Government waste

The process of evaluating what works and what's a waste never ends in the private sector. It is a constant churning that results in jobs being lost and re-created, in whole lines being raised and wiped out. Nothing is guaranteed to last forever, let alone a year.

That reality, however, does not apply to the government. Once a program is created, it is all but impossible to get rid of, no matter how inefficient and redundant it might be.

With House Republicans trying to rein in record deficit spending and the Obama administration fighting so-called "Draconian" cuts, Washington's oversized budget is under a more powerful microscope. And a Government Accountability Office study released Tuesday provided the clearest picture yet of a government awash in overlapping offices.

"The U.S. government has, for example, more than 100 programs dealing with surface transportation issues, 82 that monitor teacher quality, 80 for economic development, 56 for 'financial literacy,' 20 offices or programs devoted to homelessness and 17 grant programs for disaster preparedness," The Washington Post reported this week. "Among other redundancies, 15 agencies or offices handle food safety, and five agencies are working to ensure that the federal government uses less gasoline."

The GAO report also found plenty of problems with the Pentagon, where each branch of the military has separate offices, systems and personnel dedicated to the health care of service members and veterans.

Of course, the GAO report is nothing especially groundbreaking or surprising. Plenty of lawmakers, including current ones, have tried mightily to cut back the Washington bureaucracy, only to be opposed by howling hordes of special interests and small armies of lobbyists. Every federal office and program has a constituency that will fight until its last breath to keep what they see as theirs.

But it's not theirs. It's ours. And we're broke, with a national debt of $14 trillion and rising, with unfunded entitlement benefits of more than $100 trillion. If Congress can't use this report to slash at least $100 billion in federal spending right now, in this economy, with this political climate, the cynical taxpaying public will be justified in thinking it never will.