Government waste must be addressed at the federal level

Posted: Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Because of the sheer enormity of the federal budget, it's impossible for the president to eliminate all waste. Too many people are handing out too much money for one person to be aware of how it's all spent.

Nevertheless, some sort of crackdown is needed.

The Transportation Security Administration conducted its first-ever awards banquet a year ago spending, according to The Associated Press, nearly one-half million dollars to honor hundreds of employees.

Nearly $200,000 was spent on transportation and lodging. The Washington Post reports internal auditors found other expenses included $75 for the singing of the national anthem, "$64 for each gallon of coffee that's about $3 a cup and $3.75 for each soft drink."

Those costs may not be excessive by the standards of the ritzy Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington, where the banquet took place, but they are difficult to justify in an era of record budget deficits.

Also, the AP notes, a private group was paid $85,500 to plan the event and the TSA spent "$81,767 for plaques, $5,196 for official photographs, $1,486 for three balloon arches and $1,509 for signs."

One employee was presented a lifetime achievement award, even though the agency had been in existence only a brief time. That would be laughable if it didn't send a message about the TSA's extreme pretentiousness.

Federal waste is nothing new, of course. Ronald Reagan made a good effort to clean it up, but that was years ago, and it has been creeping back lately not just on bureaucratic self-indulgence but also in appropriations.

The way to fight legislative waste is simply to vote the big spenders out of office. In the case of agency excesses, the best policy would be to penalize those who make the spending decisions not necessarily through terminations but perhaps by cutting their administrative budgets the following year.

Critics might argue administrators would be afraid to act, but that wouldn't be the case. They would be afraid to waste money and, with the taxpayers' money, it's generally a good idea to err on the side of caution.

The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

Oct. 18

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