Remember the U.S. Postal Service's plan to end Saturday mail delivery in order to save money? It's not going to happen, at least not for a while. The USPS says it's delaying the plan because Congress refuses to give its blessing.
It's just another in a long line of things Congress can't live without. A report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, which serves as the auditing arm of Congress, detailed numerous government programs that all do essentially the same thing — costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
The report was the third of its kind by the GAO since 2011. The first two found 66 areas where federal government action overlaps, duplicates or is fragmented. This one identified 17 more such areas.
The examples are enough to make your teeth hurt.
The government has three agencies (the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service) that are responsible for inspecting catfish! The GAO looked at 50 research and development contracts at the Department of Homeland Security and found 29 whose contracts overlapped with activities elsewhere in the department.
There are 76 federal drug treatment or prevention programs spread out over 15 agencies. One of President Barack Obama's favorite causes, renewable energy, drew auditors' attention: They found seven separate wind energy initiatives that provide similar financial backing for the same project.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, who pushed the law requiring the GAO to look each year at duplication, estimates that overall the office has found $300 billion in overlap. Coburn is correct when he says it's immoral, given the country's fiscal mess, for Congress to ignore the GAO's findings.
But you can bet most members will do exactly that because, for them, protecting the status quo is Job One. Saving Saturday mail delivery is Exhibit A.