U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) yesterday released a new oversight report, “Money for Nothing” highlighting more than $70 billion in federal funds left unspent years after being appropriated by Congress due to poorly drafted laws, bureaucratic obstacles and mismanagement, and a general lack of interest or demand from the communities to which this money was allocated.
Most importantly, this report shows how real people have been impacted due to Congress’ inability to ensure appropriated funds are spent.
In allowing high priority programs to languish, billions of dollars intended to reach areas with the most critical of needs. For example, the report highlights billions in federal aid intended to help victims of Hurricane Katrina left unused, more than $1 billion of transportation funds idling, billions intended for HIV/ AIDS treatment and prevention unspent, and nearly one-fourth of Homeland Security disaster grants has been left unspent for the past nine years.
“The exception to the proverb ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’ is the federal government, where an unspent dollar represents lost opportunities to reduce the debt or to assist an individual, a family, or a community. Nearly every challenge we face conjures up the same response from Washington: spend more money,” said Dr. Coburn. “However well-intended the effort may be, Congress’ lack of oversight consistently hurts the very people these appropriated funds are intended to help. Severely disabled individuals and AIDS patients left without care, structurally deficient bridges in dire need of repair, and students in the classrooms of some of the nation’s worst schools should not have to suffer as a result of our failure to set priorities and budget wisely.”
Additional findings include the following:
• The Emergency Homeowners Loan Program (EHLP), failed to disburse more than a half of the program’s $1 billion budget even as thousands of those eligible for assistance were denied aid.
• Nearly 1 in 3 highway dollars earmarked for highway projects since 1991 had not been spent as of 2011. In total, these unspent highway earmarks, referred to by some as “disappearmarks,” account for about $13 billion as of last year.
• Detroit, Michigan failed to spend over $100 million in federal aid including education assistance to help students in the worst performing schools in the nation.
• Maryland increased taxes to assist severely disabled residents, while the state’s Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) sat on $38 million.
• $45 million earmarked to develop a futuristic train that would whisk across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas in limbo forever as a result of repetitive drafting errors.