If Congress were to cut unnecessary and wasteful spending in the federal government, it could balance the budget in three years based on recommendations by Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan organization.
The report, titled "Prime Cuts 2017," outlines 607 recommendations to cut inefficient government spending that would not only balance the budget within three years but also save taxpayers $336.2 billion in the first year and $2.3 trillion over five years.
"The national debt nearly doubled under former President Obama and is poised to exceed $20 trillion before the end of 2017," the group states. "Wasteful government spending can be cut and the nation can start on a path toward fiscal sanity."
The group evaluates this type of wasteful spending in nearly every agency of the federal government including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department, the Treasury, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Justice Department, and the Department of Commerce.
At the Department of Health and Human Services, if Congress were to reduce improper Medicare payments by 50 percent in five years, the department could save taxpayers $20.6 billion (about $4.1 billion per year).
"Medicare is plagued with the highest reported amount of improper payments of any federal program," the report states. "Because of its chronic vulnerability to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, the [Government Accountability Office] has for 20 years designated the Medicare program as ‘high risk.'"
At the Environmental Protection Agency, if Congress were to eliminate the ENERGY STAR program, which is a labeling program to identify energy-efficient products, it could save taxpayers $52 million in just one year.
"A March 2010 GAO report found that the ENERGY STAR program is vulnerable to fraud and abuse," the report said. "The GAO submitted 20 phony products for certification, 15 of which were cleared, including a gas-powered alarm clock."
At the Department of Transportation, if Congress were to eliminate federal subsidies for Amtrak, taxpayers could save $1.4 billion in one year and $5.9 billion in five years. A report found that Amtrak cost taxpayers about $32 per passenger in 2008 and has cost a total of $40 billion since 1971. Amtrak was intended to earn a profit but hasn't been able to do so.
"By following the blueprint provided by Citizens Against Government Waste Prime Cuts 2017, wasteful government spending would be dramatically cut, and the U.S. would achieve a balanced budget within President Trump's first term," said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. "The only way to put the nation on a path toward fiscal sanity is for leaders to make bold decisions to reduce waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement."