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Editorial: In D.C., waste is plentiful

Anyone looking for easy ways to cut the federal budget deficit should take a look at Republican Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's annual "Wastebook."
While Coburn's top 100 list includes predictable entries, like opposing the costs associated with the Affordable Care Act and money spent on the National Endowment of the Arts, it also includes many other items that would leave taxpayers shaking their heads in wonder.
"When it comes to spending your money, those in Washington tend to see no waste, speak no waste, and cut no waste," Coburn writes in the beginning of his 177-page report.
Topping the list this year was the government shutdown, engineered by the extreme right of his own party. Coburn writes that the White House estimates that it "cost $2 billion to provide back pay to federal employees 'for services that could not be performed' during the shutdown." Add in the cost of benefits, and the total jumps to about $2.5 billion.
But Coburn was equally critical of the Affordable Care Act. "With nearly half-a-billion dollars in government funding put behind promoting a product relatively few people seem interested in purchasing from a website that doesn't work, Obamacare is perhaps the biggest marketing flop since Coca-Cola introduced the world to 'New Coke' in 1985," Coburn writes.
More striking, however, are other items on Coburn's list, like a $1 million bus stop in Arlington, Va., or billions in usable military equipment that is being destroyed in the Middle East rather than being sold or being brought home.
In Arizona, the government helped fund an apartment complex for the deaf - to the tune of $2.6 million - and then the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development threatened to pull all HUD funding in the state because, according to the agency, there were too many deaf people living in the apartment building.
A basic point illustrated by Coburn's annual report is that the government doesn't always make the best decisions when it comes to spending taxpayer money.
Some of the items on the top 100 list are subjective, but many others are wasteful by any standard.
As the government looks for ways to cut spending, weeding out more of these debacles would seem a good starting place.

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