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Washington Waste Watchers

Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hensarling) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a co-founder of the Washington Waste Watchers, a project of Republican freshmen dealing not with calorie counting but with counting all of the different wasteful programs of the Federal Government. We are dedicated to bringing the disinfectant of sunshine into the shadowy corners of the wasteful Washington bureaucracy. From this point forward we will be highlighting a myriad of examples of how the Federal Government routinely squanders the hard-earned money of the American families, and we will offer reforms to end these long-held Washington wasteful practices. Why is this initiative important now? Although we have heard some good economic news, positive economic growth, a growing stock market, a strong housing market, we have also heard some not-so-good economic news. The budget deficit is still too high.

Now, Democrats say the only way to cut deficits is to raise taxes on the American family. Does that sound familiar? It is the same refrain we have heard from them for years. We have a deficit, but it is not because we are taxed too little. It is because Washington spends too much. And in Washington we have a spending problem, not a taxing problem; and much of this Washington spending, Mr. Speaker, is pure waste, fraud, and abuse.

Recently, we passed a budget resolution in Congress asking every authorizing committee to make recommendations for eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in their jurisdictional areas. We asked them to find savings equivalent to one percent of their budget. Something nobody ever does around here, find savings. We asked for only 1 percent and the Democrats fought us every step of the way, saying it is impossible to save money in Washington without gutting Federal programs.

Mr. Speaker, they are wrong.

Let me cite just a few examples. The Department of Housing and Urban Development made $2.6 billion in section 8 overpayments. Almost 10 percent of their entire budget just disappeared into thin air. That is enough money to pay the down payment for 300,000 people to get into their first homes. Now, instead of using it to help families, the Washington bureaucracy just wasted it. And Democrats want to raise our taxes to pay for more of this?

The Medicare program paid out $13.3 billion last year to people who did not even qualify for the program. That is enough money to pay one-third of the cost of a prescription drug benefit program for our seniors this year. But instead of using the money to help seniors, the Washington bureaucracy just wasted it. And Democrats want to pay our taxes to pay for more of this?

In another example, as you heard my colleague, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Feeney) say, the National Parks Service spent $800,000 on an outhouse and it does not even work. The only thing it flushes is the money of the hard-working American family down the drain. And Democrats want to raise our taxes to pay for more of this?

The list goes on. Social Security pays benefits to dead people. Over the past 5 years, law enforcement has arrested over 7,000 fugitives who were illegally receiving food stamps. They include 1,500 accused drug offenders, 31 murderers, 45 sex offenders and child molesters, and hundreds wanted for assault and robbery. Over a 3-year period, the illegal food stamp practice known as trafficking has cost taxpayers $660 million. And Democrats want to raise our taxes to pay for more of this?

Twenty-three percent of the people having their student loans discharged due to disability actually hold down full-time jobs, costing the Federal Government $40 million a year. And Democrats want to raise our taxes to pay for this?

Medicare pays five times as much for a wheelchair as the Veterans Administration does. Five times as much for the same wheel chair? Why? Because the Veterans Administration will competitively bid the wheelchair and Medicare will not.

Fortunately, the Republicans in the House just fixed this one without any help from the Democrats.

Mr. Speaker, these are just a few examples of the Washington waste, and we are just scratching the surface. One can see that many Federal programs routinely waste 10, 20, even 30 percent of their taxpayer-funded budgets and have for years.

Mr. Speaker, in the real world if you lose that much money, you will go broke or you will go to jail; but in Washington it is just an excuse to ask for even more money from the taxpayer next year. Mr. Speaker, this has got to stop. There are a thousand different ways we can save money in Washington without cutting any needed services and without raising taxes on the hard-working American families. When it comes to Federal programs, it is not how much money Washington spends; it is how Washington spends our money. And that is what the Washington Waste Watchers is about.