Federal Government's Duplicate Programs Make Dupes Out of Taxpayers

Why fund a wasteful government program once when you can fund it twice—or, for that matter, 82 times? According to a report on duplication and overlap in the federal government released by the Government Accountability Office today, the U.S. government has 82 distinct programs to improve teacher quality (which, judging from our schools, is clearly working quite well). Many of those programs “share similar goals,” according to the report, yet “there is no governmentwide strategy to minimize fragmentation, overlap, or duplication among these many programs.” Which probably helps explain how we got so many programs designed to do the same damn thing in the first place.

Teacher quality programs were just one area in which the GAO found significant duplication at the federal level. Indeed, the whole thing reads like a nightmare version of a Pete and Repeat joke. According to The Wall Street Journal’s summary of the report, the U.S. government has “15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs to help the homeless, and 80 programs for economic development.” Eggs are given double scrutiny:

The Food and Drug Administration makes sure that chicken eggs are "safe, wholesome, and properly labeled" while a division of the Department of Agriculture "is responsible for the safety of eggs processed into egg products."

Sounds unequally yolked to me.

Some of the duplication is apparently harder to count: The GAO isn’t even entirely sure how many programs the federal government has set up related to financial literacy—only that there are “more than 20 federal agencies providing about 56 programs” involved. That’s a ballpark figure, I take it.

All that duplication wastes effort and makes finding and emulating effective programs more difficult, according to the GAO. It also costs a lot of money. The GAO didn’t tally it all up, but Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who lobbied for the report to be created, estimated that all told, the GAO found between $100 and $200 billion in spending on duplicate programs. A billion here, a billion there...eventually it really does start to add up.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Mog||

    Scientific progress goes boink.
    Ya know, Calvin turned his duplicates into worms. Just sating...

  • Sorry||

    You can sat that again.

  • ||

    Neither we nor the government have a transmogrifier, though.

  • Marvin the Martian||

    Does your government have a plutonium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator?

  • Bugs||

    All I gots is dis Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, doc.

  • Tom Servo||

    Is that like the "interocitor" from This Island Earth?

  • ||

    "The GAO isn’t even entirely sure how many programs the federal government has set up related to financial literacy—only that there are “more than 20 federal agencies providing about 56 programs” involved."

    But you're not considering how effective those financial literacy programs have been over the last five years in helping people understand, for instance, the adjustable rate mortgages they sign!

  • ||

    One's man's "waste" is another man's "stimulus"!

  • alan||

    If that stimulated unit is going between your wife's cellulite ass cheeks, it is still waste.

    Please tell me you have some strange on the side, maybe a twenty something redhead from the office pull, I could actually respect you a little bit then and not pity you.

  • alan||

    office pull

    Mind. Gutter. Etc.

  • ||

    ...the U.S. government has 82 distinct programs to improve teach quality...

    I would suggest that none of Peter's teachers got the grammar upgrade. :P

  • ||

    "the U.S. government has 82 distinct programs to improve teacher quality "

    We need to duble that to ... uh, 157???

  • GILMORE||

    improve teach quality

    More better teach make student spell good and win future better than Chinese or Mexican. Also, evolution is theory.

  • ||

    But if you cut any one of those programs, it'll be real fire and brimstone stuff. Cats and dogs living together. Total Chaos.

  • GILMORE||

    the GAO found between $100 and $200 billion in spending on duplicate programs. A billion here, a billion there...eventually it really does start to add up.

    ...in related news, government still unable to find $100bn in spending worth cutting ...

  • ||

    I thought this was one of the biggest wastes I've seen recently...

    "But the two mortgage behemoths still ask the Treasury Department every quarter for billions of dollars in cash, most of it going right back out the door to pay dividends to the same U.S. agency."

    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....70798.html

    Freddie and Fannie borrow billions every quarter--from the US government--so they can pay dividends to the same agency they borrow the money from!

    Don't worry though, it's mostly just an accounting gimmick--except that all the money they're churning is ultimately coming out of your paychecks...

    Have a nice day.

  • Scruffy Nerf Herder||

    And they say Wall Street is all smoke and mirrors...

  • ||

    Yeah, if they're gonna wind 'em down anyway, then why are they throwing good money after bad?

    This is worse than TARP. At least with TARP, there was a cap. This is loaning money to a gambler who's already drowning in debt.

    ...and on his death bed!

  • ||

    but he's not dying!!!

  • H man||

    I blame the Reason server squirrels duplicating programs.

  • Paul||

    According to The Wall Street Journal’s summary of the report, the U.S. government has “15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws, more than 20 separate programs to help the homeless, and 80 programs for economic development.”

    Now suggest cutting one of those... just one of those, and watch Democrats go into fits of apoplexy with a requisite eight-part series on NPR investigating these cruel budget cuts.

  • Nancy P.||

    Jobs jobs jobs!

  • x,y||

    Cruel and deep. Maybe that's what they mean by "deep cuts." It's the 16th program that provides the same service. That's pretty far down the line.

  • ||

    I swear that looks just like the transmogrifier.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Uh no. You crawl under the transmogrifier, whereas you enter the duplicator from the side. The time machine, OTOH, you enter from the top.

    Get it straight ProL.

  • ||

    I once tried to play Calvinball with ProL and he kept insisting I couldn't make up the rules as I went along. He just doesn't get it.

