NEW YORK—The United States’ rising federal debt has reached more than 22 trillion dollars in total, with some economists describing it as an “insurmountable problem” inextricably tied with Washington’s longtime culture of spending and borrowing.
A report released on Nov. 25 by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) detailed wasteful spending by the federal government with a list of programs totaling $230,672,881 in wasted taxpayer money. Paul is the chairman of the Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management (FSO) Subcommittee for the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC).
The Treasury Department borrows money to make up the difference between spending and revenue when the government runs a deficit. Under then-President Barack Obama, the national debt nearly doubled, growing from $10.6 trillion on his inauguration day in 2009 to roughly more than $19 trillion in 2016.
“It’s very unsustainable,” Dr. Chris Martenson, an economic researcher and trend forecaster, told The Epoch Times. “I consider the rising federal debt to be the equivalent of eating a really big meal at a nice restaurant and then leaving the bill for your kids.”
Martenson said that even after cutting spending on military and social security programs—the two largest consumers of taxpayer money—it still would have little impact on rising debt levels. He said a major cultural shift needed to happen first.
“It’s not partisan, it’s happened across Democrats, Republicans—there’s a giant machine running in Washington that has been out of control in spending and borrowing for a long time. It’s part of the D.C. culture, and it would take a shock to the system to change that.
“I consider it to be generational theft—it’s really taking tomorrow’s consumption today. It’s not paying for your own way and, instead, leaving the bill for somebody else. For my entire adult life, it’s just how it’s been … and it’s starting to catch up.”
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment for this article. Russ Vought, acting director of the office of management and budget, wrote in an op-ed published in March, “It’s time for Congress to come to the table, work with the president, and rein in Washington’s spending addiction.”
The fall edition of “The Waste Report,” an annual series published by Paul, listed eight programs the federal government wastes taxpayer money on, including research involving getting Zebrafish addicted to nicotine, maintaining a failed self-cleaning toilet, and bringing Serbian cheese up to international standards.
Paul found a total of $153 million dollars was wasted on the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, with one portion of the misused funding being labeled by the Metro Office of the Inspector General (OIG) as “Operation Golden Potty.”
Metro spent “approximately $500,000 maintaining a single self-cleaning toilet located at the Huntington Metro Station” between 2003 and 2017, according to the OIG. Metro had lost invoices for 2007, 2012, 2013, and 2014, so the OIG couldn’t find a definitive cost for the toilet.
According to Paul’s report, Metro justified its purchase of the toilet as needed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, claiming that using Huntington Station’s existing bathrooms would present “security concerns.”
“The OIG was skeptical this was the reason and refused to adopt that determination in its review. … To top it off, the half-million-dollar toilet sat broken and abandoned in the Huntington Station from 2017 to early 2019.”
A private company was contracted to clean and maintain the self-cleaning toilet, but Metro canceled the contract in 2017. Metro initially had plans to move the toilet to another station, but it ended up removing the facility entirely early this year.
In another example, Paul said the U.S. Agency for International Development spent part of its $22 million “Sustainable Local Development Project” budget training staff at a center in Sjenica, Serbia, to follow the cheese standard of the International Organization for Standardization.
The goal, according to the head of the center, was to guarantee Sjenica cheese standards met those in the EU and the United States. Staff at the center trained people to properly sample milk and meat products at local farms and calibrated laboratory equipment among other implementations. Paul referred to an NPR report noting the United States is in the midst of a historic cheese surplus.
“So American dairy farmers dealing with the realities of this situation might be cheesed off to learn their government worked to strengthen competition and the European cheese market—using their own tax dollars to boot!” Paul wrote.