Lankford Brings Government Waste Report to the Senate Floor
Lankford: “At some point this body will be serious about dealing with debt and deficit, but apparently we're not yet.”
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s floor speech on YouTube.
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s floor speech on Rumble.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today brought this week’s release of volume 6 of his government waste report, Federal Fumbles: Ways the government dropped the ball, to those who need to hear about it most: the US Senate. Lankford spoke about specific examples of waste from the report and about his frustration that some in Congress talk about debt and some of the big decisions we face for long-term solvency of several major federal programs, but most are not willing to actually address it.
Lankford’s sixth volume contains examples of $10.5 trillion in wasteful federal spending as well as solutions to address it. Lankford’s report points to the almost $2 trillion in so-called “COVID relief,’ which he opposed when it passed in March 2021, that led to our skyrocketing 8.5 percent inflation, countless employment shortages, and supply-chain delays. Lankford called out earmarks, which he opposes, and cited in the report several jaw-dropping examples of “pork” in the most recent bloated spending bill he opposed in March. Lankford’s report highlights waste, fraud, and abuse in programs Oklahomans depend on like Social Security and Medicare as well as waste and mismanagement in the Highway Trust Fund.
About six years ago I came to this floor and presented an idea. How do we get on top of our debt and deficit? Are we going to get on top of our debt and deficit? Interestingly enough, for each of us and our own families, we can all tell a story about a season in our life where we really hit hard times. I've had several where the money was really tight and our family was very attentive to what we were spending. Very. Those moments when we would literally make sure that every time we went to the grocery store, we only spent this much because we knew we had an electric bill coming in, we knew we had our rent coming due. My family’s most definitely been there.
My wife and I when we first married, we had a rule that we couldn't ever spend more than $25 without the other person knowing it because our fear was when we were first married that one of us would spend $30 and the other would spend $35 that day, and we would blow up our bank account because we were living that close to the edge and just getting by while I was in school and we were just getting started. A lot of families have been that way.
But you can tell how serious a family is about them dealing with their debt by how seriously they take their expenses. There's some individuals that have massive debt that still keep running up their credit card. They still keep buying more and more product. They still use their credit card and go get additional electronics and go get more stuff and thinking, ‘I will max out this card and then max out another one,’ not with essentials, just with fun, not paying attention to the fact that someday that comes due.
When I started presenting the idea of Federal Fumbles, my whole concept was simple, where is it the federal government's dropping the ball? That we are not paying attention to the areas we need to be able to pay attention to in our spending. It is a well-known fact that we have trillions in debt. In fact, as a nation, we have now crossed $30 trillion in total debt—30 trillion.
But it's interesting the conversation doesn't seem to be serious. We don't seem to be in a dialogue about how we're going to actually try to bring our debt down. We're still spending on other things and still saying not we're limited in what we can do, we seem to be adding more to the mix. It's not necessarily on essential things. It just seems to be on things.
The Federal Fumbles book that I released this week and put on our website just details of several different items. One is: where are we on our debt and how did we get here? But I also walk through some of the trust funds on this because I think it's important. Where are we on Medicare trust fund? By the way, we're four years away from insolvency on Medicare—four years. Where are we on Social Security? We're 12 years away from insolvency in Social Security—12. Where are we on the Highway Trust Fund? We're well past insolvency on the Highway Trust Fund and we've been accelerating borrowing to cover more and more, in fact, that was don't even recently.
I laid out a set of ideas of how do you actually solve some of these and how to address it, but I also laid out some of my frustrations that said, ‘At some point this body will be serious about dealing with debt and deficit, but apparently we're not yet.’ And so I laid out some areas and just got a chance to be able to talk through some of those in the book. And I encourage folks to be able to look at the book. And quite frankly, everyone’s free to disagree with me on it. But I laid out some of these issues.
For instance, we spent $2 billion—billion with a ‘b’—we spent $2 billion this last year not building the border wall. The contracts had already been let out, the steel was already purchased. The steel, in fact, is laying on the ground still today. Everyone was already hired, and there were literally individuals on the ground ready to do installation because the contractor was there because career professionals at the Department of Homeland Security had made recommendations on certain areas of our southern border that desperately needed fencing. And so those career professionals had worked with contractors and had a contract in place to be able to put fencing in those areas. And they were under way until the Biden Administration stepped in on day one and stopped it all. Though the contracts had already been let out.
We spent $2 billion not building border fencing—$2 billion. Now, I asked the simple question: what would it have hurt to go ahead and finish those contracts out that career professionals had signed off on and that career secure individuals from the Department of Homeland Security had said was desperately needed in those areas? What would it have hurt to finish those contracts out? But instead we sent messaging that we're not going to build a fence and spend $2 billion not to doing that. What did we do instead? Well, we started doing robot dogs along the border instead. I wish I was kidding. These robot dogs would instead be hired to help border folks and border patrol and CBP to be able to help identify and carry things. So instead of border fencing, it's robot dogs that are now being contracted to be able to put in there. What else did we actually deal with? Well, of the trillions of dollars of debt, recently we put $2.6 million into China to help pay for some of their health programs.
