SUNDAY TALK: Ernst on Binge Buying Bureaucrats

by U. S. Senator Joni Ernst

Folks, we know with the right incentives, binge-buying bureaucrats in Washington can blow through billions of dollars in mere hours—even in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic.

But despite Congress approving billions of dollars months ago to purchase COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment (PPE), there are still shortages of these essential supplies around the country. At the same time, significant amounts of money are sitting unspent in government coffers in Washington and many states.

Even worse, these dollars that have been spent on furniture, luxury cuisine, toys, and even pecan pie could have been put towards preparing for emergencies like battling the pandemic we find ourselves in now.

The reckless spending by Washington bureaucrats is leaving our front line workers and folks across the country in the dust without the essential medical supplies they need to combat COVID-19.

There is no excuse for this delay. But frankly, we shouldn’t be surprised. Washington has a bad habit of wasting taxpayer money on unnecessary items every. single. year.

U. S. Senator Joni Ernst

For example, on the final day of the last Fiscal Year – September 30, 2019 – the federal government rung up a record $12.2 billion in spending!

According to a new report compiled by the nonpartisan watchdog, Open the Books, federal agencies spent $91 billion on 642,567 transactions last September. That is an average of $3 billion for 21,418 transactions each day!

The federal government’s eleventh-hour, use-it-or-lose-it purchases in 2019 included:

  • Nearly $50 million in seafood –  including $40.1 million for catfish, Mahi Mahi, and salmon, and another $4.6 million for lobster tails, and crab legs and claws
  • $1.1 million in games and toys, including $50,000 for model rockets
  • Nearly $100,000 in pastries, including $43,000 for doughnuts, $36,000 for cake mix, and $10,000 for pecan pie.

The staggering report from Open the Books is holding Washington bureaucrats accountable to Iowa taxpayers as I continue to crack down on wasteful spending.

While the tabulated expenditures and receipts are appalling, there is a bit of good news in all of this: The upward trend of last-minute impulse buying was reversed this past year—down $5.6 billion from 2018—after federal agencies were put on notice that I would be closely reviewing their spending with a fine-tooth comb.

Folks, this year especially, there is no excuse to buy up hundreds of millions of dollars of new office furniture when so many federal employees are working from home. The same goes for amassing purchases of high-dollar cuisine while folks are struggling to afford food during COVID-19.

In fact, we could get this pandemic under control much quicker if agencies showed the same zeal for purchasing PPE as they have for buying pecan pies.

Eleventh-hour impulse spending is no way to budget – and certainly not on the taxpayer’s dime while the country fights to overcome the ongoing pandemic.

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