Will Congress Stop Federal Wastefulness?

There had always been some level of U.S. government waste, but for more than a century, those revenues were almost entirely collected through tariffs. That changed in the early 20th century, with the federal corporate tax created in 1909, income tax in 1913, and estate tax in 1916. People increasingly felt it was their own hard-earned dollars being wasted.

So a proposed 1920 committee to reorganize the government was suggested, hopefully to be headed by former Secretary of the Interior Franklin Knight Lane, who had resigned mere weeks prior “because his salary was insufficient to provide for his family.”

(The salary was $12,000 at the time, or about $178,939 adjusted for inflation. That’s about -16% lower than the current Secretary of the Interior’s pay: $213,600.)

The question is, How far will the reforms go? Will they be fundamental, reaching down to the first causes, or will the defenders of the old methods — bureaucracy, apprehensive of wide changes, and Congressmen true to the traditions of the pork barrel — succeed in forcing compromises that offer the appearance and not the reality of true reform?

Spoiler alert: it was the latter.

Last month I wrote an article for GovTrack Insider about the Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act, a bill from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) which would require an annual report about government projects running $1 billion overbudget or five years behind schedule.

Will Congress Stop Federal Wastefulness?: Only a Thorough Reorganization of Government Departments, Each of Which Wears a Coat of Many Colors, Can End Bureaucracy and the Pork Barrel — Lane Is Suggested for Work

Published: Sunday, March 14, 1920

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