we paid that. We have a great system that is working well. How about the fact that 65 percent of all Medicaid rehabilitative services are fraudulent? So of the rehab bills that are filed with Medicaid through CMS, 65 percent are fraudulent.
Why do we continue to let that happen? Where is the oversight? Ninety percent of New York Medicaid school-based service claims were illegitimate. Case management. CMS reports that in one State, 72.4 percent of the claims weren't valid in terms of Medicaid case management.
Then we have the infamous drug scandals with the drug companies that have been overbilling to the tune of a billion dollars.
How about Social Security disability fraud? We have that listed at $2.5 billion. What we know is the following: There is at least $6.5 billion in improper payments in Social Security disability. So we have paid them a much smaller percentage than we have on any other improper payment program throughout the Federal Government and said we will take a small percentage of that, less than 40 percent, which is normally 80 percent, and we will list it at $2.5 billion. It is coming out of Social Security every year--totally wrong--and that $2.5 billion could stay in the SSI program to fund people who were truly disabled. Yet we let $2.5 billion sneak out. Why? That is us. We have not done the oversight.
If you add up all of the rest of the improper payments in the Federal Government, you come to $55 billion. That is what is reported. But that doesn't include the 18 agencies of the Federal Government that don't even report improper payments, even though it is the law, which accounts for another $179 billion worth of spending. And if they are anywhere close to the rest of it, there is 5 to 10 percent of improper payments. So there is anywhere from $3 billion to $7 billion more in improper payments.
DOD performance awards. Here is what we have done. Over the last 3 years, the DOD paid out $8 billion on average a year to contractors for performance bonuses that didn't meet the performance requirements of their contract. Think about that--$8 billion a year. That is almost twice the total budget of my home State that we are paying for performance bonuses for contractors that don't meet the requirements of the contract, but we pay them anyway. Why do we allow that? Why do we allow that to happen?
How about DOD maintenance of unneeded properties? We have testimony and a report that shows they have 22,000 pieces of property they don't want. They are spending about $3 billion maintaining properties they don't want. But we put roadblocks in the way so they cannot get rid of them. Is that Americans' fault or is that something we should have addressed? We didn't do it. Consequently, we are going to throw out $3 billion more this year to maintain properties we should have sold 5 to 10 years ago.
We also know that within the Federal Government, outside of the DOD, we have another $18 billion worth of properties we cannot get rid of because we cannot go through the hundreds of hoops we have to be able to get rid of them. That is a one-time savings. That is not even on here. That is a one-time savings we would achieve if we had a real property reform that forced the bureaucracy to do what was best when it came to real property.
Going back to the performance bonuses, when GAO looked at it, they found no connection between the payment of performance bonuses at the Pentagon and performance--not just on this $8 billion they said was paid erroneously, but on the rest of it. I think we have an Armed Services Committee in the Senate. We certainly have a DOD Appropriations Committee in the Senate. You would think this might be one thing we wanted to do oversight on. Yet no oversight hearing has happened. Why is that? Why haven't we looked at how we are wasting this money?
How about no-bid contracts. This is my favorite. We have seen the problems between Boeing and Northrup-Grumman on a new tanker, a $35 billion new contract--except we know we have needed a new tanker for 12 years. We have had planning on that for 12 years. We are letting a cost-plus contract go through because we don't know what we want. Do we not think whoever won that contract ought to have to take some risk, development risk? Do we think the American taxpayer ought to pay that? We know we lose at least $5 billion a year across the Government in no-bid contracts. That is probably minor. That is a small estimate within the Pentagon. We have not even looked at all the other no-bid contracts throughout FEMA, which we know was tremendously wasteful during Katrina. We know that at least $3 billion of the money we spent during Katrina, from hearings we had on homeland security, was wasted. When the average price we pay to pick up debris from Katrina to the guy actually picking it up is $6 a yard, and we are paying the Corps of Engineers $32 a yard, there is a problem. The taxpayers are getting swindled by 500 percent. Yet we did that to the tune of billions of dollars after Katrina, with no management or oversight.
What we know is in homeland security--and especially from Congressmen Waxman and Davis in the House--32 Homeland Security Department contracts, worth a total of $34 billion in no-bid contracts, have experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending, and mismanagement. Between 2003 and 2005, the no-bid contracts in the Department of Homeland Security increased by 739 percent. There is no management. We are allowing that to happen. When we argue that we cannot let the bureaucrats control it, when we say we have to do earmarks, but we don't do oversight, we are letting the bureaucrats control it. If there is $300 billion worth of waste, fraud, and abuse here, and our earmarks account for $18 billion, what price are we paying by not managing the Federal Government and having oversight? We are not doing it.
