Senator Lankford Discusses Federal Fumbles on the Senate Floor
CLICK HERE to view the video
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor about the third volume of Federal Fumbles: 100 ways the government dropped the ball. Lankford’s annual government waste and solutions report list $473.6 billion in wasteful and inefficient federal spending, but also lists solutions to each of the examples of government waste. Lankford released the report on Monday during a press conference. CLICK HERE to access the report.
The current United States federal debt is $20.49 trillion. The one-year deficit for Fiscal Year 2017 was $666 billion.
On the need to address the federal deficit:
I want to be able to address this body to talk about an issue that we don’t talk about enough, the deficit. It’s an issue for whatever reason we’ve stopped talking about in Washington, DC. We’re talking about tax policy, as we should. We’re talking about disaster relief areas, which we should. Talking about healthcare policies, which we should. A lot of other things. We have stopped talking about debt and deficit. I think that’s a mistake for us. See, as the trend has moved, since 2011, at a high point when the deficit spending that year was $1.3 trillion in overspending in a single year. Since that point, deficits have gone down a little bit each year until 2015. In 2016, our deficit number, that’s a single year overspending, started going back up. It went up in 2016. It went up again in 2017. [We are] turning the wrong direction. As you will recall and as many people in this body would recall, deficits were a major topic for us starting in 2010. And each year, Congress was trying to find ways to be able to reduce the deficit. That doesn’t seem to be the issue anymore.
On the need to reform the budget process:
There is no problem in this country that can’t be solved, and certainly, our deficit is an issue that can’t be solved. It’s going to have a decision made by each of us that this is actually important and we’re going to try to resolve this and try to get us back toward balance. …. If we’re going to actually deal with some of the budget issues, we’re going to have to actually deal with the budget process. We’re not going to get a better product until we get a better process. Since 1974, the Budget Act has only worked four times. Four times. And every year, the American people say over and over again what just happened? How come we’re back in this budget fight? How come it’s at the end of the year? How come it’s not resolved? Because we have a bad process, that’s why. Our process is not constitutional. It’s the product of the law that was put in the Budget Act. We need to be able to change that. I think there are some basic ways to be able to resolve that. I like to do budgeting and appropriations every two years. That would give us more time to be able to do more oversight. That would give us more time to do floor debate on it to walk through this. There are multiple areas that need to be resolved, like aligning our committees. There are things that need to be done if we’re actually going to get budget work done.
On Lankford’s transparency bill, Taxpayers Right to Know Act:
We have got to work on transparency. I’m ashamed to say for six years I have pushed on a very simple bill called the Taxpayers Right to Know [Act]. It has passed unanimously in the House two different years. It comes over to the Senate, and it gets tied up. The Taxpayers Right to Know [Act] is very simple. It asks every agency to list everything they do. What a shocking thing that would be, to actually know everything that every agency does. To be able to see what they do, what they spend on it, how many employees they allocate to it, and how many people they serve. Every business in America can give you a list of everything that they do except for the federal government. We cannot. We should. It would give the opportunity for agency heads to find out before they start a program to know if someone else already does it in the federal government. I’ve talked to multiple agency individuals now under two different presidents that had said they started a program, got it developed, committed people to it, and then a couple of months or years later determined somebody else is already doing it. Even our agency folks don’t know what the other agencies are doing. This should be a simple, straightforward solution to be able to help our agencies and to be able to help all of us do greater supervision over the budget.
Examples of waste in the report:
The National Science Foundation did a grant this past year to study the effect and how things are going for refugees in Iceland. Now, I’m sure the country of Iceland would like to know how it’s going for their refugees and maybe even the UN would like to know, but I’m a little stunned that the National Science Foundation used American tax dollars to study refugees in Iceland.
The National Endowment for the Arts did a grant this past year to help pay for a local community theater in New Hampshire and their performance of “Doggie Hamlet.” “Doggie Hamlet” is an outdoor presentation where a group of people are yelling and singing around a group of sheep and sheepdogs in an outdoor performance. Now, I have watched the performance. I look at the performance and think that’s fine if the folks of New Hampshire want to do that performance. I’m not sure why the people of Oklahoma are forced, through their federal tax dollars, to pay for the production of “Doggie Hamlet.”
The Department of Defense, last year, moved some equipment into Kuwait to be able to give to the Iraqi army, a billion dollars’ worth of equipment into Kuwait to give to the Iraqi army—Humvees, small arms, mortars. All that’s fine. We are helping equip the Iraqi army to allow them to be able to defend themselves. The problem becomes we lost track of them somewhere between Kuwait and Iraq. And the DOD doesn’t know what happened to a billion dollars of equipment after it was delivered to Kuwait.
The IRS has had multiple issues that we tried to identify in different segments of this. One is several years ago, we noticed that the IRS was rehiring employees that they had fired, employees that weren’t paying their income tax but were working for the IRS or employees that were using their position to spy on other Americans and pull up their tax information just because of their own interests. Well, it’s a fireable offense of the IRS, and it should be, to be able to violate some Americans’ privacy, but the problem is the IRS has started rehiring those same people right back. I don’t know of many companies that fire somebody, then later decide they will change their mind and rehire them, but apparently, the IRS has become proficient at that. We identified it several years ago. The IRS said they would stop it. We checked on that last year. Guess what? The IRS is still doing it, rehiring employees they have fired, some of them even with their file stamped do not hire. Hired them anyway. We have got to be able to stop that.