This Government Accountability Office report on improper payments through government programs — the much-mentioned “waste, fraud, and abuse” in benefit programs — makes for interesting reading. Note the huge jump from 2007 to 2009:
To some extent, the upward swing simply reflects the growth in such programs with the combined causes of a significant economic recession and the election of a big-government progressive president, whose party controlled both chambers of Congress during both of those years. Rhode Island’s a bit of a uniquely unhealthy example, but the SNAP participation highlighted in this space last week illustrates the larger trend. The upward jump in improper payments last year, however, isn’t explained by a recession or a unitary Democrat federal government.
According to a pie chart in the GAO report, nearly half (48%) of the improper payments in 2014 were made via the Medicare program for the elderly, followed by the earned income tax credit (14.2%) and Medicaid (14.0%) programs for the financially troubled. The rest (23.7%) comes from all the other programs, such as SNAP, unemployment insurance, supplemental security income, and school lunches.
The report gives suggestions for reducing the bleeding of money through these programs, but none would be as effective as shrinking their overall size, nothing would accomplish that as well as improving people’s opportunities, and nothing would create opportunity as well as lower taxes and increased freedom. What the chart above arguably most illustrates is that progressive policies will put a society in a self-reinforcing downward spiral every time.