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Why Is the Federal Government So Out of Control?

The General Services Administration blew through $820,000 in taxpayers’ money in a lavish ”team building” trip to Las Vegas, and President Barack Obama is “apoplectic” at the news, according to the president’s campaign advisor, David Axelrod. Obama, he says, has devoted his efforts to saving “tens of billions of dollars” in cutting waste, fraud and inefficiency in government. Yet under President Obama’s leadership, government spending keeps growing irresponsibly, and neither he nor his allies in Congress are doing anything about it.

The latest example came last week when Democratic leadership in the Senate again passed the buck on enacting a budget — on April 29, it will have been three years since the Senate last passed a budget resolution. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D–ND),whose job it is to shepherd a budget through the Senate, said of his decision: “This is the wrong time to vote in committee. This is the wrong time to vote on the floor. I don’t think we will be prepared to vote before the election.” Conrad also said that offering a budget would be futile and “would do little to move us closer to a bipartisan agreement that can actually be adopted.”

In other words, budgeting is hard work that he’d rather not do, especially in an election year. Of course, 2011 was not an election year, and yet the Senate failed to pass a budget then, too.

The money that isn’t being budgeted belongs to the American people, and their representatives in the Senate have decided once again that it’s easier to keep on spending without restraint than it is to be responsible to their constituents back home. It’s that very attitude that has led to a government so big and so out of control that scandals like the one in the GSA are able to occur.

The hundreds of thousands of dollars blown in the GSA’s Vegas trip, though, is chump change compared to the hundreds of millions wasted in President Obama’s green jobs stimulus efforts. We all know the story of the bankrupt solar energy company Solyndra and the $520 million taxpayer-funded loan guarantee that went down the drain. But the latest example of wanton waste is Ecotality – a company that manufactures charging stations for the president’s much-favored electric vehicles. Ecotality received more than $115 million to install those charging stations, yet as Heritage’s Lachlan Markay reports, the company is far behind schedule. Now it’s under investigation for insider trading and is facing serious financial difficulties. Even so, the DOE decided to grant the company $26 million in additional funding.

But it’s not just about waste in one government agency. Taxpayer dollars are wasted day in and day out in Washington, as Heritage’s Emily Goff explains:

Washington also misuses taxpayer dollars in less blatant ways. Take the 47 federal job training programs the federal government runs, for example. Or the 15 agencies involved in food safety and inspection. Congress ought to identify areas of program duplication and fragmentation and then consolidate or eliminate unnecessary ones.

Want another example of big government run wild? Take a look at Washington’s spending on welfare programs. It’s the fastest growing part of government spending, and it’s creating a culture of entitlement and dependency in which the American people are expecting to receive support from the state. In fiscal year 2011, total welfare costs equaled $927 billion ($717 billion from the federal government and $210 billion from states). Heritage’s Rachel Sheffield writes that “since the War on Poverty began in the 1960s, the government has spent $19.8 trillion (inflation-adjusted) to fund a growing list of welfare programs.” President Obama wants that spending to grow, and under his plan taxpayers will pay roughly $12.7 trillion on welfare in the next decade.

Welfare spending and unending waste aren’t the only drivers of Washington’s trillion-dollar deficits. The three major entitlement programs–Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security–make up the vast majority of federal spending and will consume all tax revenues by 2049. Yet even though that threat looms large on the horizon, the Senate continues to refuse to pass a budget, President Obama stands by, and the spending continues unchecked. Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, commentator Bill Kristol correctly said, “If you want big government, this is big government.” And if anyone should be “apoplectic,” it’s the American people.

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