The Legacy of Senator Tom Coburn


Oklahoma’s Senator Tom Coburn has just retired from Congress after serving six years in the House of Representatives and ten years in the Senate.  He will be sorely missed because his achievements were legion.
By ridiculing the “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska in 2006, he eventually prevailed upon Congress to totally eliminate earmark spending by 2011.
Beginning in 2010 his staff compiled an annual “Wastebook” each year listing numerous examples of wasteful spending by the federal government.  The “2014 Wastebook” gives 100 such examples totally $25 billion ranging from laughing classes for college students to a State Department program to dispel the perception abroad that Americans are fat and rude!
CaptureBeginning in 2011, Senator Coburn has prevailed upon the Government Accounting Office to issue annual reports entitled “Actions Needed to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits.”  Now, after four years, a total of 226 specific actions have been recommended by the GAO.  GAO’s Action Tracker shows that the government has addressed about 19% of the efficiency recommendations made by the GAO.  Be thankful for small progress!
His latest, finest and presumably last major effort along these lines is a 320 page report, the “Tax Decoder” which is intended to “decode the tax code for every taxpayer.  It reveals more than 165 tax expenditures costing over $900 billion this year.”  Although more than $1.7 trillion in tax revenue was collected by the government in 2014, the IRS will be unable to collect an additional $500 billion that is owed.  This would have been enough to cover the $483 billion deficit for fiscal year 2014!
As Senator Coburn points out in the introduction to this document, “ideally Congress would throw out the entire tax code and start over.  But at the very least, Congress should make the tax code simpler, fairer and flatter.”
It is rare that a single member of Congress makes such an extraordinary contribution to our country’s welfare!

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