NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Still Plenty Of Discretionary Fat In The Budget

April 28, 1997

Budget negotiators have focused on entitlement programs while largely leaving unnoticed the billions of dollars the government wastes on discretionary spending programs to perform services it does not need to or that private businesses are already doing for much less.

  • The government provides weather forecasting through the National Weather Service.
  • Yet, according to the Commercial Weather Service Association, more than 300 private businesses provide weather forecasting services and more than 85 percent of national forecasts are provided by these commercial companies.
  • Though the Economic Development Administration (EDA) spends almost $3.5 million annually to boost employment, the General Accounting Office (GAO) has concluded that EDA's efforts have had a limited "positive economic effect."
  • The Agency for International Development (AID) spends billions of dollars annually ($6 billion approved in 1996) on world aid, yet audits and independent studies show AID has done little to help impoverished countries.
  • According to AID, 70 percent of its funds never reach impoverished countries, with most funds being siphoned off by the development industry.
  • According to Ben Barber of the Washington Times, most AID money in 1995 went to inside-the-Beltway consulting firms employing former AID employees that only did business with AID.

There are hundreds of other such discretionary spending programs costing the taxpayer billions of dollars annually. Many of these may be found in a new book published by the Heritage Foundation, "Balancing America's Budget."

Source: Donald Lambro (Washington Times), "Taking Aim at Discretionary Spending," Washington Times, April 28, 1997.


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