Waste and Abuse

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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32 Responses

  1. superluminar says:

    Jason, don’t really have anything to add (agree with your post FWIW), but just wanted to say I hope this doesn’t impact too badly upon your husband, I trully am sorry about my assholish response the first time round. Am I wrong though in thinking this budgetry provision has been sorted?Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to superluminar says:

      It had no impact at all on him.  NASA’s budget wasn’t in the bill that was held up, but was approved earlier.

      As to the previous discussion, I confess I’d forgotten your stance entirely.  I’m not sure if that makes me a good person, or a bad one.Report

      • superluminar in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Well I guess that makes us both good liberals, albeit on different sides of the economic fence, as I have to admit to not having a disimilar stance to you, but rather being uncharitble towards your domestic situation as a result of crude politics.Report

  2. Scott says:


    Waste is easy to find, namely at the UN, Corp for public broadcasting, NLRB, etc. Here is another fine example, EPA funding dance classes.


    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

      I am not denying that waste exists elsewhere.  It certainly does.  The Corporation for Public Broadcasting wastes an appalling .01% of the entire federal budget, for example, and on this I agree with you.

      I am only suggesting one other source of waste, a source that ought to concern anyone who is genuinely concerned with the problem.


    • Liberty60 in reply to Scott says:

      Zero out every one of those programs you listed, and tell us what percentage of the federal budget you have reduced.

      Without even Googling, I will bet it is equal to a rounding error in the Pentagon budget.

      It might, in a good year, equal one planeload of shrink wrapped bricks of C-notes we carpet bombed Iraq with.Report

      • Scott in reply to Liberty60 says:


        Did I ever claim that getting rid of waste would fix everything, no I never did. Just b/c getting rid of some crappy programs may not save that much is not a reason to let waste continue.  The point was that waste is easy to find, despite liberals’ claims that everything the gov’t does is vital.Report

        • Liberty60 in reply to Scott says:

          Speaking on behalf of liberals everywhere, I will grant that there is a tremendous amount of wastefraudandabuse in the governemtn, at all levels.

          Trouble is, your “waste” is another person’s “vital important job creating program’.

          Every penny of the 3.8 Trillion dollars that we will spend this year is overseen by the vigilant hawk eyes of some lobby or trade group or another.

          On another post someone (was it you?) wrote a line about how the Republicans under GWB “spend like Democrats”- I had to laugh- when did Republicans ever spend like Republicans? When the Lindy Hop was popular?

          I began political life as an enthusiastic Reagan Republican, but by the end of GHWB’s term I was disillusioned by the massive increase in spending, and by the Clinton years I realized the conservatives- not Republicans- but the conservative movement, root, branch, and flower  is utterly insincere about “fiscal conservatism”.

          It is the business community, the GOP funders and shot-callers, not the welfare mothers, who demand massive government spending.Report

  3. Renee says:


    Even in the past when congress actually passed real budgets (which it hasn’t for going on 3 years), it has never in my government service passed them before the start of the fiscal year.  Many agencies have 6-7 months to try and squeeze through any meaningful purchases.  Which can be problematic given the burdensome acquisition rules within the government (which exist for good reasons – but they cause a huge double bind because of the time issue).  Classic Double Bind.

    There are many reasons for the ridiculous amount of administrative staff at most gov agencies, but I think you nailed a huge one.  Playing money games is the only way agencies can survive, so it makes sense for them to have many bright folks in DC to lobby for funds in the ambiguous CR world — even at the expense of people carrying out the agencies’ missions.  (Of course, less people doing the mission means the mission suffers which is a good excuse to get more funding … wash and repeat).



  4. b-psycho says:

    Ask a Republican where to cut the federal budget, and he will likely say foreign aid.

    Then, show him a nice, easy to understand graph of how spending actually breaks down and ask him again, and he will likely say _______?


