[Congressional Record Volume 159, Number 13 (Wednesday, January 30, 2013)]
[Pages S392-S396]

                        OUT OF CONTROL SPENDING

  Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, in a very short period of time, we are 
going to be considering an increase in the debt limit. It is for a 
specific period of time, but it is, at a minimum, going to be $500 
billion. What is in front of our country, especially as we see negative 
growth in the third quarter, as reported today, and the continued 
printing of money by the Federal Reserve, is that there is no 
accountability to rein in either the size, the scope or the spending 
habits of the Federal Government.
  Over the next 2 weeks, I am going to be very succinctly outlining 
$1.35 trillion worth of spending reductions that I would imagine the 
vast majority of Americans would agree with me on. I am going to build 
the case almost every day as I come out here as to why we can't keep 
doing what we are doing, and I will demonstrate the stupidity in how 
the Federal Government is running today.
  I know I will have no chance to defeat an increase in the debt limit 
that is coming forward. I don't expect to accomplish that. The votes 
are here to raise the debt limit and not do anything about our 
spending. But most Americans realize the Federal Government is twice 
the size it was 11\1/2\ years ago--twice the size. In just the last 4 
years, the average family income has declined over 7\1/2\ percent. So 
while family income is declining, our deficits are rising. Our debt is 
now at almost $16.5 trillion and we are projected to spend $1.3 
trillion more than we take in this year and we have claims by the 
President and others that we have already cut something from the 
Federal Government. The fact is, that is only true using Washington 
  As somebody with a degree in accounting and understanding generally 
accepted accounting principles, what I want America to know is the 
Federal Government is bigger right now than it was last year at this 
time. We have not spent $1 less than we were spending last year at this 
time. As a matter of fact, we have spent about $18 billion more. Is 
that an improvement? Yes. But the claims we have cut $2.7 trillion from 
the budget are absolutely bogus. There is no truth in it. There is no 
reality in it. All anyone has to do is look at the amount of money we 
are borrowing to recognize that.
  I want to lay out in sequential fashion five areas where we can, in 
fact, make significant changes in the Federal budget and start truly 
addressing our problems. These changes will have an impact of over $1.3 
trillion over the next 10 years. That doesn't solve our problem 
immediately, but if in fact we do this, what we will have done is to 
start down a long road of making the hard decisions. The decisions I 
will outline are not hard. They are the easy ones. But we will be 
starting down a road to get our country back and to secure the future 
of the young people sitting right down here and their children

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and the expectation that opportunity could be alive and well in 
  There is coming to this country a debt bomb. There will come a time 
when the world will not loan us additional dollars. When that happens, 
the consequence of that will be rising interest rates. The Fed will no 
longer be able to control interest rates, and the interest rate will 
end up being whatever it takes, whatever the people of the world need 
in terms of what they require to loan us money. If we go back to 
historical interest rates, the average over the last 50 years on what 
we have borrowed--the cost per year for the debt we have today, not 
after the additional $500 billion, at a minimum, we will increase with 
this new debt limit--will be an additional $640 billion per year added 
to the must-pays coming from Congress. Once that starts, if we have 
made none of the adjustments, none of the changes, none of the choices 
of eliminating some of our wasteful and profligate spending, the next 
year it adds another $150 billion on top of that. So then we would be 
at $700-some billion, and pretty soon we will be in a spiral where the 
debt bomb explodes. That is the last place we want to go. The reason it 
is the last place we want to go is because the very wealthy aren't 
going to be harmed by that. The middle class will be destroyed, and 
with all the programs we have to support the lower class, we will not 
even be able to fund those.
  It is imperative we no longer just have words. It is time for us to 
act. I know the administration doesn't agree with that. I know a lot of 
my colleagues on the other side do agree with it but will not offer up 
the courage that is going to be required to make the tough choices in 
this country.
  We just increased tax rates in this country $600 billion over the 
next 10 years.
  I voted for that bill. But the problem isn't revenues; the problem is 
the size and scope of the Federal Government.
