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U.S. Government Has Long History of Wasting Taxpayer Dollars

by Alex Gauthier, published

The case government is making for itself lately has not been a compelling one. Bloomberg reports that the government's inaction on the budget costs $300 million a day. When placed alongside other historical missteps, the latest is only one in a long line of undue bills that were footed by the taxpayer.

The first income tax was instituted in 1862 to help preserve the union through the Civil War. A 3 percent tax was placed on incomes up to $10,000, or about $232,000 today. By 1866, government revenues reached their highest point in years, not to be exceeded again until 1911.

In 1895, the income tax was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court prompting Congress to pass the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. With a firmly-secured internal revenue stream legally in place, eventually these avenues for leverage started to be exploited illegitimately.

In 1951, under President Harry Truman, 66 IRS agents were dismissed for taking bribes or extorting taxpayers. Likewise, individuals were not the only victims of abuse. Political groups that opposed sitting presidents were targeted for undue scrutiny by the IRS under Republican and Democratic administrations.

Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were among the culprits of mishandled executive power.

Other government agencies have not been immune to wasteful expenditures either.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security have yet to undergo complete audits from the Governmental Accountability Office, an arm of Congress which regularly oversees the internal finances of most federal agencies.

According to the GAO, "Serious financial management problems at the DOD have made its financial statements unauditable."

Innovative remedies for misused tax dollars still remain unimplemented following this year's IRS debacle, yet there is room for optimism as new digital technologies emerge that can improve transparency and accountability for waste.

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