The 2013 government ‘Waste Book‘ released by Republican Senator Tom Coburn is here and like all of the books before it, details continuing and egregious abuses of taxpayer money.
A little background from the report:
Washington has reversed the wisdom of the old cliché that less is needed when less is wasted. Every branch of government bickered this year over the need to spend more (while continuing to misspend) with an attitude of “waste more, want more!”
Confronted with self-imposed budget cuts necessary to trim years of trillion dollar shortfalls, Washington protested that it could not live within its means. It attempted to take hostage the symbols of America to exact ransom from taxpayers. Public tours of the White House were canceled and Medicare payments for seniors’ health care were cut.
While the President and his cabinet issued dire warnings about the cataclysmic impacts of sequestration, taxpayers were not alerted to all of the waste being spared from the budget axe.
The Department of Defense (DOD) developed a plan this year to constrain pay and benefits for our brave men and women in uniform, who risk their lives to protect us from terrorists,1 for example, while at the same time continuing to pay the salary and other government benefits for the Fort Hood shooter,2 responsible for the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9-11.
First, let’s start with look at the priorities of government spending:
DOD grounded the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels,4 yet still spent $631.4 million to construct aircraft they never intend to fly.5
The Army National Guard spent $10 million on Superman movie tie-ins while plans were being made to cut the strength of the Guard by 8,000 soldiers, the real supermen and women who fight for truth, justice and the American way.
As the Smithsonian was closing exhibits at its world renowned museums,6 the federal government was funding the creation of “play zones” at the National Museum of Play, an inventory of toys at the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys, and a website celebrating romance novels.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cut housing assistance for the disabled elderly while subsidizing thousands of risky mortgages, including more than 100 homes (that cost in excess of half-a-million dollars each) within walking distance of the ocean in Hawaii. And while nutrition assistance was being reduced for many needy families, USDA was spending money on celebrity chef cooks-offs and running up the taxpayer tab on Bloody Marys, sweet potato vodka, and red wine tastings from here to China.
The Department of Interior was counting sheep with high-tech unmanned aerial drones7 after delaying the opening of some national landmarks and closing others early.
NASA ultimately paid more than 17,700 employees—97 percent of its staff— to do nothing for 16 days as a result of the shutdown.8 These hardworking employees, caught in factors outside of their control, should not be confused with the “pillownauts” the space agency hired to lie around in bed and do nothing for 70 days.9
Even the government shutdown could not shut down Obamacare, but the failure of its $319 million website nearly did.10 Millions of dollars more were spent to urge taxpayers to visit the website that did not work—at whiskey festivals and on TV with ads featuring Elvis impersonators. Yet, even the hundreds of thousands who had their plans canceled struggled to sign up for the plans they did not want in the first place. At least one dog was able to enroll, however.
There are hundreds of examples of government waste inside this report, which is 177 pages long, but here are my top ten favorites:
1. $914,000 of your money was given to The Popular Romance Project to “explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective while looking back across time as far as the ancient Greeks.” The was used to pay for programs like “Love Between the Covers” and “The Past and Future of the Romance Novel.”
2. The Department of Defense wasted $7 billion of your money by destroying more than 170 million pounds of useable military equipment and vehicles. According to the report, a decision was made to destroy the equipment rather than shipping it home or selling it.
3. The Department of Health and Human Services has spent $319 million of your dollars (so far) on an Obamacare website that doesn’t work and that people aren’t interested in using. This money was also spent on ridiculous advertisements for Obamacare. Colorado received $20 million for their advertisement campaign featuring an Elvis impersonator. Right now, fewer than 4,000 people in the state have singed up for Obamacare.
4. The National Institute for Health spent $325,525 in a study showing wives should “calm down” to make their husbands and marriages happier.
5. $65 million dollars in “emergency” Hurricane Sandy funds were spent on tourism television ads. Paging Chris Christie. “Instead of rushing aid to the people who need it most, state-level officials in New York and New Jersey spent the money on tourism-related TV advertisements,” the report states.
6. The State Department spent $630,000 for “likes” and “fans” on Facebook and Twitter.
7. The government spends $1.5 billion to keep the lights on in empty and hardly used federal buildings they should be selling.
8. $3.6 billion: the amount of money tax cheating federal employees owe to the IRS.
9. The National Science Foundation spent $150,000 to study how to save the human race from zombies.
10. The Environmetal Protection Agency spend $479,000 for what is described as a “frat house” in Maryland.
“As you glance at each of the entries presented in this report, place your personal political persuasion aside and ask yourself: Do each of these represent a real national priority that should be spared from budget cuts or are these excesses that should have been eliminated in order to spare deeper cuts to those services and missions that should be performed by the federal government?” Senator Coburn said in the report. “When it comes to spending your money, those in Washington tend to see no waste, speak no waste, and cut no waste.”
Next time you hear politicians whining about spending cuts and fear mongering about Social Security checks not going out as a result of “draconian policies,” please remind them of these examples that add up to billions and billions of dollar in waste. Also as a friendly reality check, the National Debt is $17 trillion and growing.
I’ll leave you with this from Nancy Pelosi:
“The cupboard is bare, there’s no more cuts to make, it’s really important for people to understand that.”