The federal government wastes at least $247 billion in taxpayer money each year. Here’s how

Personal finance

The U.S. government wastes billions of taxpayer dollars every year.

Improper payments, which refer to payments that are made incorrectly by the government, cost the U.S. $247 billion in 2022, according to the Government Accountability Office. The U.S. government has lost almost $2.4 trillion in simple payment errors over the last two decades, by GAO estimates.

“The government has just lost, as if you dropped it on the sidewalk, trillions and trillions of dollars over the last few decades,” said Richard Stern, a budget and spending expert from the Heritage Foundation. “That is money that was stolen from hardworking Americans to just simply get wasted.”

But that’s not all. Oversight reports from nonprofits and lawmakers like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., claim billions more are being wasted every year — from spending $1.7 billion maintaining empty government buildings to accidentally investing $28 million on forest camouflage uniforms to be used in the deserts of Afghanistan.

Duplicated programs are another cause for concern.

“The Government Accountability Office every year issues a report on duplicative and overlapping programs and every year they find more and more of these programs,” according to Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

The problems mainly stem from the way our government tries to solve an issue, according to critics.

“In the private sector, if somebody is doing something, they see what they’re trying to do or sell and then determine how to do it and how much it will cost,” Schatz said. “In the federal government, everything is ‘Go spend more money’ and if that doesn’t work, it’s ‘Go spend more money.'”

It’s the job of the GAO to audit and report any wasteful spending by the federal government. But experts argue that it doesn’t influence policy changes in the way that it could or should.

“I think they have enough power, but I don’t think they have enough manpower or resources,” said Elaine Karmarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Nevertheless, wasteful spending by the government can have painful consequences to the health of the economy, according to watchdog groups.

“As the government spends it runs up a deficit,” Stern said. “What happens is, it’s sucking all the oxygen out of the room. It’s destroying investment. It’s mortgaging our futures. It’s slowing our growth. Today, the inflation you’re seeing is a large result of that.”

Watch the video to find out more about why taxes feel so high in the U.S. and why so much taxpayer money gets wasted.

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