It is an article of faith on the Right that “government is the problem.” Is it oppressive; it is slow; it is stupid; it is corrupt; and most of all, it is wasteful. There is, in fact, more than a bit of truth in that last one. Just ask the people over at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), who regularly unearth examples of wasteful spending.
That said, I know from my own experience, growing up over on that side of the political ledger, that this last charge is often applied selectively, if not hypocritically and, frankly, with racist undertones. For example, billions of dollars on a military program, like, say, Star Wars, that has never worked is not considered wasteful, but let one public assistance beneficiary game the system and make off with a few bucks – can anyone ever forget Reagan’s welfare queen? – and the cries of “waste, fraud, and abuse!” foul the air.
More recently, Mitt Romney has claimed that federal public assistance programs are so inefficient and wasteful that very little of the funding actually reaches the people who need it.
But, God bless their little wonky hearts, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities looked into this and found (wait for it) that it’s not true:
As it happens, a lot of public assistance programs run at least as efficiently and cost-effectively as anything going on in the private sector. But, of course, who ever heard of a private-sector program to assist the needy?