Senator Lankford Discusses Fourth Volume of Federal Fumbles on Senate Floor

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) discussed the fourth volume of his annual federal government waste book, Federal Fumbles: Ways the federal government dropped the ball on the Senate floor. Lankford highlighted several key topics featured in Federal Fumbles, Vol. 4.

CLICK HERE for a summary of the report.

Video Excerpts

On putting our debt in perspective

(Starts at 00:00) Mr. President, the number 22 trillion should matter to us. Twenty-two trillion: that’s our current debt number in the United States. Not to be confused, we have debts and we have deficits. Deficit you’ll hear sometimes those names get thrown around together, but deficit is the amount of single-year overspending in a year—one year overspending. Debt is the collection of all of those deficits. Our current debt: $22 trillion as a nation. To give you a perspective on 22 trillion, if you were to take 22 trillion miles, just total distance—22 trillion miles, you would fly from Earth, to Pluto, and back 3,081 times. From Earth, to Pluto, and back 3,081 times to get to 22 trillion miles. This is a heavy debt.

The time needed to pay off our nation’s “mortgage”

(Starts at 1:25) If we were to balance our budget, which we are way out of balance right now, but if we were to balance our budget and then have a $100 billion surplus—so let’s just say by next year we’re balanced, $100 billion surplus. That would be a very large surplus for us. If we had a $100 billion surplus, how many years would it take of a $100 billion surplus in total revenue to be able to pay off 22 trillion? The quick math of that is 220 years—approximately as long as we have been a republic. If we did that every single year for the next 220 years—had a $100 billion surplus—we could pay off our mortgage.

On Federal Fumbles, Volume 4

(Starts at 5:47) Each year, for the last four years, my office has released something we call, Federal Fumbles. It’s ways that we believe the federal government has dropped the ball. And each year we take different areas. Over the last four years, we have identified over $800 billion in ways that we could save the federal tax dollars.

“Taxpayers Have the Right To Know” (Page 20 of Federal Fumbles)

(Starts at 11:11) We lay out some bills that are out there that we’ve proposed. One called the Taxpayers Right-To-Know. We don’t have great transparency in our spending. If the taxpayer wanted to go find out how many government programs there were that were similar in function, they couldn’t get it. The hard part is: we can’t get it as Congress either. The only way that we can get a programmatic list or to go through the details of different programs from different agencies, is to make a request of an entity called the GAO. Usually between 12 and 18 months later, they will give us a report back—just to say what programs are out there and what those programs do. I’ve met multiple times with the director of GAO, with a bill proposal called the Taxpayers Right-To-Know, a bill that passed the Houses of Representatives last session unanimously—unanimously—and has come to the Senate and stalled. This bill does something very simple: it tells lawmakers and taxpayers what their government actually does. It’s not trying to hide anything. It’s trying to list every program that we do. How much we spend on that program. If it’s evaluated, how it’s evaluated. How many employees are dedicated to it. There is no gimmicks to it. It’s just that simple. It’s transparency. The great gift to our democracy is transparency.

On grants (Page 21 and 22 of Federal Fumbles)

(Starts at 14:12) Last year, the National Endowment for Humanities did a grant to a California professor to use federal tax dollars to study Soviet winemaking—not current Russian winemaking, historic Soviet winemaking—with federal grant dollars. Now I can kind of understand why California winemakers may want to be able to do a study of Soviet winemaking for some reason, but why is the federal tax payer being asked to pay for a study on Soviet winemaking? But we did. Since 2001, we have a federal grant that for a mariachi program in California. Now I kind of understand how a successful mariachi program working with children and youth may be something we would do for a couple years to get started as a community program, makes total sense. But we’ve done it every year since 2001. At some point shouldn’t the local entities pick that up? Why is that a federal program that has to be done year after year after year?

“$30 Million: Where’d IT go?” (Page 40 of Federal Fumbles)

(Starts at 17:39) We dug into small programs—for instance an IT development program for veterans in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Because if you’re in the veterans’ service center in Muskogee, they are one of the largest veterans’ service centers in the country. You handle a lot of different documents. And as you go through that process for those great employees that are there and there are some really solid people that are there, they have to log-in multiple times and use a whole list of work-arounds in their system that bogs down. Each employee there spends 45 minutes a day just going through the logistics of logging in and changing around their system to make it work—forty-five minutes a day of lost productivity in every single person there. Well the good news is Congress allocated $30 million to be able to fix their IT problems there. The bad news is, it’s still there. So we’re asking the simple question, ‘Where’d that money go?’ How come the problem wasn’t fixed? 

On solutions for the issues raised in Federal Fumbles

(Starts at 18:47) We tried to lay out page after page, sets of solutions—things that we see as problems and inefficiencies in the way our government is working, the way our congress is working, and to be able to establish, what can be done. Our goal is simple: laying out Federal Fumbles is a to do list for us. This is what we’re working on right now. Along with a lot of other issues. And we encourage every office to be able to glance through it. Ask your staff to be able to glance through and see the things that they’re working on in their office and see if we’re not laying out some ideas, and let’s find ways to work together. Of all things that we can do, that we should be able to agree on, we should be able to agree $22 trillion in debt needs to be addressed.

On how long it will take to pay our current level of debt

(Starts at 19:45) We met in a bipartisan group last year—eight Republicans, eight Democrats—trying to solve this issue on budgeting, unfortunately, unsuccessfully. But the Congressional Budget Office came and visited with us, and we asked them a very specific question. Our current level of debt, if we are to just try to stay at our current level of debt, not grow anymore, not get any worse—our current level of debt—how much would we have to tax or cut to be able to stay at our current level of debt? Their response was $400 billion a year, every year for the next 30 years…That’s because as CBO stated, federal outlays—that’s how much we’re spending—are projected to climb from 20.8 percent of GDP In 2019 to 23 percent by 2029. The aging of the population, the rising healthcare costs contributes significantly to the growth of spending for the major benefit programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, and the rising debt and higher interest rates drive up the federal government’s net interest cost. We’ve reached a tipping point in interest. Our interest payments last year: $325 billion just in interest on our debt. CBO estimates within ten years our interest payments alone will be $928 billion. We’ve crossed over that tipping point we talked about before. Now just to stay status quo, because of the rising interest rates and interest payments, we have to find $400 billion a year every year in new taxes or new cuts just to stay where we are.