I suppose I could have taken a more professorial approach to the new Elway Poll in which 71 percent of respondents say that our $5 billion state budget gap can be closed by eliminating "waste and fraud." But it was past midnight, so I just decided to call the majority of Washington voters a bunch of total fucking idiots, and call it night.
But given the lively debate in the comment thread, and a good night's sleep, I thought I'd take a moment to follow up on my rant with one particular datapoint: the amount of "waste and fraud" State Auditor Brian Sonntag claims to have uncovered over five years of conducting performance audits:
- We've conducted nearly 30 performance audits of state and local governments.
- Through June 2009, our audits identified potential savings and revenue of $285 million over five years.
- Through June 2009, state and local governments had fully or partially instituted 86 percent of our recommendations.
Now, I'm not a big fan of Sonntag and the way he has wielded performance audits as a political weapon, but assuming his numbers can be trusted, what's that come to... maybe $285 million worth of potential savings uncovered over five years of audits, with the bulk of that already achieved? That's real money, sure, but it amounts to only a tiny fraction of our $31 billion General Fund budget, and would make only a small dent in the coming biennium's projected $5 billion shortfall.
And these audits don't come free, nor do enacting the recommendations they propose. In fact, as Roger Valdez explains on Crosscut (yes... I'm linking to Crosscut), our obsession with trying to find wasteful spending in government can actually lead to more waste and inefficiency.
Looking for "waste and fraud" (and apparently, grandstanding about his findings) is Sonntag's job, and he's spent tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money over five years doing it. And this is all he's come up with.
So those of you who insist that "waste and fraud" is the primary culprit behind our budget crisis, if you don't like my number, you might want to put up some actual numbers of your own.