While millions of Americans watched the North Carolina Tar Heels win the college basketball national championship, Restore Accountability readers awarded a more dubious honor: the champion of the inaugural Tournament of Government Waste.
The contest featured 16 examples of government waste ranging from studying whether koozies keep your beer cold to federal charge cards used on adult entertainment. Following four rounds of voting, the fans determined that the $10 million spent by federal agencies for meetings at a 5-star Colorado ski resort deserved the title ‘Waste of the Year.’
The tournament served as a fun way to highlight some of the most egregious examples of government waste and inefficiencies from the past, but it also provided a hopeful sign for the future. The largest demographic to participate in the tournament was from the Millennial generation, signaling that younger generations may no longer put up with fiscal recklessness from their government. And rightfully so. Their economic future depends on it.
Our national debt will soon hit $20 trillion. The baby boomer retirement wave is upon us and future generations are on the hook for $100 trillion in unfunded entitlement promises. The United States is careening towards a crisis never seen before in its history, and young Americans will be hurt the most. While most politicians in Washington try to ignore these issues to appease the typical older voter base, they should be worried about a countermovement from younger people that know nothing but technological efficiency and progress, yet see their futures being drowned by a tidal wave of red ink.
The millennial driven Silicon Valley and other similar endeavors value efficiency and innovation above all else. Millennials have seen that innovation increases demand for products and efficiency makes products cheaper and more competitive in the global marketplace. Conversely, our federal government, to the detriment of taxpayers, has failed to innovate and therefore continues to operate within a stale and costly bureaucracy. For example, a recent Washington Post report found that the Pentagon could have saved $125 billion in bureaucracy, but didn’t, amid fears of a smaller budget allocation.
The efficiency problem does not stop with bloat at the Pentagon. Over the years, the federal government has accumulated 44 job training programs, administered by nine different federal agencies, 56 federal programs to teach financial literacy at 20 different agencies, 209 STEM education programs administered by at least 13 different agencies, and 18 domestic food assistance programs administered by three different agencies. This maddening level of waste and inefficiency should have millennials asking, “if the largest companies in the world can be efficient and innovative with every dollar, why can’t my government?”
Even worse than the inability to innovate and eliminate these blatant inefficiencies is Congress ignoring report after report warning of the impending catastrophic problems that will occur if we do not put our fiscal house in order. While the meaning of dizzying numbers well into the trillions may be difficult for anyone to comprehend, recent independent reports show that the effects are already being felt. According to the U.S. Census, young Americans today are making about $2,000 less, on average, than their parents did when they were young. While there are many factors that can contribute to a generation’s average income, the massive debt and wasteful spending undoubtedly plays a role in the equation.
The national debt is on an unsustainable path and Congress continues to mortgage the future of younger generations for short-term political gains. Millennials, often labeled as self-centered, should find this label ironic in the face of being put on the hook for past generation’s bills. Millennials may indeed be a selfish generation, but when it comes to the economic future of their country, they are not being selfish enough.
The participation in the recent tournament shows promising signs of a generation that looks at current government waste and the debt still to come is ready to say “enough is enough.” Washington should be put on notice that young Americans are ready to engage and their political futures will have to account for the millennial generation’s economic futures.