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Trump's proposed budget borrows a few pages from Obama — literally

  • The Trump administration's proposed budget includes efforts to cut government waste originally proposed by President Obama.
  • The budget assumes savings of $142 billion over 10 years by eliminating "improper" government payments.
  • The budget includes specific proposals that reflect, word for word, the Obama administration.
President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama talk on the East steps of the US Capitol after inauguration ceremonies on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama talk on the East steps of the US Capitol after inauguration ceremonies on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC.

When it comes to eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse" in government spending, President Donald Trump's proposed budget has borrowed a page from President Barack Obama's budget. Several pages, in fact.

The Trump administration's budget proposes to save $139 billion over the next 10 years by eliminating "improper" government payments to people and businesses that shouldn't be receiving them. It also includes seven specific proposals that reflect, word for word, initiatives called for in the Obama administration's budgets.

Obama slashed improper payments

Last September, former Office of Management and Budget Controller David Mader appeared before the House Oversight Committee to update them on the Obama administration's progress in cutting down on "improper payments."

Those efforts were boosted by Obama's signing of the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act (IPERIA) of 2012, which set up a centralized Do Not Pay system to cut down on fraud and mistakes.

The web-based service lets federal agencies review multiple databases, including officials' lists of deceased individuals and entities barred from receiving federal awards, before making payments, according to a Government Accountability Office report on the system.

When Obama entered the White House in 2009, the improper-payment error rate was 5.42 percent of total federal spending, an all-time high, Mader told the House panel. By fiscal 2015, he said, the government-wide improper payment rate was 4.39 percent — which came out to about $136.9 billion that year.

Since 2012, Obama's budgets included specific proposals to reduce overpayments further — seven of which have been incorporated into Trump's budget proposal released Monday.

Breaking down the measures

Here are the measures, including the amounts the Obama administration estimated could be saved over 10 years — estimates that are also included in Trump's budget, word for word:

"Reduce improper payments government-wide" — $139 billion over 10 years
This line item assumes that the government will continue to cut a variety of improper payments gradually in the next five years — and then dramatically improve those controls 10 years from now. The budget assumes savings of just $719 million in 2019, jumping to $387.0 billion in 2026 and to $57.6 billion by 2027.

"Allow Government-wide use of Customs and Border Protection data to prevent improper payments" — $177 million over 10 years
As proposed by the Obama administration, this measure would help catch improper payments to Social Security recipients who aren't eligible for a monthly benefit if they leave the country for more than 30 consecutive days.

"Authorize Social Security Administration (SSA) to use all collection tools to recover funds" — $41 million over 10 years
This proposal would allow the use of current collection procedures on improper Social Security payments made to a joint account after a beneficiary has died. It would allow the government to get the money back if the joint account holder cashes the check.

"Hold fraud facilitators liable for overpayments" $8 million over 10 years
When someone collects a benefit who isn't entitled to it, it's often the result of fraud involving a third party who provides information, such as a doctor who verifies a disability claim. This proposal would let the government go after that third party to get the money back if the claim was fraudulent.

"Increase overpayment collection threshold for Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance" $848 million over 10 years
This rule applies to the amount the government can collect from future payments to a beneficiary if it makes an overpayment. The main Social Security Insurance program for retirees allows collection of up to 10 percent of the monthly benefit. But a $10 a month limit — established in 1960 — still applies to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program.

"Allow SSA to use commercial database to verify real property" $559 million over 10 years
"The inability to verify eligibility is the largest root case for improper payments in the (Social Security) program and this proposal would help," Mader told the House panel. In some cases, an individual's assets affect their eligibility for benefits.

"Increase oversight of paid tax return preparers" $439 million over 10 years
This would extend a stepped-up effort by the IRS, begun in 2010, to crack down on "questionable" tax preparers, with the aim of boosting compliance and collecting more taxes.

"Provide more flexible authority for the Internal Revenue Service to address correctable errors" $655 million over 10 years
This applies to instances when the IRS finds a mathematical error on a tax return. Because Congress spells out, in detail, when the IRS has the authority to correct these errors, some of them are off limits. Expanding that authority would, in theory, catch more mistakes and collect more taxes.

Exclude SSA debts from discharge in bankruptcy $315 million over 10 years
This proposal is not included in the last Obama administration budget proposal. It would allow the government to collect Social Security overpayments from people who discharge other debts in bankruptcy court.

Use Death Master File to prevent improper payments $0 million over 10 years
This proposal is included in Trump's budget, but the line item is blank. That may be because IPERIA already requires the Do Not Pay system to include the "death records maintained by the Commissioner of Social Security."

Watch: Democrats push back on WH budget proposal