NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 4, 2006

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has proposed creating an Internet database that would track hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts, grants and other payments.  Though not as comprehensive as the database Coburn proposes, there are already tools available online to unearth wasteful spending, says Chris Edwards, director of tax policy at the Cato Institute.

The Federal Assistance Award Data System provides state-by-state reports listing the recipients of subsidies from 600 federal programs.  The most recent FAADS report for California lists thousands of grants, loans, and other federal payments for motels, fast food franchises, and other companies.

  • One guaranteed loan program for small businesses provided $1.5 million to a liquor store in Los Angeles, $1.4 million to a car wash in Anaheim and $1.1 million to a pizza parlor in Hayward.
  • The California report also lists thousands of subsidies to non-profit groups, including the Wine Institute ($1.5 million), the San Francisco Symphony ($50,000), the California Strawberry Commission ($227,000) and the International Museum of Women ($298,000).

Another website is the Federal Audit Clearinghouse.  FAC provides audit reports for state and local governments and nonprofit groups that receive federal subsidies.

  • It tells us, for example, that Palm Beach County received $109 million in federal grants in 2004 for 53 programs including "citizen corps," "rural business," "nutrition services," "job access reverse commute," "bulletproof vest partnership" and "outdoor recreation."
  • FAC reveals that many groups with agendas opposed to taxpayer interests receive federal funding; the American Association of Retired Persons -- which fights to preserve the tax-and-spend Social Security system -- received $82 million from federal taxpayers in 2004; the Teamsters, the American Federation of Teachers, and other unions receive millions of dollars in federal subsidies as well.

Coburn has the right idea, says Edwards: in order to cut wasteful spending, we need average citizens to become more involved in monitoring budgeting decisions. 

Source: Chris Edwards, "Government Waste Disclosure," American Spectator, August 4, 2006.

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