The Government Accountability Office made headlines this week when it released findings that show the government set a new record for questionable, or perhaps incorrect payments to Americans in the form of Medicare payments for unnecessary health care procedures, improperly qualifying taxpayers for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and receiving unemployment benefits while one is already working. The GAO estimated that in 2014 these mistaken payments reached the $125 billion mark, and that has ruffled the feathers of those who crusade against government spending and waste, as well as those that vote for them.
“This new GAO report proves what the Republican Party has been saying for years,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on the floor of the Senate in a speech this week, “that the government is out of control, and it’s wasting money to the tune of $125 billion. That is just shameful.” Cruz is not the only Republican to lambaste the government’s incorrect payment disbursements last year. His colleagues have had plenty to say as well.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) was upset that “taxpayer money was not spent securing our borders, it was not spent on national defense, and it was not spent contributing to a safety net for those in need.” Johnson as it turned out was echoing the sentiments of many in his party, both politicians and rank-and-file voters alike. Results from a flash poll conducted by The National Caller found that 85% of those they polled that identified as Republicans found the $125 billion improper payments to be “inappropriate” and 42% of Republicans said a full Congressional investigation into the payments must be held.
Rep. Paul Ryan, also a Republican from Wisconsin like Johnson, said he was “appalled” by the overpayments. “Since I have been here in Washington, I have done my best,” Ryan told reporters, “to ensure that the only big ticket items we spend on are the things Americans know we need and want. Like the six trillion dollars I helped the government spend on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Talk about money well spent huh?”
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said that “The real crime here is that we’re talking about $125 billion that could have been spent making our troops safer over there.” Boehner asked reporters, “How much more good could we have done giving the Pentagon about another 25% to add to their budget? Those are the questions the liberal media doesn’t want to ask, but we Republicans will. The answer is we could have purchased at least another few dozen fighter jets that either don’t work or the armed forces don’t want or need.”
“Oh sure, some brainiac mathematician over at Egghead U might point out that $125 billion is roughly just 5% of what we spent killing Iraqis for no reason,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said at a dinner held at Blow-‘Em Tech, a defense contracting company, “but only total wussies would care about spending money on war.” McCain later said he hopes that someone will green light his idea to invade Cuba since “they’re guard is totally down now” but he’d be willing to settle for bombing Arizona’s next door neighbor, New Mexico.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was approached in the pro shop after finishing up a round of golf and asked about the improper payments. “It’s just a shame, isn’t it,” McConnell asked rhetorically. “These weren’t funds being paid for things real, patriotic Americans like and understand like war and blowing up little brown civilians wantonly. These were payments made to people the government was trying to help in one way or another. What hippy-dippy bullshit is that? Am I right?”
To date, most estimates peg the cost of America’s two wars of choice in the early 21st century at around $6 trillion. Professor Henrietta Paine told The Political Garbage Chute has PhD in mathematics from Cornell University and she told us that indeed $125 billion is “a whole lot less” than $6 trillion. “You could fit $125 billion into $6 trillion almost five times,” she said as she drew pictures on a nearby whiteboard to explain the difference between $125 billion and $6 trillion.
“The bottom line to me is a very simple one,” Ryan told conservative radio host Mitch Mitcherson this week. “Republicans don’t like spending money,” Ryan told Mitcherson, “we love to invest it instead.” Ryan, long considered the new economic voice of the Republican Party, told the conservative talk host to “look at all that we’ve gained from our investments in Iraq and Afgahnistan.”