Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released his annual government spending exposé Tuesday, revealing $4.5 billion in wasteful Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending.
The report finds program participants purchased junk food, Starbucks and beer with SNAP benefits, which are distributed to 46 million Americans at a cost of about $80 billion.
"Lax controls and mismanagement resulted in billions of dollars being spent not on healthy meals for hungry kids but instead wasted on questionable and, in some cases, illegal expenditures," Coburn's report says, estimating that another $2.5 billion in improper SNAP payments will be made this year.
Promotional projects to facilitate use of the benefits are also on Coburn's watch list. His report found that local SNAP offices were encouraged to throw parties and produce public service announcements to stimulate SNAP use.
Duplicate, dead and disqualified participants also receive approximately $1.4 million every month from the SNAP program. The report cites an investigation by the USDA Inspector General that found 2,000 dead people in New York and Massachusetts alone still receive stamps.
In August, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon announced new measures to combat SNAP fraud, including temporary disqualifications for stores that violate program rules, penalties for trafficking benefits, and assorted new program standards.
"USDA has a zero tolerance policy for SNAP fraud," Concannon said about the new regulations. "These additional measures reaffirm our ongoing commitment to ensuring these dollars are spent as intended–helping millions of people in need get back on solid economic footing."
Though fraudulent SNAP spending leads the Wastebook's Top 10 in terms of monetary value, congressional pork projects and inactivity take the number one spot on Coburn's list.
Coburn's report explains that national debt issues and "idling" congressional committees are contributing to wastefulness. The report singles out the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, which reported out and discharged seven measures and had only nine hearings from January to August, 2012.
"Washington spent much of the year deadlocked over whether to cut spending or increase taxes to address our fiscal crisis, all the while, allowing or even supporting these questionable projects," Coburn writes in his introduction letter.
Coburn said the waste highlighted in the report "is a direct result of Washington politicians who are preoccupied with running for re-election rather than running the country, which is what they were elected to do in the first place."
In his letter, Coburn returns to the effects of wasteful spending on Americans that are struggling to do more with less.
"Not everyone in America is living on a smaller budget," Coburn writes. "Washington politicians don’t even bother to give themselves a budget anymore. For the third consecutive year, Congress failed to pass a budget. And, for the fourth straight year, these compulsive spenders charged more than $1 trillion to our national credit card, pushing us to a $16 trillion debt."
The nutrition title, which includes the USDA SNAP program, comprises more than half of farm bill outlays. Though a new bill has not been passed, Senate and House versions of the bill cut nutrition spending by $4.5 billion and $16.5 billion, respectively.
Click here to read Sen. Coburn's complete report.