    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to b-psycho says:

      Foreign aid.Report

      • Just checking.  I already know the talk about spending cuts is hollow.  Reason why is spending is thought of by most (not just most conservatives, but most people) in terms best summarized as “spending on ME and people like ME = good, spending on others is evil”.  It’s cynicism and hypocrisy as consistency.Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to b-psycho says:

          I wrote about the topic a while ago, actually.  Not sure if you saw it:

          “Years ago, I read that Americans on average thought we spent something like a quarter of our budget on foreign aid. It was a ridiculous overestimate, both then and now, and I figured the number of misinformed people would have to have declined since then. Hasn’t American ignorance on this very subject become sort of proverbial?

          “Apparently not. As of last month, Americans still say that we spend about 25% on foreign aid. Incredibly, the average suggestion is to lower foreign aid to a mere 10% of our budget.

          “The real amount we spend on foreign aid? 0.6%.

          “Clearly, then, it’s not enough. But just you try running on a pro-foreign aid platform. Yeah, that’s a winner.

          “Personally, I’d stop spending even that .6%. But I’m under no illusions that it would balance the budget. We’d have to cut spending on entitlements and the military to make real any headway on that.”


      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Well done.Report

    • Scott in reply to b-psycho says:


      Probably something about entitlements which will cause Dems to accuse them of wanting to kill the poor, old, young, etc. You have to start with some program somewhere. Don’t forget it was Repubs that got rid of the practice of delivering ice to each member of congress. Sure it only cost 400k a year but it was still waste. I rember thinking as much when I would see those buckets in the hallway full of water after the ice melted.Report

  5. Koz says:

    “Shutdown threats are wasteful.”

    Wasteful or not, shutdown scenarios are inevitable, and to my mind you can throw in the similar types of brinksmanship negotiations like the debt limit drama and the sovereign debt bailouts in Europe.

    One thing I have tried to emphasize is that the divide between Team Red and Team Blue isn’t just about what whatever is being contested today. It’s also about who created the lay of the land that we’re all standing on.

    Or to be a little bit reductive, there are ideological endpoints: they believe in fairness and equity, we believe in excellence and justice. Most people have internalized that already. But it’s becoming clear that a lot of today’s ideological battle isn’t necessarily about that, it’s about process. In addition to ideological endpoints, there’s also ideological process: they believe in entanglement, we believe in engagement. They won. Shtt is entangled.

    As a variety of pressures are put on various elements of an entangled system, there is going to be brinksmanship, escalation, and chicken-games.

    Therefore if you are supporting or enabling Team Blue, you are not just supporting high taxes on the rich or protection for endangered species or whatever your ideological commitments happen to be. You are also supporting debt limit showdowns, Euro sovereign debt crises, and the rest of it.

    That’s something left-leaning libertarians ought to know better about, but at least to a first glance they don’t.Report

  6. DensityDuck says:

    Ask your husband to explain how SpaceX can build a rocket for half as much as NASA.  Then get back to me on how “waste” is a meaningless term for a nonexistent problem that’s just Republican rhetoric.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Heh.   A camel is a horse designed to MILSPEC.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Knowing actually quite a lot about both SpaceX and NASA (the founder of the X-Prize used to work for an Idealab operating company, and many of his first employees are friends of mine… and on the flip side, I know more than a few people that work at JPL) I’m inclined to…

      Hey, I have a better idea.  I’ll write a full-length post on this.  More later.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

      You could try asking him yourself.  He reads and also blogs here, you know.

      How bout this — you ask him directly, right after you admit that I didn’t say that government waste is “a meaningless term for a nonexistent problem.”

      I’ll give you this, though, in the hands of Republicans, it’s most certainly just rhetoric.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        So…waste is important, but not when Republicans talk about it, because they’re big fat lying liars who lie about everything.  So it’s wrong for a Republican to say that waste is important, because they mean something other than waste, and are wrong about that something and are therefore wrong about waste, even though waste is important when it isn’t Republicans talking about it.Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

          So…waste is important, but not when Republicans talk about it, because…

          …because inevitably, when Republicans talk about waste, they are talking about tiny, merely symbolic things (like foreign aid, or NASA) that will have no real impact on the budget deficit.

          So it’s wrong for a Republican to say that waste is important, because…

          …because the things they identify in this category are always, always, always tiny.  Wasteful, perhaps, but not worth the effort when there are so much bigger fish to fry.