Big Gov't Programs Wasting Billions for Nothing?


WASHINGTON - Federal social programs are supposed to help the poor and disadvantaged in the country. It turns out many of these programs spend billions of taxpayer dollars while doing no good at all.

A new book is raising the question few in Washington dare to ask, "Do Federal Social Programs Work?"

It's author, David Mulhausen, has a definitive answer.

"The government is stepping in, saying, 'We've got a program for you and that's going to make your life better off.' And the fact is these programs aren't making people better off," Muhlhausen said.

Muhlhausen, withThe Heritage Foundation, combed exhaustively through tons of the best, gold standard studies.

"And they almost all find the federal government fails at improving the lives of Americans," Muhlhausen said.

A program like Head Start has the good intention of helping disadvantaged children catch up with better-off kids. But Muhlhausen said the best studies find that it's not reaching its goals.

"Head Start has no impact at improving the cognitive abilities of these students. And we're spending $8 billion a year on this program that's not making a difference," he said.

All these federal social programs are meant to do good but are doing little or nothing and cost taxpayers more than $440 billion a year.

So what's to lose by killing them off? Mulhausen argues that some programs actually do harm.

"Programs that don't improve people's lives are not going to be missed," he said.

He referred to programs like the 21st Century Learning Centers that are supposed to help kids after school become better students. He says the studies show the results aren't there.

"What they found is that kids who participated in this program were more likely to be suspended. They did less well in school," Mulhausen said.

"This program's about $1 billion a year. It's a small chunk of change in the federal budget, but it's $1 billion that causes harm," he added.

Some suspect since the author works at the conservative Heritage Foundation he's just out to attack liberal programs. But others have made similar conclusions.

Muhlhausen's book also blasts the results of favorite conservative programs, like those meant to curb teen sex or bolster the family.

He advocates stripping the money from any program that doesn't work. And he points out there are private and local programs that are successful.

"It's not that nothing works," Muhlhausen said. "It's just big federal government programs don't work."

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