Today’s a day that ends in y, so we’re learning about yet another egregious example of government waste. This time, it’s the federal government, which, according to a new OpenTheBooks investigation, has given out $2.9 trillion (adjusted for inflation) in “improper payments” since 2004.
What does that mean? Well, the feds define an “improper payment” as “payments made by the government to the wrong person, in the wrong amount, or for the wrong reason.” Basically, they send our cash to the wrong place or in the incorrect amount. And, as it turns out, this is an incredibly common phenomenon. (Because of course it is).
Federal Agencies Admit To $3 Trillion In Improper Payments Since 2004! 😮
— OpenTheBooks (@open_the_books) June 13, 2023
OpenTheBooks reports that in 2022, the feds made $247 billion in improper payments, aka $20.5 billion per month or $675 million per day. That’s a truly astounding amount of our taxpayer money that could’ve been put to use—or, better yet, left in our pockets to begin with.
The ramifications here are pretty profound.
Not only does the federal government constantly misallocate our tax dollars to wasteful, fraud-rife, and inefficient programs. But once it sets its mind to spend our money a certain way, it then often fails to actually do that and sends it to the wrong place or in the wrong amounts.
That’s incompetence squared.
“Federal bureaucrats must find ways to provide more adequate spending controls and stem this enormous tide of improper payments,” OpenTheBooks’s Adam Andrzejewski concluded. “Otherwise, government waste of this magnitude will only continue eroding the public trust. Thanks to our team of auditors, taxpayers can research the goofs made in their names and with their dollars. Then they can decide for themselves where spending should grow, and where it should be cut.”
On the surface, these revelations should be surprising. But they’re really not. As the economist Milton Friedman famously explained, government spending is inherently wasteful, because government bureaucrats are ultimately responsible for spending other people’s money on other people. That reality inherently incentives carelessness, not frugality or prudence.
Remember these inconvenient realities about how the federal government works the next time you hear someone promising they can solve a grand problem in our society if we just cough up more tax dollars for the feds to (mis)spend.