  • ||

    I got The Complete Calvin and Hobbes for my 40th birthday. One of the best gifts ever.

  • ||

    I think I got The Complete C & H for my 40th as well. Truly, a wonderful gift.

    And, I just got Dilbert 2.0. Great stuff, great stuff.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    I tried playing Calvinball with my cousin when I was a kid. It didn't work out very well. I blame her lack of imagination.

  • ||

    Oh, yes, I see now.

  • ¢||

    Clearly, Calvin's Duplicator-Box technology got loose in Washington.

    Dude. Calvin's box was a satire of political cartoons. Don't write POLITICAL CARTOON on it.

  • Mango Punch||

    For a publication that "values" competition so much, you guys are super hypocritical. More participants = more competition = better results. Gawd, get off your high horse, Reason.

    We have so many groups impriving teaching, because we value education so much. We can't just have everyone working in one group! They'd just come up with one idea and all copy it!! No, we need competing ideas!

    With 82 groups we'll get back 82 proposals on how to raise teacher's salaries.

  • sevo||

    "With 82 groups we'll get back 82 proposals on how to raise teacher's salaries."

    And I'll bet all 82 say we need to cut class size.

  • JoshINHB||

    And raise teacher's salaries.

  • ||

    Good sarcasm, +82

  • Invisible Finger||

    Thank God the Department of Homeland Security was created to remove so many redundant agencies.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I'm looking forward to the Op-eds saying that eliminating $200 billion worth of wasteful duplicate spending is just a drop in the bucket, and people who talk about reducing spending instead of raising taxes are Not Serious.

  • Progressive||

    I don't see any wasteful duplicate spending at all. I only see emaciated budgets and a starved beast.

  • ||

    Hold on a second!!! You're not saying that the government wastes the money it steals from us are you???

  • Almanian||

    That's crazy talk, right there!

  • Juice||

    the GAO found between $100 and $200 billion in spending on duplicate programs

    We could cover it too, if we just raise taxes. Those bureaucrats need jobs.

  • Max||

    Enron made dupes out of its customers and employees. Ayn Rand made dupes out of her moronic followers. But Reason delovers the echo chamber to those who give their donations. Donate now!.

  • ||

    Hey Edward, what does "delovers" mean? Does it mean what your mom does to you each morning?

  • Max||

    Don't make fun of dyslexics, ahssole.

  • ||

    Why not? You deserve it.

  • rather||

    herr helle, likes to decide who deserves punishment -he'd make an excellent block guard

  • ||

    MMMM FANTASIZING ABOUT NAZIS BEATING MY SOUR CUNT GETS ME SO HOT.

  • ||

    I thought I was making fun of an impotent raging moron; now you tell me I made fun of an impotent raging dyslexic moron? Even better.

    "A dyslexic walks into a bra..."

  • Max, you Bible Humper||

    You should have sold your Enron stock before it crashed. Then you would be less bitter about it today.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    What's wrong, Max? Did this guy dupe your mom into having sex with you?

    http://www.examiner.com/pop-cu.....ised-dates

  • Max's Mom||

    Oh, I didn't need *that* kind of encouragement... I just naturally love my Maxie.

    With this device from the good folks at http://sexlove.en.alibaba.com/ of course.

  • Max||

    Hey Tool.

    If you're gonna spoof me, at least throw a liberturd and a dumbfuck in there.

    Better yet

    Get a life, you jackwad!

  • ||

    Time to create one more agency: The Bureau of Sabotage

  • Almanian||

    This article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. Please help rewrite it to explain the fiction more clearly and provide non-fictional perspective. (October 2009)

    I'm not so sure about that, Wikipedia....:)

  • Brett L||

    Based on the way our current system runs, I am not altogether sure it doesn't exist already.

  • ||

    BuSab should be the fourth branch of government. Their only power would be to invalidate as many laws as possible. If they invalidated something essential, it could be passed into law again. How many shitty laws do we have that couldn't pass a second time?

    In Whipping Star the Universe may come to an end because of an entity called Fannie Mae. Science fiction or future prediction? You decide.

  • sevo||

    How'd you get permission to use that image? Watterson's pretty tight with outside use.

  • Jeremy H.||

    They didn't use the image. They *duplicated* it!

  • baseball hats||

    I really liked your article and I shared with my friends in my facebook account.welcome visit us.baseball hats

  • Corey||

    Serious question, guys: is "duplication" per se necessarily a bad thing? If competition among private firms tends to reduce costs and improve quality, shouldn't we expect competing bureaucracies to have similar results? I realize that federal bureaucracies don't really "compete" in the same sense that private firms do, but should we really be arguing for centralizing power within one monopoly bureaucracy?

    It seems to me that we'd be better off with a good deal more duplication, if we could structure government in such a manner that the bureaucracies actually have to compete with one another. In the context of the American federal government, maybe this means devolving more and more power to the state level. I'm not sure exactly what bureaucratic competition would look like (or rather, how to achieve it) at the federal level. Any thoughts? Am I missing something blatantly obvious here?

  • NotSure||

    It would not work because the government would never shut down the bureau that is under performing compared to the other one. It would at best shutdown the bad one and move all the workers to the other one. As recent news shows the core requirement for government bureaucracy is not efficiency or profit but to ensure that people keep their jobs there.

  • ||

    Isn't there any duplication in Congress? I mean, do we really need two senators from each state?

  • ||

    haha, love the calvin pic.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement