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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 again as part of the Washington Waste Watchers, a Republican working group dedicated to rooting out the rampant waste, fraud, and abuse in the Federal Government.

Despite a major economic recovery underway, rising employment, new jobs and historic rates of home ownership, Democrats keep demanding that we take away the tax relief, take away the tax relief that is responsible for this unparalleled growth in our economy, the tax relief that is bringing down the unemployment.

The tax relief, if it were a line item in the budget, amounts to 1 percent, 1 percent of the $28.3 trillion 10-year spending plan approved last year. In other words, 99 percent of our fiscal challenges are on the spending side. And, Mr. Speaker, that is where we need to focus our attention, and by any measure, spending is out of control in Washington.

For only the fourth time in the history of our Nation, the Federal Government is now spending $20,000 per household. Mr. Speaker, it is up from just $16,000 just 5 years ago, representing the largest expansion of the Federal Government in 50 years.

We have a spending problem, not a taxing problem, and now is not the time to raise taxes again on American families and small businesses, as Democrats seek to do. Instead, it is time to take the trash out in Washington. Let me give my colleagues just a few examples of typical waste, fraud, and abuse in government that we found just this week.

The Interior Department's Inspector General discovered that the Bureau of Indian Affairs accepted inflated school enrollment estimates that resulted in the construction of schools that were larger than required. The Bureau spent $37 million for unneeded school space and has future plans to spend an additional $74 million for even more excess school space. This wasteful use of our tax dollars occurred because the Bureau had not developed or implemented simple policies to count students. And yet Democrats want to raise our taxes to pay for even more of this? One hundred and eleven million dollars of the American people's hard-earned money down the drain. That is enough money to outfit 3,700 Humvees in Iraq with armor plating.

Additionally, the Department of Transportation's Inspector General stated that if the Department simply imposed better oversight on projects from start to finish and aggressively fought gas-tax evasion, the Department could save billions of dollars. In fact, if the efficiency with which the Federal Government and the States invested $700 billion in highway projects was improved by only 1 percent, an additional $7 billion would be available, and that could fund 8 out of the 15 active major highway projects today.

This is especially relevant because the House voted recently to approve a $284 billion highway bill that will force Congress to either increase the deficit or raise gas taxes to pay for it.

Next, Mr. Speaker, just this week the GAO announced that the government paid $169,000 in fees to unaccredited schools for bogus graduate degrees for Federal employees. I mean, that is a blatant violation of Federal law. The General Accounting Office said this amount was actually an understatement and that it is impossible to verify the true cost of this fraud because the Federal agencies do not have systems to verify academic degrees and because they do not accurately account for these expenses. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services, when asked by the General Accounting Office to verify expenses on degrees, said they could not produce them because they maintain such large volumes of information in five different accounting systems.

One hundred sixty-nine thousand dollars on bogus degrees. That is enough money to protect over 100 of our American soldiers in Iraq with Kevlar vests.

Mr. Speaker, the list goes on and on and on; so does the waste, the fraud, the abuse and the duplication, and this has been going on for decades.

The problem is, we now have over 10,000 Federal programs spread across 5- to 600 agencies with little accountability to anyone, and when you just scratch the surface a little bit, what you discover is that so many of these programs routinely waste 5, 10, even 20, 25 percent of their taxpayer-funded budgets, and have for decades.

Republicans are working hard to root out this senseless waste of American tax dollars, but too many of our Democrat colleagues keep fighting us every step of the way. Last year, our Committee on the Budget approved a budget asking for authorizing committees to identify 1 percent of waste, fraud and abuse, just 1 percent. Yet the Democrat leaders ridiculed and reviled our efforts. One Democrat leader termed it ``a senseless and irresponsible exercise.''

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that most Americans disagree. With the Nation at war and with a large budget deficit, there is no better time to root out this waste, fraud and abuse than now, because when it comes to Federal programs it is not how much money Washington spends that counts, it is how Washington spends the money.