Estimates by federal agencies that they in effect threw away nearly $100 billion last year should infuriate taxpayers. It is our hard-earned money, after all.
But of even more concern should be that the figure represents reports from the very agencies that wasted the money. Analysts at the Government Accountability Office - the bane of bureaucrats in many ways -say the true amount may be much higher.
Even by the agencies' own admissions, the waste is staggering - about half a trillion dollars during the past five years.
Government agencies scatter taxpayers' money to the winds in a variety of ways. Sometimes people who don't qualify for them get tax credits. Unemployment benefits can go to cheaters who have jobs. The food stamp program is rife with fraud.
And, of course, let us not forget government contractors who rip off taxpayers through methods such as underestimating the true cost of programs, selling the government goods and services it doesn't need, providing lousy service and in a hundred other shady ways. Bear in mind much of that waste is not counted because it does not officially represent payments that should not have been made.
A critical number was missing when members of Congress received a report on government waste last week. They were not told how many federal employees lost their jobs or were in especially egregious cases prosecuted for throwing away taxpayers' money.
That may be because the bureaucracy so seldom punishes those responsible for mismanagement. To the contrary, they often receive lavish "performance bonuses."
Until Congress demands that change - and presidents fire agency heads who do not comply - the monumental waste will continue unchecked.