Pelosi On Spending Cuts: “The Cupboard is Bare; There’s No More Cuts to Make”

How can someone who works in D.C. as a representative say with a straight face that there just aren’t any more areas in the federal government that can be cut? As if they’ve already cut so much spending during the dreaded “sequestration,” right? The same government spending cuts that somehow still resulted in spending increases.

In D.C.-speak, a cut in a proposed increase constitutes a spending cut. This is how Obama can say with a straight face that he’s “slashed” the deficit by half in just over four years.

According to Pelosi, the well has run dry. Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, she stated that there’s nothing left to cut:

PELOSI: Well, first of all, [the debt ceiling] is an issue that really shouldn’t be a conversation. The confidence that the world and the American economy should have and that the full faith and credit of the United States of America should be without a doubt.

CROWLEY: Well, lots of presidents have negotiated over this.

PELOSI: Well, I know, but nobody has stopped it. Nobody has stopped it.

CROWLEY: But again, I just have to point out that President Clinton, President Bush, President Reagan, and this president have all negotiated the debt ceiling and given up something for that. So, why now —

PELOSI: Because the cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make. It’s really important that people understand that. We all want to reduce the deficit. Remember this, President Obama, when he became president, he said I’m going to cut the deficit in half in four years. He did it in four years and three months. He did that. He’s on a path to deficit reduction. We’re all committed to that. Put everything on the table. Review it. But you cannot have any more cuts just for the sake of cuts. Right now, you’re taking trophies.

There’s no way we can catalogue all the places in government where there is waste. Suffice it to say that government has become synonymous with waste. Here are a few examples showing just how careful our government is with taxpayer money (in no particular order):

  • Last year, there were 894 big-ticket government conferences, totaling $340 million.
  • Examples from multiple Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports of wasteful duplication include 342 economic development programs; 130 programs serving the disabled; 130 programs serving at-risk youth; 90 early childhood development programs; 75 programs funding international education, cultural, and training exchange activities; and 72 safe water programs.
  • The federal government made at least $72 billion in improper payments in 2008.
  • Washington spends $92 billion on corporate welfare (excluding TARP) versus $71 billion on homeland security.
  • Government auditors spent the past five years examining all federal programs and found that 22 percent of them — costing taxpayers a total of $123 billion annually — fail to show any positive impact on the populations they serve.
  • A GAO audit found that 95 Pentagon weapons systems suffered from a combined $295 billion in cost overruns.
  • Audits showed $34 billion worth of Department of Homeland Security contracts contained significant waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • 679 renewable energy initiatives at 23 federal agencies and their 130 sub-agencies cost taxpayers $15 billion in FY 2010.
  • 76 programs to prevent or treat drug abuse are spread across 15 agencies, costing $4.5 billion in FY 2012.
  • Three federal offices are involved in overseeing catfish inspections.
  • 159 contracting organizations in 10 different Defense Department components provide defense foreign language support. GAO estimates $50 to $200 million in potential savings by eliminating this duplication.
  • The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) offers 69 different language services. GAO found 23 instances of overlap involving 43 of these services, accounting for $149 million, or nearly 20 percent, of the BBG’s FY 2011 annual appropriations.
  • 21 programs, including eight tax expenditures, are in place to help students save for, pay, and repay the cost of higher education, annually costing $45 billion, $104 billion in financial loans, and $25 billion in lost revenue from tax spending.
  • Six programs to employ and train veterans are operated by two government agencies, which spent $1.2 billion in FY 2011 to serve 880,000 participants. The GAO found, “Despite these efforts, the unemployment rate for veterans who have recently separated from the military is higher than that for other veterans and nonveterans.”
  • Six separate offices at the Department of Homeland Security are involved in research and development. In one example, “two DHS components awarded five separate contracts that each addressed detection of the same chemical. Moreover, DHS did not have the policies and mechanisms necessary to coordinate or track research and development activities across the department.”

The “cupboard is bare?” Hardly. And this is the tip of the iceberg. It’s a lot easier to catalogue which agencies of the federal government are not a waste of money. You could count those departments on one hand.