The Facts Behind “The Government”, Episode 2
This week on “The Government,” Will and his coworkers are tasked with planning a conference for the Department of Every Bureaucratic Transaction (DEBT), and Will’s efforts to save the taxpayers some money are met with a less than enthusiastic response.
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Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) came under fire after the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report that focused on excessive conference spending over the past few years. The report included several entertainment videos produced by the IRS, including a “Star Trek” parody training video and a take off of “Gilligan’s Island.” Those two videos cost about $60,000 to produce.
The IRS was criticized in particular over a 2010 conference held in Anaheim, California, after a video showed agency employees dancing to the “Cupid Shuffle.” While the IRS does have an Inspector General (IG) to report on cases of overspending and abuse, many of the federal government’s largest agencies have vacant IG positions. According to the Wall Street Journal, the agencies that lack IGs “account for about $843 billion in annual spending, almost a quarter of the federal budget.”
Wasteful spending is often driven by a “spend it or lose it” mentality fostered by the federal government’s current budgeting process. This process creates harmful incentives for agencies to spend all the money in their budgets in order to receive even bigger budgets down the road. The Wall Street Journal summarized the problem perfectly in 2010: “Under current law, agencies are typically forced to return any unspent part of their budgets, giving them an incentive to use every last dollar even if the money isn’t needed.” This results in a flurry of wasteful spending towards the end of the fiscal year as agencies worry they will “spend too little.”
Out-of-control government spending has driven America deeper into debt, as Washington has been unwilling to set priorities and make the necessary spending cuts our country needs. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted every year by federal agencies scrambling to use up their funds so they can push for an even bigger budget next year.