Now, follow the irony of this. We actually borrow a trillion dollars from China to pay our bills so we borrowed money from China to be able to be able to then send money to China help pay their medical expenses. Does anyone else think this is a bad idea, that if we were serious about dealing with debt and deficit, we would start going line by line through all of this and be able to identify, maybe this is not a good idea if we have $30 trillion in debt, maybe we could cut back in some areas. We could cut back on that, or maybe cut back on the grant that was given out to write about Russian screen writers that we actually paid someone to do research on Russian screenwriters to be able to release this project out so that people could study Russian directors and screenwriters.
Again, I'm fine if anybody wants to be able to do that, but my concern is, if we’re going to do this, it should probably be a private project that we release out, not have a federal government project when we're dealing with $30 trillion in debt. But what else did we do with our additional money while we’re having just extra spending and time on this? How about lobster pot removal. Yep, we spent half-a-million dollars in a special earmark to do lobster pot removal. Now, initially, this was listed in the bill as derelict lobster pots—derelict lobster pots. That sounds really ominous, doesn’t it? My understanding is it’s just lobster traps that are just out there that someone abandoned at some point. I would tell you, for those of us in Oklahoma, if you told me there was a lobster trap and there may be a lobster in it and you could keep the trap and the lobster if you want to go get it, we would go get it. Instead, we are paying a half million dollars in federal dollars to pick up derelict lobster pots. Now, again I would say to you, in Oklahoma when we have a derelict well in Oklahoma, an oil and gas well, our oil and gas companies all pool money together and put a little bit in to be able to go clean that site up, and year by year we're cleaning up abandoned well sites because our companies actually kick the money in to go clean up their own messes that are out there.
I don't understand how the state didn't do this or a city didn't do this, or the industry didn't take it on. Now, I do have some frustration because there was some money set aside for parks as well. I'm a big fan of parks. My kids go to the park. We're glad to be able to go to the park. I went to the park a lot around it, but there was a project at $2.3 million in federal money to be able to renovate a pool—swimming pool in Rhode Island.
Now I'm not opposed to swimming pools and I'm not opposed to Rhode Island having swimming pools. I'm just trying to figure out with federal dollars why the federal government is paying to fix a swimming pool in Rhode Island. Shouldn't this be the state of Rhode Island if it's a state park? Shouldn't it be the state or the community or the city to be able to take this on? Cities in my state, if they have problems with their pool. The city pays to be able to fix the pool or the community pays to be able to do that rather than the federal taxpayers pay to do it.
With the same issue, actually, with the ski jump. That there was a state park that needed a renovation for a ski jump. And so instead of the state actually paying for their state park. People in my state are paying for our state park and we're paying to fix the ski jump in this state park as well. Why are we paying for both? Why don't the people of Oklahoma pay for our state parks and the people in other states pay for their state parks? Again, I have nothing in opposition to ski jumping other than that. Seems like a particularly terrible thing for me to do. But if somebody wants to be able to do it and they want to pay for that, that's fine. Just why should Oklahoma taxpayers do that?
As we were digging through the different pieces that were actually done, I would tell you it was painful the moment when we ran across the monkey opera. We spent federal tax dollars on something called a monkey opera. Now. I'm not sure why we spent federal tax dollars on a monkey opera. I'm not sure what a monkey opera sounds like. But I would tell you, I think I've listened to a monkey opera on people's at hold music before when I've called certain companies that I think the whole music they have was actually monkey opera. But I have to ask the hard question, is this national defense? Is this educating our children? Is this health care? With $30 trillion in debt, at some point, we as a nation have to stop and say, ‘okay, let's do what's essential. And not what's not.’
Two weeks ago, a staff member called me and said she was in line at the grocery store. And the woman in front of her with her kids pulled out all the stuff in her basket and put it on the scanner area and said to the lady that was going to be the cashier, ‘Hey, tell me when it gets to $150 because I can't spend any more. That's all I have. And so the cashier kept ringing things up. She held things back that she thought were the nonessentials at the end because she knew, this is all I have. And though I'd like to get more. I can't.
It sent me two messages. One is, every family knows how to do this. Why we can't as a federal government look at it and say with $30 trillion, maybe the monkey opera is not one of our essentials. I don't know. But the second thing it reminded me of is: every family is dealing with the real effects of inflation right now. It's very real for them. They're saying to the cashier at the grocery store, ‘tell me when it gets to this dollar amount, because that's all I have’ When we continue to spend more and more and more as the federal government. It drives inflation higher and higher. I am very aware there are a lot of folks in this room that are just trying to help. But we're causing real problems with inflation, with overspending as a nation. That's got to pull back.
And we've got to get serious about what we're spending on because this kind of stuff drives the American people crazy when they're saying to the cashier, ‘I can only do $150. Please tell me when it gets there, because everything else I can't do today.’
And we borrowed more money from China so we could do this. We put out the Federal Fumbles book every year for one reason. I want to remind everybody in this body that debt is still a problem. This is still an issue. Wasteful spending, whether it's in the billions or whether it's in the thousands—is wasteful spending. And at the end of the day. We need to understand the American people are counting on us to make hard decisions, and there are lots and lots of hard decisions. But currently as a body, we're not even discussing 30 trillion in debt. So I bring it to us again. We have $30 trillion in debt. Let's start working on this.
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