  I want to spend a little bit of time showing you what the GAO--not 
Tom Coburn, not my oversight, not my research, but what the GAO has 
said about where we are in terms of stupidity and duplication. I asked 
permission for these oversized charts because the detail behind them 
cannot be seen unless you have it on a chart this size. I will go 
through these rather quickly so the American people can get a little 
bit of a flavor of the programs we have.
  We have 15 different programs run by 13 different agencies in the 
Federal Government that cost $30 million to teach financial literacy to 
the American people. No. 1, I don't think that falls within the 
enumerated powers. But let's assume it does. Why in the world would we 
have 15 sets of administrators, 15 sets of overhead, to spend $30 
million? It makes no sense whatsoever. Let's assume that is a role for 
the Federal Government. I disagree that it is. But why not one program? 
If you take away the overhead, you could spend exactly the same amount 
of money teaching financial literacy and you wouldn't waste it on 
overhead. The savings just from this one simple program are $15 million 
to $20 million a year. The way you get to 1 billion is 1 million at a 
time, and the way you get to 1 trillion is 1 billion at a time.
  Let's take the next program, green buildings. We have 94 separate 
programs run by 11 different agencies spending $1 billion on green 
buildings. There is nothing wrong with incentivizing green buildings, 
but anybody with any common sense has to ask the question, Why does the 
Federal Government need 94 separate programs to incentivize green 
buildings? And why do we need to run it through 11 different agencies 
instead of 1? And why do we need to have 11 sets of overhead, 
administration, and costs associated with it? It makes no sense at all.
  The next one, housing assistance. We have 160 programs. Nobody in the 
administration--nobody in the country--knows all the programs. I am 
probably the only one in Congress who does, because nobody else has 
looked at it. Twenty different agencies spending $170 billion. If we 
are really interested in housing assistance, why would we have 20 sets 
of overhead and 20 sets of administration? And what would it cost to 
accomplish the same thing?
  All these numbers come from the Government Accountability Office, by 
the way. They don't come from me.
  The other part of the report is that nobody knows if these programs 
are working. We have no data to say that with the 160 programs we are 
actually making a difference on housing assistance through this 
expenditure of money. So we are not even asking the most basic 
questions a prudent person would ask--in fact, if it is our role in 
housing assistance--do we know what we are doing is working? And the 
GAO says you can't tell. There are no metrics on it. No wonder we have 
160 programs. Because the first time somebody sees there is another 
need out there, rather than reform and oversight the programs we have, 
we create another one without ever looking at our housing programs.
  Department of Justice grants. The Department of Justice is the only 
agency in the Federal Government where if they don't spend all their 
money every year, they get to keep it. Most people don't know that. 
They have 253 different grant programs, and outside of the Department 
of Justice are 9 other agencies involved in that. Most of these grant 
programs have no metrics, no measurement on them whatsoever to say 
whether they are actually accomplishing the purpose Congress created 
them for in the first place.
  So if, in fact, a prudent person would say, We have these grant 
programs, what are they doing, what are they supposed to do, and how 
are they measuring up, we don't know, because we don't require the 
Federal Government to measure the effectiveness of its programs.
  If, in fact, it is a legitimate role for the Department of Justice 
and these 10 other agencies to grant taxpayer dollars to all sorts of 
State-based criminal defense--prison, police force, investigative--if, 
in fact, that is a Federal role--which, again, I would go back to the 
Constitution and the enumerated powers and ask the question, and I 
think about half of these would fail. But if it is, why would we have 
this many different grant programs? Why would we have this much 
overhead? Why would we have absolutely zero measurement on whether they 
are actually accomplishing their goal?
  Where we have been so far, just so we know, we have $176 billion 
worth of spending that is wastefully spent. It is duplicative, one 
overlaps the other, and we have no knowledge whatsoever about what we 
are doing. We know from our heart we are trying to accomplish good, but 
we have no capability to measure what we are doing. And that is just 
the first four.
