The US Government Has Lost $2.7 Trillion Since 2003

In a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) last month, the U.S. government was estimated to lose billions of dollars yearly in “improper payments.”

“Since fiscal year 2003, cumulative improper payment estimates by executive branch agencies have totaled about $2.7 trillion,” GAO said in its March report.

The office estimated that $236 billion in such payments were made in 2023.

“improper payments” were defined as “those that should not have been made or were made in the incorrect amount.”These improper payments can be caused by overpayments, inaccurate recordkeeping, or even fraud.

Almost 75% of the improper payments in 2023 were attributed to overpayments.

GAO says that the numbers are just an estimate, stating in its report that “The total fiscal year 2023 improper payment estimate does not include some programs that agencies have determined are susceptible to significant improper payments, such as the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).”

Five categories accounted for most of the improper payments. Medicare and Medicaid lost over $51 billion and $50 billion, respectively. The next three categories were Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, losing over $43 billion, Earned Income Tax Credit, just shy of $22 billion, and more than $18 billion for Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness.

All other categories accounted for just over $50 billion in improper payments.

The nation’s fiscal health is already struggling, according to GAO. As the country’s debts grow each year, overpayment of various expenses will only compound the issues associated with our financial deficit.

After an unusually large jump in overpayments from 2020 to 2021, some conservative lawmakers are criticizing the Biden Administration for its role in the problem.

Of course, none of our lawmakers are innocent. “GAO has made numerous recommendations to agencies and provided suggestions to Congress on ways to help reduce [overpayments],” the office said.

While there have been slight decreases in overpayment each year from 2021 to 2023, the figures have yet to drop back to pre-2021 levels.

The government’s usual misuse of taxpayer dollars attracts plenty of attention, and for good reason, but mistakes that would get the rest of us fired are also standard fare for Uncle Sam. This blatant waste of taxpayer money makes the government’s constant demands for more spending even harder to swallow for the average American.