While a deficit supercommittee in Congress works to cut trillions of dollars, Vice President Joseph R. Biden is touting his efforts to find $1 billion in wasteful government spending here and there.
Mr. Biden on Wednesday convened a Cabinet meeting, highly promoted by White House officials, on the latest attempts to combat waste, fraud and abuse in federal agencies. President Obama ordered the budget-scrubbing in June and gave Mr. Biden the job.
The vice president announced a new initiative to fight waste in Medicaid that is estimated will save taxpayers more than $2 billion over five years. That’s about 0.13 percent of the congressional committee’s goal of saving at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
“If we’re going to spur jobs and economic growth and restore long-term fiscal solvency, we need to make sure hard-earned tax dollars don’t go to waste,” Mr. Biden said.
At a meeting of the supercommittee Tuesday, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf cautioned that ferreting out waste, fraud and abuse would have a negligible impact on the panel’s work.
“There is no evidence that suggests that this sort of effort can represent a large share of the $1.2 trillion or $1.5 trillion or the larger number that some of you have discussed as being the objective in savings for this committee,” Mr. Elmendorf said.
The White House also unveiled Wednesday new efforts to track state progress in reducing improper unemployment insurance payments, which totaled $17.5 billion in fiscal 2010. That’s 11.2 percent of all claims.
To stop spending so much money incorrectly, the administration has decided to spend more money - $191.4 million for three new grants to states to upgrade their technology so they can weed out improper unemployment payments.
Administration officials didn’t give an estimate of how much money they believe they can retrieve in wrongful payments.
In spite of the differences of scale with the supercommittee’s job, White House Budget Director Jacob J. Lew said the administration has made “great strides” in the last two years, including shrinking federal contract spending for the first time in 13 years.
“Particularly now in these challenging fiscal times, it is critical that each and every member of the Cabinet take personal ownership of aggressively rooting out waste and being vigilant stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Mr. Lew said.
Mr. Biden directed each Cabinet secretary to undertake a waste and efficiency review, and to report back their findings.