  Look at diesel emissions. We all want clean air. Why would we have 14 
separate programs on diesel emissions run through 3 different agencies? 
Why not have three--one for agriculture, one for routine surface 
transportation, and one for stationary? That is all there is out there. 
There is transportation, there is agriculture, and there is stationary, 
and yet we have five times as many grant programs as we have 
  I hope America can see how incompetent we are as we allow all these 
things to continue.
  We are going to raise the borrowing against your children. In less 
than a week we are going to raise the borrowing against your children, 
and we are not going to do anything to fix these problems. Nothing.
  Early learning and childcare. We have 50 different programs, 9 
different agencies on which we spend $16 billion.
  Employment assistance for disabled individuals. This is job training 
for disabled people. Fifty different programs run through nine 
different agencies, and we are going to spend $16 billion. I think that 
is an appropriate thing for us to be involved in, but why in the world 
would we have 50 different training programs for the disabled? 
Nobody can answer that. There won't be a person come to the floor and 
answer the question of why we have 50.

  What we continue to do is treat the symptoms of our disease and not 
the real disease. We are going to argue we should have training 
programs for the disabled, but we are going to deny the fact that the 
training programs for the disabled that we have oftentimes are 
marginally working. And if we streamline them and focus them, we would 
get a whole lot more value for our money, and we would also save money 
just in the overhead associated with it.
  Surface transportation programs, 55, and 5 different agencies. We 
have a transportation bill every year. It is $43

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billion. And yet we take that money--which, by the way, isn't being 
adequately funded. We are stealing from other things to keep the 
transportation funding alive, and we run it through all this 
bureaucracy rather than say, We took the money from the States, it is 
for highways and mass transit, and give it back to them and let them 
prioritize it themselves. Instead, we consume a good portion of it 
here. We put all sorts of mandates on what they can and can't do with 
their own money that we collect from them and send it back to them, and 
then we run it through five different Federal agencies. So they are 
jumping through five agencies' hoops just to be able to spend their own 
money--their own tax money.
  Support of entrepreneurs. I can guarantee you this one doesn't fit in 
the enumerated powers of the Constitution.
  So we have 53 times that we have said, We don't care what the 
Constitution says, we are going to go out and support our 
entrepreneurs. It is not a role for the Federal Government. We are 
terrible at it. We don't know what we are doing at it. And yet we have 
53 programs run through 4 agencies, $2.6 billion a year, and the vast 
majority of it is waste and ineffectively spent.
  STEM education programs. This is science, technology, engineering, 
and math. It is an area we need to work on. It is an area we need to 
incentivize. But 209 different programs, 100 or more of which are in 
the Defense Department? Two hundred nine programs to incentivize 
science, technology, engineering, and math? How about a couple of them 
that really work, that really create the incentives people will really 
go after that you can really manage and measure whether they are 
effective--$3.1 billion a year.
  This is just the first of what the GAO has so far outlined, at the 
request of my office, which became a law which forced GAO to have to do 
  Just a little history on this. Three years ago I asked the Government 
Accountability Office and Congressional Research Services, Tell me 
every program in the Federal Government. And both of them said, 
Impossible; we can't do it. The Congressional Research Service said: We 
can't do it. We do not have the capability to do it.
  So I put into statute a law mandating that the Government 
Accountability Office over a period of 3 years will identify and seek 
out every Federal program, and notify Congress where they overlap. So 
that is how we have gotten this information thus far. In April of this 
year, we will get the last third. There is no doubt in my mind at all 
that we are wasting at least $200 billion a year through duplication 
coming from the Federal Government.
  Think about that for a minute. If I am right--and I dare anybody to 
come down here and challenge me on it--that is $2 trillion over the 
next 10 years. That is 18 percent of our deficit this year.
  The question you have to ask is, Where is Congress? Why aren't they 
doing something about this? We passed one bill out of the Senate in the 
last 3 years associated with this--it got thrown out in conference--
that saved $5 billion. We could easily save $20 billion to $30 billion 
with minimal work.
