Unnecessary, wasteful government spending is today putting America on a dangerous path, as we burden future generations with a mounting national debt – now totaling more than $18 trillion. The future of the American dream is at risk, due to Washington’s bipartisan spending addiction.
For years I have fought alongside my friend, former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, a tough and sometimes lonely battle against the corrupt practice of earmark spending, which he called “the gateway drug to overspending” in Washington. Earmarks were finally banned in 2011. Key to that success was Senator Coburn’s annual Wastebook, which highlighted, named and shamed some of the most outrageous pork-barrel spending projects – such as Alaska’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” – and the members of Congress responsible for them.
This week I released the first in a new series of reports modeled on Senator Coburn’s work titled America’s Most Wasted, exposing questionable Washington spending totaling $1.1 billion, and an additional $294 billion on programs no longer authorized to receive federal funding. Future reports this year will highlight wasteful spending and duplicative, inefficient programs in other departments of government, including in wildfire prevention, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense, which I am closely examining as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Among the egregious examples of government waste identified in this report is the $49 million that the Army National Guard spent on pro sports advertising for recruitment, rather than to train and equip our men and women in uniform. In fact, at the end of fiscal year 2014, the National Guard Bureau and Army National Guard announced that they were facing a $101 million shortfall in the account used to pay national guardsmen, and could face a delay in critical training and drills because they couldn’t afford to pay soldiers. At the same time that the Guard was running out of money to meet its primary mission and pay its current soldiers, it was spending millions of taxpayer dollars on sponsorship and advertising deals with professional sports leagues such as the NFL and NASCAR to support its recruiting activities.
Other examples of government waste in America’s Most Wasted include a $15,000 grant for bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency to study the threat that your backyard barbecue has on the environment; a $50,000 grant to investigate whether African elephants’ unique and highly acute sense of smell could be used to sniff-out bombs; and $14 million in spending on a duplicative catfish inspection office.
I believe the America’s Most Wasted reports should serve as a wake-up call to Congress and help Arizonans and all American people demand an end to wasteful government spending once and for all. At a time when Americans’ disapproval of government is at an all-time high, it has never been more important to reign-in spending and put our fiscal house back in order.
– John McCain, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Arizona.