Master Public Administration


Waste in Government—always a nice term, sounds like it means something. 

What you will see as you go through these readings is the difficulty of agreement 

(as understood through public opinion polls)–what government waste means, or 

what we agree upon to exactly go after. The Government Accountability Office 

(GAO) report is quite long —you want to read parts of it but not 

necessarily the whole thing. What you need to get out of that report is to 

understand the specifics associated with going after waste (or in the case of that 

report—duplication or overlap). 

Talk about the difficulty of agreement on the public side regarding 

going after government waste (as you can understand it through the readings 

addressing public opinion polls) and then get to specifics on what to go after, why, 

and how. A friend (an elected official) jokes about government critics: That 

particular person defines a government critic as someone with a driver’s license, 

they just don’t know where they are going.  

demonstrate that you have some understanding of the issues associated with 

where you are going. It is easy to criticize in some general, vague sort of way—it 

is difficult to get to specifics. “Big government” is always one of those terms that 

seems to mean something on a nightly cable news show, the specifics on how 

exactly to cut “waste” out of Social Security, Medicare, defense spending, well 

that’s a different story. 

A 2008 survey asked respondents if they had used any of 21 different Federal 

government social programs including Social Security, unemployment benefits, or 

student loans. Of those respondents, 94 percent said they had not used any 

government social program, when, in fact, they had. The average number of 

programs used was four. The actor, Craig Nelson, in an interview with Glen Beck, 

when he was on FOX News, said, “I’ve been on food stamps, anyone help me 

out?” seeming to miss the contradiction of his statement. No doubt, Nelson (as 

well as Beck) think of themselves as critics of Big Government that is filled with 

waste, but probably have difficulty getting to the specifics—the generalizations 

are good enough. the generalizations are not good enough—

get to the specifics: What are you addressing and why and how do you look at the 

money saved? 

1) should be a minimum of five typed double spaced) 

2) Do discuss some of the specifics in the GAO report 

3) After reading the pieces addressing public opinion polls how do they give 

you some insight into how to understand what can and cannot be 

accomplished. You need to understand that the public, in many ways, is a 

brake upon what public officials can achieve: Public officials cannot be way 

out in front of the public, public opinion, or public understanding, often 

provides the parameters within which policy options, policy choices, can 

feasibly exist. 

4) Notice how the readings address the topic of government waste quite 

differently than what exists on the nightly cable news shows—do 

incorporate those readings 

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