President Obama is still obsessed with Big Bird. Headed into the second presidential debate on Tuesday, Mr. Obama hasn’t stopped talking about Mitt Romney’s example of public broadcasting as a government program that should be cut. The president has spent the past 10 days insisting its cost is too trivial to matter. That’s the kind of thinking that got us $16.2 trillion in debt.
Sen. Tom Coburn will release his annual “Wastebook” the morning of the debate to highlight how the budget is jampacked with unnecessary expenditures. “The way you get rid of trillion-dollar deficits is a billion dollars at a time. The way you get to that is $445 million at a time,” Mr. Coburn told The Washington Times, referring to public broadcasting’s price tag. “You can belittle anybody who says, ‘Here’s waste.’ The fact is the federal government is out of control.” The actor who plays Big Bird on “Sesame Street” takes home $350,000 a year to don an 8-foot-tall yellow feather costume.
Mr. Coburn also is outraged that the nation’s $4.5 billion in food-stamp outlays can go to subsidize purchases of beer, Starbucks frappuccinos, condoms, Kentucky Fried Chicken and even plastic surgery. His new report cites a Florida stripper who earned $85,000 a year in tips yet still received $1,000 a month in food stamps from March 2011 to June 2012. Over the same period, she spent $9,000 on “cosmetic enhancements.” She has since pleaded guilty to fraud.In Oregon, food-stamp recipients are allowed to buy overpriced lattes from Starbucks locations that operate inside grocery stories — only the purchase of flavored syrups is considered over the line.
Corporate welfare also draws Mr. Coburn’s ire, such as the $91 million tax loophole allowing professional sports teams to claim they are nonprofit organizations. The enormously profitable National Football League, National Hockey League and Professional Golfers’ Association dodge paying federal income taxes on earnings by using this exemption intended for charities.
The senator points to himself and his colleagues as the No. 1 abusers of taxpayer money. He says the $132 million spent to keep Capitol Hill running this year was a colossal waste considering that Congress had the least productive year since 1947, with fewer bills passed, votes taken or committee meetings held. It’s no wonder the congressional approval rating hit an all-time low in 2012.
Mr. Coburn speaks regularly with Republican nominee Mitt Romney. While he declined to disclose private conversations, he said the former Massachusetts governor “gets it, and he knows what has to be done and is willing to sign bills that make the hard choices.”
The senator says the only way to get Washington to do something about this debt crisis is to vote for those who aren’t going to spend their entire term focusing on getting re-elected. “The career politicians are not going to make the hard choice,” he told us. “If you want Washington to change, you have to change who’s there.”
Voters will have a chance to do just that on Nov. 6.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.