Sen. Tom Coburn released his annual “Wastebook” today, outlining 100 ways that he says the government squanders taxpayer money.
“In California, many beneficiaries use food stamps to purchase not so nutritious fast food at Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Dominoes Pizza,” the “Wastebook” says.
Coburn has dissented from some Republicans in demonstrating a willingness to cut military spending and eliminate targeted tax provisions, as demonstrated through his work as one of the “gang of six” working to develop a deficit reduction package and his vote in support of the findings of the 2010 fiscal commission led by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
In the “Wastebook,” Coburn offers projects he defines as waste in both areas, including a tax benefit for paper producers known as the “black liquor” credit that senators have tried repeatedly to kill. That’s thanks in no small part to senators from states that produce paper products, who want to preserve the benefit for home industries.
The report also questions why several professional sports leagues, including the NFL, are considered nonprofit trade associations for tax purposes, reducing potential tax revenue.
Coburn may face some of his most vociferous criticism from the defense sector. The report highlights cost overruns in the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program, which is being built by two separate teams of contractors led by General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin.
“They will be a major investment for the country in the coming century. Yet, a decision by the Navy to ask two different companies to build the LCS will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions dollars over the lifetime of the program,” the report says, noting that the Navy reported the contracting strategy would reduce costs.
The future of any of these programs may be debated on merits, but Coburn reserves his harshest judgment for Congress itself, suggesting that a lack of productivity on Capitol Hill represents its own kind of waste.
“Congress approved every cent spent to fund the projects outlined in this report and did nothing to stop any of these expenditures. In fact, in many cases members of Congress actually took credit for the projects with no shame,” the report says. “All of the outrageous and wasteful contents of this report were made possible by either the action or lack of action of Congress, earning it the well-deserved but unwanted distinction as the biggest waste of taxpayer money in 2012.”