Emergency spending, another one we won't be critical of ourselves. We put emergency spending in on the floor and add from $20 billion to $40 billion and call it an emergency, and none of it meets the definition of an emergency. We do that so we can go outside of the spending parameters that we have limited ourselves to either through pay-go or the budget. But it looks good at home--or does it? It looks good at home until we start talking about the waste, talking about the fraud, talking about the mismanagement, talking about the denial of our oath we took when we came here to uphold the Constitution. When we allow bureaucracies to waste money, when we don't have oversight of those bureaucracies, then in fact we have abandoned our oath.
It is interesting, in emergencies, up until recently, when we had emergency spending, we paid for it. In my home State of Oklahoma we had the Oklahoma City bombing, a tremendous tragedy. It was the first major internal terrorist act we had. All of the money that went toward restoration of that was paid for. We didn't borrow it from our grandchildren. Let me go back again. When we don't pay for things with emergency spending, we charge it to them. When we have a true emergency, which we might say we didn't plan for, that is one thing, but when we know what we are putting into the bill is not an emergency, we are saying they don't matter, we don't care. We care more about looking good and getting some constituent satisfied than thinking about the future of these kids.
How about other areas? How about crop insurance? Do you realize that for every dollar we pay out in crop insurance, we spend over $3 in administrative fees and underwriting to insurance companies? How is that a good deal? Regardless of where you are on the farm bill, why would we do that? That is at a rate of five times what the rest of the insurance industry earns.
Who has the sweet deal here? Who has the sweet deal? It is not these kids. They don't have a sweet deal, when we are paying three times more than we should to administer a crop insurance program and not requiring farmers to participate. That is the minimum we can save--$4 billion a year--by saying you can earn the same amount of money as everybody else in the casualty insurance business, and no more. No more sweet deals for crop insurance firms. But do we do it? No. I voted wrong on one of the amendments for it. It may have been the amendment of the person sitting in the chair. But we didn't do it.
One of my favorites is the United Nations. We sent $5.3 billion last year to the U.N. and we cannot get the State Department to tell us what our total was in 2007. That was 2006. By law, they are supposed to provide that, but they don't comply. The Foreign Relations Committee won't make them comply, and the Appropriations Committee won't do it, because we don't want to know how much we send. But the American people want to know.
But the Secretary of State does not want to give it to us. Our committees will not force them to do it. What do we know about that, of the leaked documents that came out looking at how money is spent? What we know is on procurement and peacekeeping that at least 40 percent of the money that is spent is wasted. Think about that. At least 40 percent is influenced through people of influence and does not ever get to what it is supposed to be doing. It never gets into the peacekeeping field. Only 60 percent of the procurement money actually ever gets to where we want peacekeeping, and yet we don't do anything about it.
We have asked for transparency at the United Nations. This body voted 99 to 1 to condition last year's money on that transparency. It went to conference, and all of a sudden for some reason that was dropped. I wonder why that happened? We thought the United Nations owed us an explanation to tell us where they spent our $5.3 billion but, in our wisdom, we did not accede to that because it might have upset the U.N. Consequently, about $1 billion a year of what we send to the United Nations is pure waste--pure waste. It goes to fraud. It goes to buy off people. It goes to not accomplishing the goals.
If we look at what we are trying to do in Darfur and the new U.N. program over there in terms of sending an interdiction force, what we know is 40 percent of the money has been wasted. It has been scavenged. It has been taken away. It is not going to make a difference in somebody's life.
It is interesting, the U.N. peacekeeping budget this year will grow from $5 billion to $7 billion, a 40-percent growth in 1 year. And of the top five contributors to the U.N. budget, which is us, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Germany, all of our budgets are going to grow around 6 or 7 percent. But because we do not have any transparency, we do not have any management at the United Nations, we have a spoil system and we do not have the courage in our body to hold them accountable, we are going to throw $1 billion to $2 billion of our kids' money away.
Oh, I know, we shouldn't rock the boat at the United Nations. They are the people who care about freedom in the world. It is hard to see. If they care about freedom, transparency would be one of the No. 1 things they would assure themselves.
How about another $10-billion worth of savings? We have $64 billion worth of IT contracts going on right now; $27 billion of those are on the high-risk list. In other words, we routinely lose about 20 percent of our investments in ITs. They don't ever accomplish their goals. We spend the money, and we never get anything for it. Where is the management for that program? Where is the accountability for that? It is similar to the tanker program: Give me a cost-plus program, I don't know what I want now, but I know I want something, and I will tell you as we go what I want. And so the bills start adding up. So out of the $64 billion we spent last year, $27 billion of it is questionable we are ever getting anything out of it.
