$50 Billion of Taxpayer Money Wasted, Rand Paul Says in Latest ‘Waste Report’

$50 Billion of Taxpayer Money Wasted, Rand Paul Says in Latest ‘Waste Report’
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 12, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in his latest “Waste Report” says more than $50.2 billion of taxpayer money has been wasted by the U.S. government on questionable initiatives, with the top money-waster identified as improper Medicare and Medicaid payments totaling $48 billion.

In the Summer 2019 edition of “The Waste Report” published by his office on Aug. 30, the senator identified government spending deemed as “wasted American tax dollars” on a variety of projects, including $466,991 spent on studying frog mating calls in Panama; $10 million spent on improving “green growth” in Peru; and more than $2 billion spent to convert an abandoned mental hospital into the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The senator’s office took on a more stern tone in commenting about the studies on the tungara frog of Panama, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“As of this writing our government has piled up a debt over $22 trillion, along with a 10-month deficit of $866 billion that is projected to rise to over $1 trillion by the end of the fiscal year,” the report read. “As we deal with this crisis and also wrestle with paying for actual priorities, do we really want government funding studies of a non-endangered frog’s mating habits?”

The Waste Report also questioned why the State Department is spending up to $100,000 to “expand and strengthen” Pakistan’s film industry.

“Why do Pakistanis need American tax dollars to further build its capacity?” Paul commented in the report. “Why are Americans responsible for paying to make Pakistani films better? Simply put, Americans are not responsible, but their State Department is intent on wasting their hard-earned money anyway.”

The Bulk of the Waste

The report noted that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) had by far wasted the most. The federal agency had spent in fiscal year 2018 (pdf) an estimated $48 billion in improper payments—payments that either were made in an incorrect amount or should not have been made at all.
This has been a recurring issue for CMS, with the Government Accountability Office (pdf) listing the federal agency as a “high-risk program” for wasteful spending every year since 1990.

Paul also noted that CMS itself predicts that its Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund “will be entirely depleted come 2026.”

“Under even good circumstances, never mind the ones in which Medicare finds itself, both the program and the American people can ill-afford to be paying out nearly $50 billion in improper payments,” the report read. “Perhaps the real improper payment is the giant amount of mandatory spending Congress allocates to CMS, allowing Medicare and Medicaid to grow unabated.”

The report noted that Medicare ranks second in the federal budget, just behind Social Security. Medicare cost $582 billion in fiscal year 2018.

The Waste Report is in its fifth year of publication in a project called the Waste Book project, an initiative by Paul who describes it as “an ongoing project cataloguing egregious examples of waste within the U.S. government.”
“When it comes to wasteful spending, the federal budget is a target rich environment,” CEO of OpenTheBooks.com Adam Andrzejewski told The Center Square. “Senator Paul should be commended for doing the hard work of oversight. Identifying examples of waste creates downward pressure on spending, which is exactly what Washington needs.”