  I know it is much greater than that. There will be controversy as you 
go up. But the fact that we have done nothing addressing these issues 
tells you that there is a problem in Congress in terms of facing 
  It also tells you there is a problem in Congress in that the 
political is much more important than the country; that we dare not 
offend anybody who is a partaker of any of these programs, especially 
the people who are employed in the administration in the implementation 
of these programs--even though some programs have 250 or 209 
  We have met the enemy, and the enemy is the U.S. Senate and the U.S. 
  Let me go to the next list.
  Unmanned aircraft programs. There is no question in terms of our 
warfighting and our intelligence services that our unmanned capability 
has been a tremendous asset to us. But somebody needs to ask the 
question, Why do we have 15 different sets of programs run from 5 
different agencies costing us $37 billion over 5 years? Where is the 
explanation for that? Where is the idea that we might concentrate 
expertise in one or two areas or three areas or four? But to have 15 
separate programs means we are wasting money and getting less out of 
the research and less out of the dollars we invested than if we were to 
streamline those programs and limit them to targeted objectives. But we 
refuse to do that.
  Domestic food assistance, 18 different programs, 3 agencies; homeless 
programs, 21 different programs, 7 agencies, $2.9 billion; 
transportation services for transportation-disadvantaged persons--that 
is something we ought to be involved in. I don't have any problem with 
that. But 80 programs, each with their own overhead, each with their 
own set of rules that communities have to comply with? Why would we not 
want to say: How do we make this 20 programs, make it more effective, 
eliminate the overhead and save the difference? We don't have to cut 
money. What we have to do is save money, and we could have exactly the 
same result through efficiency and smart planning by eliminating 
  In my hometown there are 78 different programs for transportation for 
these people that they can access, lapping over each other. It is not 
that we should not be doing it, but what about the saving? Are we in a 
crunch or not? Are we going to continue to stick our heads in the sand 
and say we don't have a difficult time in front of us in terms of our 
financing the basic needs for our Federal Government?
  We are less than 8 years away, where Medicare, Medicaid, Social 
Security, and interest on the debt will consume every penny of tax 
revenue this country has. That is less than 8 years away, if we make it 
that long, before we have hyperinflation. Why would we in Congress not 
start addressing these very real needs?
  Job training and employment--47 different programs, $18 billion a 
year, 9 different agencies. In the House subcommittee, Chairwoman 
Virginia Foxx, last year, I think, took about 35 of these programs and 
converted them into 6. She did not look at all of them because she did 
not have the authority or jurisdiction in her committee. It is the only 
thing that has been done in the last 3 years that addresses anything 
the GAO has said. Yet we will not even take it up. Saving billions of 
dollars a year and improving the job training programs, yet we will not 
take it up. It is not a priority for the HELP Committee.
  Teacher quality--82 different programs. We have 82 programs to 
improve the quality of teachers. Remember, we have a Department of 
Education, but nine other agencies have teacher improvement programs. 
Why would we have agencies outside the Department of Education running 
teacher improvement programs? Is it because some Congressman or Senator 
wanted a program named after them? Maybe they saw a need and did not 
want to put it in with the other ones so we expanded it. So we expanded 
overhead and we expanded the costs and we decreased the efficiency.
  I would also make note that Thomas Jefferson, in his inaugural 
address, addressed the American people when it came to the Federal 
Government and education. Here is what he said: In order for the 
Federal Government to be involved in education, you must make an 
amendment to the United States Constitution.
  I don't know a greater authority, other than maybe Madison and 
Monroe, on the Constitution. But here is one of the authors. In his own 
inaugural address as President of the United States, he said we have no 
business being in education. Just so I might enlighten my colleagues 
and the American people, since the Department of Education was founded, 
we have spent in excess of $2 trillion of Federal taxpayer money, and 
there is not one parameter that we can measure that is better than when 
we started. Not one--we cannot find one parameter that is better than 
when we started.