Take a conservative estimate of that, which is less than what we know historically the IT oversight from GAO has told us, and we are going to lose $10 billion on programs that were not asked for right, were not managed properly or we just flat did not get what we asked for and parted our ways and threw these kids' money away.
Then there is another $17.5 billion we can save from the National Flood Insurance Program. It was created in 1968 by Congress to prevent the need for future emergency spending for large floods. It was designed to be self-supporting, to pay back any debts with proceeds from ratepayers. But what happened was, on the way to the store, the politicians got in between them. So now we have a vast majority of properties that have been grandfathered in that historically have made claims. They were built before the NFIP construction standards, and they receive premium subsidies. In the wake of Katrina, we have a one-time savings of $17.5 billion that we could have had we had that program. But where are we? We now have Gulf Coast States lobbying us that we should increase that program, except the kids I showed the picture of are responsible for that.
The other item, and I challenge all my colleagues to start talking with Federal workers about where they can save money. If you ask them, every one of them says, yes, we can save money. As a matter of fact, we can save a lot of money, but nobody is asking. As a matter of fact, the system is, if we haven't spent the money by the 10th month, we are told to spend it, we are told to spend the money because we might not get enough money next year, and if we don't spend it, then it looks like we don't need it and, therefore, our budgets will be declined. In fact, out of the $1.36 trillion we are going to spend this year, we could save 5 percent easily, 5 percent efficiency. If we can save it, if the Federal employees, the thousands with whom I have talked, are right, why aren't we saving?
Let's go down through a few more, and then I will finish.
We know if we simplify the Tax Code, either change it to a flat tax or straight tax or a value-added tax--whichever one you want, it doesn't matter--what we know is if we did that, we could get significant savings. Let me tell you how.
One is we know compliance will be better. But we also know we have a $10 billion budget for employees at the IRS that if, in fact, we could create a simpler, fairer, straighter system--you pick which kind, I don't care, value-added tax, whatever it is--that we would not need nearly that many employees and we would not spend $160 billion a year paying our taxes, which is what we pay other people outside the IRS.
We also know the IRS, for every dollar they spend investing in compliance, gets between $3 and $4 back. So somewhere between $50 billion and $100 billion out of the $370 billion that we don't get now, we can save. But we tend to want to use it for a political debate.
How about eliminating outdated and wasteful programs. Let me go through some of them. That is $18 billion. Science fiction weapons, $431 million, got nothing for it over the last 10 years, nothing for it, and we spent $431 million and got nothing.
The Coast Guard lengthened eight patrol boats through an earmark. It cost $100 million. They are all worthless now. We have to buy eight patrol boats. Somebody had a good idea.
How about excessive fuel costs? At minimum, $35 million a year, and what we know now looks like in Iraq another $12 million worth of fraud occurring in the fuel depots inside
Baghdad. Another $40 million, $50 million on fuel.
How about improper travel payments at the Defense Department, $4 million a year? Security clearances--it costs us half a billion dollars a year to do security clearances because we are doing it in the Dark Ages when, in fact, for almost every other thing around this country we have developed modern systems, computer-aided IT to develop how fast and how often we can clear security items. Yet we spend half a billion, and it takes a year to get somebody cleared. We could cut that in half.
We had a wonderful earmark for polyester t-shirts for our marines. The only problem is, if their MRAP or humvee has a fire, it sticks to their skin. But we still spend $3 million on them.
How about a ferry to nowhere, 84 million bucks? We rejected the developmental boat proposed from a defense contractor in 2002, and the U.S. Navy was required to accept the project and the bid and deploy it to the seas for field engagement, even though it never proved economically worthwhile.
How about a James Bond boat, $4.5 million, three of them?
A high-altitude airship. The President knows something about this. The Missile Defense Agency did not request funding for this program. As a matter of fact, they said they canceled the program called the high-altitude airship because of capability limitations. Yet we continue to spend at least $1 million a year every year on that program because somebody wants it. Some constituent, some moneyed interest, somebody who might employ 20 or 30 people wants it. Somebody wants it, so we have to look good.
How about the American Embassy in Iraq, $592 million? We know a good 20 percent of it is pure waste. We have seen the fraud. We have seen the reports. We know what is going on there. Have we cut back the amount of money? Have we limited the amount of money on it? No. We offered an amendment and couldn't get it done.
