Feds Use Imagination in Wasting Taxpayer Money


            In honor of the Federal budget process:

            How sad is it that, when I found an article entitled “20 of the craziest things that the US Government is spending money on”, my first thought was: “How did they narrow it down to 20?”

            The Federal government enjoys nothing more than spending other people’s money. Some of the spending seems sensible to a degree, which is to say that if we had the money, it might be beneficial to some people. Unfortunately, we don’t have the money. We (meaning the government, meaning the taxpayer) haven’t had the money for a long time. I considered pointing that out to my Congressman, but I was afraid he’d just commission a federal study into why we don’t have the money for federal studies.

            So, just twenty? How did they make that judgment? How about just the short list of 2,000 or so taxpayer wastes?

            What the heck – Americans love lists, but they also have short attention spans. I’m surprised they didn’t narrow it to the top 5:

            #1: $3 million went to the University of California, so they could … play video games. It was to study how "emerging forms of communication, including multiplayer computer games and online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life, can help organizations collaborate and compete more effectively in the global marketplace."

            Maybe it’s for the best that we leave that one alone. I live with a World of Warcraft player. You don’t want to mess with World of Warcraft players. Think Japan bombing Pearl Harbor, that’s the kind of hornet’s next you could stir up.

            #2: The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the University of New Hampshire $700,000 to study the methane gas emissions of dairy cows.

            Cause, you know – global warming. Sadly, the dairy cows in question froze to death in a freak blizzard. (Oh, lighten up, I’m just kidding – no cows were harmed in the making of this column.)

            $3: $615,000 went to the University of California at Santa Cruz, to digitize photos, T-shirts and concert tickets belonging to the Grateful Dead.

            Who, I assume, were very grateful.

            #4: A professor at Stanford University --

            Hey, wait a minute. Am I seeing a pattern, here? University this, university that. It’s no wonder our kids seem to come out of college without knowing much about common sense or the real world – their teachers are too busy to teach them, what with all those studies.

            Anyway, the professor got $239,100 to study how the internet is used to find love. He discovered that the internet is a safer and more discreet way to find same-sex partners compared to, say, a bar.

            Oh, I was wrong; this professor had plenty of free time to teach. All he had to do was sit at his desk, jot down “The internet is more discreet than a gay bar – check”, and then collect a check of his own.

            #5: The National Science Foundation spent $216,000 to study whether politicians "gain or lose support by taking ambiguous positions."

            I oppose this research, because I’m afraid of the answer.

            #6: The National Institutes of Health spent $442,340 to study the behavior of male prostitutes in Vietnam.

            Look. If we’re going to give American taxpayer money for a boondoggle like this, couldn’t we at least study American male prostitutes?

            #7: Around a million bucks was spent to create poetry for the Little Rock, New Orleans, Milwaukee, and Chicago zoos. The goal was to raise awareness of environmental issues.

            I insist on being given a million dollars to create poetry to raise awareness of financial issues. Yep.

            #8: The US Department of Veterans Affairs spent $175 million in one year to maintain hundreds of buildings.

            This is something I approve of. Our veterans are worth it … except the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t actually use the buildings. Not even the one they paid to maintain in Dayton, Ohio: A pink, octagonal monkey house.

            #9: A "museum of neon signs" in Las Vegas, Nevada, required $1.8 million in maintenance. Taxpayer money maintenance. I’m a fan of museums, but I’m also a fan of balancing the budget. Maybe they could have the proceeds of one slot machine in every casino go toward this one? No one would even notice.

            #10: $35 million was paid out by Medicare to 118 medical clinics. Again, I’m a fan of medical clinics; lots of people need that health care, and should be taken care of.

            Sadly, the medical clinics don’t exist; they were a scam, used by criminals to steal money from the taxpayers, which for some reason reminds me of Congress. I can’t help thinking – this is going to sound nutty – that if local governments were given that money to establish clinics instead of a huge federal bureaucracy, someone might have noticed that the clinics weren’t there.

            Okay, I’m hyperventilating. I’ve got to take a pause before my head explodes, and some janitorial service gets a half million dollar grant to clean the mess up. But I think this little sampling is pretty instructive, so I’m going to come back later and give you the top ten tax money sucking worthless boondoggles or, as I like to call them, helpful government assistance.


  1. As a former high school debater, I can tell you that kids would come up with funding for their plans by cutting random wasteful spending. Popular targets: earmarks, NASA, and 'pig odor research.'

    Here's another list which you might find amusing. http://blog.heritage.org/2009/10/08/50-examples-of-government-waste/

    My favorite:

    7. Washington will spend $2.6 million training Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job.

    ... I don't understand. I, just, what?

    Honorable mention:

    11. The Pentagon recently spent $998,798 shipping two 19-cent washers from South Carolina to Texas and $293,451 sending an 89-cent washer from South Carolina to Florida.

    You've inspired me. I think I'll actually post something later today.

  2. Mark: here you go.


  3. Stark, we could each write a column a day about government waste and never hit bottom.

    I'm surprised that kids might be against NASA these days, although I suppose I shouldn't be. When I was a kid, NASA and the space program were shining examples of what can be done right, and of the spirit of adventure and exploration that made America great. Then they came up with that great overcomplicated boondoggle, the shuttle.

    I believe the spirit of exploration is one of those things that makes humanity great, and that our future -- if we're to have one -- really is in space. I also believe NASA's budget should be cut. It's simple: When you're in the middle of a shooting war and also bleeding red ink, you stop spending on stuff you can manage without. All sacred cows, including mine, need to be on the chopping block until government is shrunk and spending under control.

  4. Well said.

    Did you ever hear about the Energy Star fiasco? It was pretty hilarious.

    Short version: The GAO decided they wanted to see how hard it was to get products Energy Star certified. They created a fake product -- a gasoline-powered bedroom alarm clock that was several cubic feet in size and -- and it was certified as 'energy-efficient' by Energy Star within a few hours.

    "We successfully obtained Energy Star qualification for 15 bogus products, certifications including a gas-powered alarm clock and a room cleaner represented by a photograph of a feather duster adhered to a space heater on our manufacturer’s Web site."


  5. It just gets sillier and sillier, doesn't it? This is another one I've never heard of -- I'm not familiar with how the Energy Star ratings are generated, but that sounds pretty ridiculous by anyone's standards.