Feb 26, 2017
Ted Stern from Pickneyville, Illinois has a familiar complaint about government spending:
"I saw on the news last night that President Trump took Air Force One to Philadelphia to address the Republican Retreat.
Now how much did it cost to fly Air Force One to Philadelphia? It seems to me that while everyone but the very rich watch every penny should not the people we put in charge of the country do the same? How many times does something like this happen in a year's time? Is it any wonder that the American people are losing faith?"
Ted, thanks for writing. This is a timeless and oddly timely criticism, since it looks like President Trump is going to shatter the travel expense records for presidents.
In his eight years, President Obama racked up over 100 million dollars of travel expenses. President Trump expended around 10 million in his first month. This does not include the monthly 3 million dollars to support the New York residence of the First Lady, either.
But I think there are two important aspects to government waste, First, if it is program or person you support, it doesn't seem so bad. Crop insurance fraud and waste are not treated as a big deal by farmers compared to food stamp waste, for example.
The other thing is the math problem. What percentage of government waste would you find acceptable? Answering zero is unrealistic, so let's say 1%. This works out to about 36 billion dollars. And those wasted dollars aren't labeled, so you have to spend money to find them, which pretty soon generates more cost than benefits.
Finally, I don't know why we expect government or businesses for that matter to be more financially precise than people. I'm pretty sure an outside auditor could find a lot more than 1% waste in my budget.