How about USAID in Afghanistan, $5.68 billion spent for schools. In the first snow, the roofs collapsed on them. Did we do anything about it? No, we hired the contractor to do more stuff on a cost-plus basis.
How about hospital clinics that were supposedly built, except after we paid for them, the Afghanistan Government told us they didn't build them. How do we let that happen? That is us. That isn't the bureaucracy; that is us. We are letting it happen. We are allowing it.
We spend $20 billion on Federal AIDS programs and what we know is lots of it gets wasted. We know there is widespread deficiencies within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the HIV prevention program. Those are not my words; that is the HHS inspector general.
Two million dollars was embezzled at the San Juan AIDS Institute. NIH is spending $120 million right now on a vaccine program. The starter of that program and the major scientists who started it said it will not work, and they are not contributing, but we continue to spend $120 million on a program everybody in science knows is not going to work, but we are doing it.
By the way, we spent $300,000 or $400,000 on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, and we don't even have a vaccine. It is important we spend it, but we cannot get rid of it because somebody objects.
AIDS housing, millions of dollars wasted.
Here is my favorite. How about $1 million paid to dead farmers? A billion, I am sorry, a billion dollars paid to dead farmers for their crops. They are dead. We are continuing to pay them, up to 15 years some of them. It is the only program you can continue to collect after you are dead, and yet we have an Agriculture Department that allows that to happen.
How about this--this is great--the National Park Service centennial celebration. We are going to spend $100 million in a time when our deficit is $607 billion, our debt $10 trillion, and our unfunded liabilities are $7 trillion, and we are going to spend $100 million to celebrate our national parks? That doesn't pass the smell test. Nobody is sitting around their dinner table tonight saying if we are ever in the kind of shape we are in, we ought to be doing that.
How about $100 million for the conventions that we did under emergency funding? We spent $100 million, everybody's money, for each city so we could have the conventions in Denver and Minneapolis.
The other interesting thing about the national parks is it doesn't turn 100 until 2016, 8 years from now, but we are going to spend the money.
How about a $30 billion subsidy to Amtrak? Amtrak started with a subsidy and was supposed to get better. We continue to not hold them accountable. How about a $244 million subsidy for food on Amtrak? Maybe we want to continue to have Amtrak. Maybe it is worth it to us to have a $1.5 billion subsidy every year on Amtrak. I would agree with that. Maybe that is the right priority. But should we be subsidizing a quarter of a million dollars a year for people's food on Amtrak? But we are.
Other items--essential air service to small communities that are within driving distance of another community, we are going to spend $110 million this year. How about the fact that we are going to pay Federal employees $250 million to ride the transit? Nobody else in this country gets paid to ride the transit.
Nobody else gets their transit bills paid. But Federal employees, we are going to take a quarter of a billion dollars every year, and we are going to say to some of the best paid, best benefited workers in the country that we are going to give you a quarter of a billion dollars in subsidy so you will ride the transit. Well, economics will tell them to ride the transit. The American taxpayer shouldn't do that.
Well, I am wearing thin, I know, my colleagues, and so I will stop and enter into the Record the remaining 50 pages of examples I have of stupidity for which we are responsible. The real important thing to keep in mind, if you have been listening to this, is that we are on an unsustainable course, that, in fact, a child born today is going to inherit something different from what we did. We inherited opportunity. They are going to inherit debt. We inherited a leadership and a heritage that says you sacrifice for the next generation. They are going to inherit a legacy that says you kick the next generation in the teeth.
Everything I have outlined today is something we could have controlled, we as Members of the Senate, but we are so busy doing earmarks that we don't do any oversight. Now, what I just outlined to this body is what my staff has discovered in 3 years. Think what would happen if all of us were aggressively oversighting every agency of the Federal Government. Think how efficient it would be. Think how much waste wouldn't be there. Think about what a great deal we would be doing for these kids.
America expects us to tighten our belt. They expect us to do what they are having to do right now. They are tired of our wasteful spending, they are tired of our earmarks, and they are tired of our bridges to nowhere. We better listen. There is a rumble, and if we don't listen, it is our own fault that we will continue to decline in esteem in front of the American people. We will have well earned it.
So the next time somebody says they want to raise your taxes, ask them how much of that they got rid of before they do it. We don't have a shortage of money. We have a shortage of courage. We have a shortage of character. We have a shortage of intensity to solve the real problems that are facing this country. And until we tackle this, we should not say one thing to anybody in this country about increased taxes. It is morally reprehensible, it violates our oath, and most of all, it does great damage to our country.
I ask unanimous consent that the examples that I referred to be printed in the Record.
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