Oops! Goes Washington


One hundred billion dollars isn’t chump change.

That’s the official amount of overpayments not recovered made by the federal government. According to the Financial Times, as reported on MoneyNews.com, “The OMB figures showed that in 2012 alone, 13 programs of the federal government made a combined $101.3 billion in improper payments – nearly $16 billion more than the highly charged budget sequester ended up cutting from government spending last year.”

Medicare overpayments make up the biggest slice of this mis-proportioned pie — a whopping $55.9 billion — but “the Internal Revenue Service had the highest error rate, a figure of 22.7 percent for the Earned Income Tax Credit program, amounting to $12.6 billion in improper payments in 2012.” Other agencies nudged up the numbers into the big time category: $6.2 billion for inappropriate unemployment insurance payments last year, $2.5 billion in mistaken “food stamp” outlays.

And just when you think the government has to be good at something. Like “writing checks” to some people at the expense of others.

Well, I guess the government is still “writing checks” and “making deposits.”

Just not doing it well.

The reason? Well, who would lose his or her job because his or her department disbursed funds to the wrong recipients? No one.

The federal workers administering these programs aren’t stupid. Aren’t dolts, or fools — that is, “chumps.” They’re simply behaving according to incentives.

Still, the more-than-chump-change errors make the city itself rather doltish. Call it Dolt City, shorten it to D.C.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jan
    Doctor Bill

    Hate to disagree with you, Paul, but I think you are being WAY too generous in your appraisal of the average “federal worker”.

    From my own dealings with anything “federal”, there are PLENTY of them who are stupid, doltish, foolish chumps—not all, but way more (proportionally) than you’ll find in the private sector where a similar “job” would pay roughly half as much (pay and benefits), and from which you would be summarily FIRED for gross incompetence, and may even face legal action to recover lost funds.

    How likely is any of that for this “protected species” that now numbers over 2 million?

    I won’t hold my breath waiting to see this discussed in the media, either. The incestuous relationship between government and the media that should be holding it accountable has grown way too intimate and way too strong.

  2. Jan

    Overpayment creates jobs.

    Incompetence will continue until there are negative consequences for it.

  3. Jan

    101.3 billion, eh?

    Let’s see now.

    We could have given one million households $100,000 each (and probably gotten a better return on our ‘investment’).
    Just think, there would still be over a billion in ‘change’.

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