  So there was wisdom in our Founders. We have great hearts, but we are 
not very good at some things, and this is one of them that we are not 
very good at. Yet here we have 82 different programs from 10 different 
  Food safety--a legitimate role for the Federal Government. We have 

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some work improving food safety in the last few years, but we have 
multiple agencies. Do you realize if you buy a cheese pizza that the 
FDA doesn't have any control over that, but if you buy a meat pizza the 
FDA controls the food quality? But the cheese pizza, that is not FDA. 
So the Agriculture Department takes care of one pizza and the FDA takes 
care of another one. Does that make any sense to anybody in America? 
Yet we do not have one agency totally responsible for food safety in 
this country. Instead, we have 15 different agencies with 30 different 
programs, and the cost of food goes up--not because we are markedly 
improving food safety, but we are markedly increasing the regulations 
and requirements from 15 different agencies. There are all sorts of 
hidden costs in this as well.
  Military and veterans health service. I want you to think about this 
for a minute. We have a Pentagon and we have a Veterans' 
Administration, two agencies. But we have four different agencies 
involved in veterans and military health care. Why is that? Can anybody 
explain that? What is the purpose of that? Why do we have three 
different sets of rules and regulations within the Pentagon for health 
care: one for the Army, one for the Navy, and one for the Air Force? 
All of them are different. They are still taking care of the same 
diseases among the same group of people, but we are a bureaucracy. 
Rather than one organization running that we have three giant 
organizations running that. How stupid is that? Is that pride of 
keeping everything within the Air Force or in the Navy or in the Army?
  When we are facing a $1.3 trillion deficit this year--that is what it 
is going to be at a minimum--why would we not streamline that? Why 
wouldn't we ask the hard questions? Why wouldn't we do the things 
aligned with common sense and prudence instead of a political spoils 
  Economic development--4 different agencies, 80 separate programs, 
tons of waste, tons of duplication, tons of overlap, tons of fraud. 
When we have 80 programs, or 85 programs, and the bureaucracies cannot 
manage them, the gamers come in. The Federal Government this year will 
create over $800 billion worth of grants. I want us to think about that 
for a minute. Somewhere between one-fourth and one-fifth of our budget 
will go out of here in terms of grants. There is only one agency that 
oversees their grants effectively and smartly. The rest of the grants 
are totally not overseen--effectively. We work at it a little bit.
  If we think about it, one-fifth of the Federal budget is run out of 
Washington in terms of grants that have requirements on them, that have 
time lines on them, that have specifics on them, and nobody is watching 
  Do you know what happens when you go to look at those? What you find 
is fraud, mismanagement, some accomplishing exactly what they were 
supposed to but not in the time, some underbudget, but the money never 
gets sent back to the Federal Government; some grant money that is sent 
out and a penny is never spent, and it is lost out there so it is never 
recaptured. There are hundreds of billions of dollars of grant money 
sitting out there that have never been used and never been pulled back 
to the Federal Government. Why is that? That means hundreds of billions 
of dollars that we are going to borrow because we have moneys that we 
do not manage effectively.

  Let me just do the third one, and I will wind up in a little bit, and 
I will come back tomorrow and talk about the details of these. Here is 
the third sheet. I suspect when we get the report, April 1, from the 
GAO, I will have another two sheets.
  When we start adding up this money, we get real money. We get 
hundreds of billions of dollars that we are wasting. But nobody is 
working on it.
  Reducing reliance on petroleum fuel for the Federal fleet. We have 20 
agencies working on that, but we only have 5 programs. So we have 20 
sets of bureaucrats and administrations and everything else for 5 
programs, and we are spending--it is not a lot of money in terms of 
Washington money, but fuel efficiency for the Federal fleet? We put in 
new CAFE standards. We could replace this $50 million and say, you 
would not buy an automobile that doesn't have X mileage; you will limit 
trips. We can do lots of management things to eliminate the need for a 
program like this just through sound management and proper management.
