A recent report from the federal Government Accountability Office noted that “improper payments” through government benefit programs have increased dramatically–by more than 300 percent from 2003 to 2014, reaching $125 million.
Eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse” has become something of a go-to promise for political purposes, often as a hypothetical funding source for desired programs. But taxpayers should be wary of bureaucratic attempts to trim spending around the edges; tendencies will always be toward more money transferred out of their pockets.
As a matter of simple mathematics, erroneous payments can increase for one of two reasons: Either the size of the program grows, or the error rate increases. If a strategy for reducing the error rate results in a much larger program, then it will wind up costing more money. The State of Rhode Island is on the cusp of proving this principle.