If the federal government has any real heroes in taxpayers' eyes, they are the inspectors general who root out waste and fraud.
About five dozen federal agencies have inspectors general divisions employing more than 13,000 investigators and auditors. We frequently publish stories about their findings. Just last week, the Justice Department's inspector general was critical of spending at agency conferences, including one at which muffins costing $16 each were served.
During the 2009 fiscal year alone, inspectors general identified $43.3 billion in waste and fraud, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. That came at a cost of just $2.3 billion to fund the inspectors general.
Clearly, the watchdogs are a good investment. But the GAO should follow up its report with a more thorough investigation, of how often inspectors general recommendations actually are followed.
Obviously, the figure should be 100 percent of the time. But this is the federal government, known for being one of the most stubborn wasters of money in history. It may be that a new inspector general - this one following up on recommendations to cut waste and fraud - ought to be established.