  Electronic health records system for veterans and the military. The 
VA has a pretty good program. We have two different agencies, the VA 
and the military, the Pentagon. We have 10 separate programs. We are 
spending all this money at the Pentagon right now on electronic medical 
records when we have a system already at the VA that they could have 
adopted. Are we just doing one? No. We are doing different ones for 
each branch of the service.
  It makes you want to throw your hands up and get sick to your stomach 
when you think about what we are doing today that we should stop doing 
so we protect the future of this country.
  Here is an area that I have looked at closely, preparedness grants. 
Remember when FEMA was started 10, 11 years ago--maybe 15 years ago--
preparedness grants, we built all this up so we could prepare for 
catastrophes--right? We have been doing this a number of years, well 
over a decade, maybe almost two. Why do we continue to need more 
preparedness grants?
  I have not done this yet, but we plan on going back to look at all 
the money that has gone out for preparedness. But we just passed a 
Sandy bill, and 64 percent of the money is going to be spent on 
preparedness and mitigation for the future on 50-year events. Yet we 
are continuing to spend money every year on preparedness. Is there ever 
a time at which we get prepared, that we can stop spending money? That 
is a question the average American would probably ask: Is there a point 
in time when we have prepared enough? Or can we spend enough money to 
totally prepare against anything? And, of course, the answer is no. So 
how much is enough? How much is prudent, given our budget situation 
  Anyhow, I think you can see, just from this limited list of words--
and this is just one section of what I am going to be talking about. 
Duplication. I am going to be talking about health care. I am going to 
be talking about the Defense Department. Republicans have a blind eye 
to the waste in the Defense Department and the mismanagement and the 
duplication and the swinging revolving door from retired military 
officers to the very companies that end up getting the contracts that 
pay their salaries to get another contract to keep going on things that 
necessarily are not priorities.
  Let me just take an example for a moment, if I can. This is the best 
one. Here is green buildings. Here are all the programs on green 
buildings. Does any of that make sense? That is why we had to have a 
chart this big. What we are doing is absolutely asinine as far as 
duplication and what we are doing through multiple different 
departments in terms of incentivizing green buildings.

  Just think if we had 5 or 10 people in the administration of each one 
of these programs and what we could save if we ended up just having 5 
or 6 programs. Just think what the benefit would be that would inure 
through the years in terms of the compounded savings for our kids and 
young people in this country.
  This chart depicts green buildings. The Institute of Standards and 
Technology has three or four or five or six programs. The Department of 
Health and Human Services has a multitude of programs. The Department 
of Agriculture has a multitude of programs. The Department of 
Transportation has multiple programs for green buildings. Why don't we 
have a green building department in the Federal Government? If we have 
that, we can just have one and save the overhead and the money. We can 
see all the Environmental Protection Agency's programs on the chart. 
This is lunacy. It is craziness.
  I am going to stop at that, but I have this comment for my fellow 
Oklahomans and fellow Americans: The next time you hear from a Member 
of the congress that we cannot cut spending, come and play this C-SPAN 
tape back for them. Either they don't want to or they know nothing 
about management or efficiency or common sense. There is no longer an 
excuse to say we cannot get marked savings from our Federal Government.

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  As I go through this over the next couple weeks, I am going to show 
example after example. It is painful to say the greatest Nation in the 
world is absolutely incompetent when it comes to managing its 
bureaucracy, its programs, and its money, but that is a true statement. 
I am going to show evidence over the next 2 weeks of just how 
incompetent we are.
  I hope to build a case so no Member of Congress can ever tell a 
constituent again that we cannot cut significant spending by at least 
$2 trillion just from duplication over the next 10 years.
  The work of the government is hard. The work of the Congress is built 
on compromise, but there is no longer going to be a bogus set of facts 
out there that says we cannot cut spending. I am going to prove we can 
cut spending and the onus is going to be on the rest of the Members of 
the body to say why we cannot.
  With that, I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Blumenthal). The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.