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Trump Gets High Praise from Wasteful Spending Critics

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Opponents of federal waste and questionable spending policies have seized on President Donald Trump’s latest executive branch expense cuts as a good first step to bringing fiscal restraint to Washington.

Last year Trump signed an executive order to cut federal government waste and encourage executive-level agencies to provide services more efficiently and at reduced costs. And in October, Trump called on Cabinet secretaries to outline ways to make 5 percent budget cuts as the federal deficit continued to edge upward.

A recent opinion article in The Hill by government transparency advocates Adam Andrzejewski and former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn called on Trump and Congress to make questionable federal spending a key issue facing the nation.

The federal debt grew three-fold during the previous two administrations, Andrzejewski and Coburn wrote, with the debt reaching just under $20 trillion at the end of Barack Obama’s term in office.

“Everyone can agree that misallocating tax dollars for activities that produce no benefit keeps tax rates artificially high and deprives investors and innovators of scarce capital,” they wrote in the opinion piece.

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Of the more than $600 billion in federal government grants allocated in 2017, according to Andrzejewski and Coburn, $1 million went toward preparing religious faiths for the possibility of extraterrestrial life being discovered. And $2.5 million funded a children’s cartoon called “Space Racers,” while $1.4 million provided sex education to prostitutes in California.

Andrzejewski, the CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com, a group that posts government spending figures online, said federal government waste and mismanagement have not improved since a commission headed by J. Peter Grace cataloged the problem in the 1980s.

“We find the federal government spending irresponsibly nearly everywhere we look,” Andrzejewski told Watchdog.org in an email. “Along with our open letter to President Donald Trump urging him to wage war on federal waste, we published 100 examples of federal taxpayer abuse — and those examples are the tip of the iceberg.”

The federal government needs to take a three-pronged approach to root out federal waste and fraud, he said. Trump should cut White House expenditures by 10 percent, post-White House expenditures on the Web in real time, and then report on how the effort is serving taxpayers, according to Andrzejewski.

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Trump’s efforts to cut federal expenses have already begun to pay off, he said. The president has led by example by reducing the White House payroll by one-fifth, according to Andrzejewski, and he is on course to save $22 million in tax dollars for White House staff outlays during his term.

“Our auditors found the leaner White House payroll is roughly 100 employees smaller than Obama’s staff at the same point in his administration,” he said. “Cabinet secretaries should follow Trump’s lead on this and do more with less.”

Congressional Democrats have criticized the Republican tax cuts, saying they have cut federal revenues and have led to a widening federal deficit. But Andrzejewski and other spending critics don’t blame tax cuts for Washington’s fiscal problems. Instead, they tend to blame big spenders in Congress.

“The president has good policy on tax cuts, eliminating burdensome regulations, foreign policy and choosing constitutional judges,” he said. “On spending, the president needed a path forward. The Republican Congress continues to pass increasingly large budgets, and therefore the national debt is at a pressing urgency.”

Andrzejewski’s views were shared by Thomas Schatz, president of the Washington-based Citizens Against Government Waste, who noted that federal departments such as Interior, Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency were all making strides at reorganizing.

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“The administration is doing as much as it can under its own authority to reduce the size and scope and power of federal agencies,” Schatz told Watchdog.org. “… It is an opportunity we have not had in a very long time to help the executive branch become more effective and efficient.”

CAGW, which publishes an annual review of options to cut the federal debt called “Prime Cuts,” is now working to provide information to federal departments on ways to help them meet the 5 percent spending cuts, he said.

Schatz acknowledged that Defense Department spending will likely continue to increase despite the calls on other departments to tighten their belts. But he remains optimistic that the planned cutbacks will be successful.

“One thing about this Cabinet is that they have, in most cases, experience in running large organizations,” Schatz said.

As for the tax cuts, he said they have improved the overall economy. Schatz faults other decisions Congress has made for putting the federal government on a course toward more red ink.

A bipartisan budget agreement made in 2017 built in two years of excessive federal spending, causing the deficit numbers to balloon, he said, as both military and domestic spending soared.

“That was not something we liked,” Schatz said.

Based on studies by the Government Accountability Office, Congressional Budget Office and others, a minimum of 10 percent of federal spending can be viewed as duplication, overlap or waste, he said.

A version of this article originally appeared on Watchdog.org.

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