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! Beginning 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!
Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has an Op Ed column in the Wall Street Journal from two days ago “The Year Washington Fled Reality”, discussing many of the things that are wrong with our national government. Granted that all elected officials “play politics” to some extent or another, nevertheless Dr. Coburn, an obstetrician, is amazingly independent of the reigning political culture. He spent three consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, left Congress for four years, and now is back serving his second term in the Senate. He has announced that he will not run for re-election in 2016 when his present term ends. Dr. Coburn is constantly drawing attention to, and attacking, the enormous amount of wasteful and inefficient spending approved by Congress. The Popular Romance Project, pictured above, is an example. His office has just published its fourth annual report on government waste, “Wastebook 2013”, detailing 100 different “examples of government mismanagement and stupidity. … Collectively these cost nearly $30 billion in a year when Washington would have you believe everything that could be done, has been done to control unnecessary spending.”
Dr. Coburn has prevailed upon the Government Accounting Office to issue annual reports called “Actions Needed to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial benefits.” Three of these reports have now been issued. Altogether they list almost 400 individual actions which could be taken to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of 162 different program areas.
In spite of all the good work he is doing, Dr. Coburn would be even more effective if he had more help. Fiscal conservatives should stop wasting their time on senseless gestures like trying to defund Obamacare. They need to get down in the trenches with serious deficit hawks like Tom Coburn and whittle away at wasteful programs one by one.