Wastebook: 13 Insane Government Programs Funded With Your Money
By Sean Davis
December 17, 2013
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released a new edition of “Wastebook” today — an extensive collection of ridiculous taxpayer-funded projects unearthed by Coburn and his staff — and it’s a real doozy. Or, as Upworthy might put it, “A U.S. senator actually examined the federal budget. What he found will make you wish you had a lifetime supply of tar and feathers.”
The newest Wastebook edition contains a detailed accounting of 100 of the most absurd government expenditures of money you can imagine. How detailed? There are 930 footnotes spanning more than 40 pages. According to Coburn’s office, the report details over $28 billion in “wasteful and low-priority spending.”
While House Republicans were busy finding ways to increase spending, raise taxes, and cut military pension benefits, Coburn was busy making a list of wasteful government expenditures and checking it not twice, but 930 times. The conclusion: Uncle Sam was naughty (and he thinks your hard-earned cash is pretty nice).
Without further ado, here are report excerpts highlighting a mere 13 insane government programs funded with your money (the full report can be found here).
1) Tax Breaks For Brothel Worker Breast Implants (pg. 13)
“Through the tax code, Uncle Sam is assisting the operation of the legal brothels in Nevada. These businesses are antiquated practices from the days of the state’s silver boom starting in the 1850s, yet they still manage to get special treatment in the tax code through exemptions designed for businesses.
“‘reast implants and…costumes’ have also been ruled allowable deductions by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Workers can also deduct the cost of ‘equipment for that specialized stuff,’ noted one tax expert.”
2) Government Study Finds Out Wives Should Calm Down (pg. 27)
Keep Calm Be Rational
“If your wife is angry at you and you don’t want her to stay that way, you might avoid passing along the findings of this government study.
“Wives would find marriage more satisfying if they could calm down faster during arguments with their husbands, according to government-funded research.
“The researchers observed 82 married couples. ‘The marriages that were the happiest were the ones in which the wives were able to calm down quickly during marital conflict,’ explained one researcher.”
3) Lifestyle Coaching for Senate Staff (pg. 27)
“Sometimes working in the Senate is stressful and means staying up all night to get your projects done. Fortunately, overworked and under-slept staffers can take one of dozens of lifestyle coaching classes offered by the Senate to ensure they’re okay.
“The Senate Office of Education and Training offers Senate employees a wide variety of free courses on everything from the ‘Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep’ to ‘Pressure Point Therapy Workshop,’ in which students are taught ‘how to locate and relieve active pressure.’ For its efforts, the office was provided $1.9 million in 2013 according to information provided by the office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms.”
4) A Million-Dollar Bus Stop in Arlington, VA (pg. 32)
“‘Is it made of gold?’ asked one commuter after learning a single bus stop in Arlington County, Virginia, cost $1 million. The answer is no.
“The SuperStop is, however, complete with heated benches and sidewalks, ‘wireless zones for personal computers.’ Yet it has one shortcoming: a roof that hardly protects from the rain, snow, wind or blazing sun.
“[Arlington] county is hoping to build 23 similar SuperStops and has received $8 million in federal funding since Fiscal Year 2004 to do so.”
5) NASA Spends $3 Million Looking for Signs of Intelligent Life…in Congress (pg. 43)
“One of NASA’s next research missions won’t be exploring an alien planet or distant galaxy. Instead, the space agency is spending $3 million to go to Washington, D.C. and study one of the greatest mysteries in the universe: how Congress works.
“‘In collaboration with Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, NASA presents its annual Congressional Operations Seminar on Capitol Hill. Over the course of a week, attendees will be provided a comprehensive look at how Congress is organized, the key players and their roles, how the legislative process really works, and how Congress directly affects the daily operations of every department and agency in the Executive Branch. The seminar will be presented with a particular focus on NASA. Participants will receive briefings from experts in the field, have the opportunity to attend committee hearings, and observe floor action. Participants will also be provided a hands-on understanding of the congressional process and procedures as well as the culture that is the United States Congress.’”
6) Hurricane Sandy “Emergency” Funds Spent on TV Ads (pg. 47)
“In January 2013, Congress passed a bill to provide $60.4 billion for the areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy.372 However, 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.
“Making this particularly vexing for some local residents, the flow of disaster aid has been both paltry and slow. While many agencies were responsible for administering the aid, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was appointed to lead the federal recovery effort. As of October 2013, though, only one person on Staten Island had received help, in the form of housing assistance.”
7) Federally Funded Solar Panels Covered at Manchester-Boston Airport Because the Glare Blinds Pilots and Controllers (pg. 51)
Airplane Sniffing Glue
“When officials at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire installed new solar panels, they did not anticipate one quarter of them would not be used 18 months later. In Spring 2012, the panels were placed on top of the airport’s parking garage, and 25 percent have remained there, covered with a tarp, rendering them useless.
“Problems with the new panels were noticed almost immediately by air traffic controllers who claimed that for 45 minutes each day, glare made it difficult to oversee the airport’s runways. However, it is not as though glare was an unforeseen problem. Prior to the solar panel installation, the airport hired consulting firm Harris, Miller, Miller & Hanson to conduct a glare study and provide recommendations to avoid the problem. While the airport followed the firm’s recommendations, they were not able to avoid glare in the control tower.”
8) Bridge to Nowhere Going Nowhere…But Still Getting Taxpayer Cash (pg. 61)
“An Alaska state agency is pushing forward to clear an expensive right-of-way for a controversial billion dollar bridge project that will likely never be finished.
“The result is that thirteen homes and businesses that are squarely in the current right-of-way of the Knik Arm Bridge will be demolished. The Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority (KABATA) has already spent $2.9 million to buy properties including several homes and an apartment building.”
9) You’re Invited to a Hollywood Party at Paramount Studios…Sponsored by U.S. Taxpayers (pg. 64)
Hollywood Party“Just days before the government shutdown, the Department of Health and Human Services instructed the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to use its available grant balances to continue operating vital services.
“But instead of pooling together resources to provide critical mental health services during the shutdown, SAMHSA spent taxpayer dollars to throw a Hollywood party!
“Five days before the government shutdown, SAMHSA rolled out its own red carpet at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. In true Hollywood fashion, actors, directors, publicists, and stylists posed for plenty of pictures before letting loose at the federally-funded bash.”
10) Excessive fees for Justice Department Employees to Speak With Live Travel Agents Instead of Booking Online (pg. 65)
The Department of Justice is wasting money on air travel costs through a poorly designed travel website and by failing to discourage the overuse of travel agents, according to the agency’s inspector general.
A September 2013 inspector general report on travel spending by DOJ employees found they too often turned to live travel agents instead of using the agency’s e-travel website, GetThere. DOJ travel was administered by a contractor, CWTSatoTravel (CWT), which provided both the online website as well as live booking services over the phone. Each time an employee booked airline travel on the website, the contractor would receive a fee of $6.49, while the cost of each booking completed over the phone would cost DOJ nearly five times more, or $31.
11) The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys (pg. 81)
“The federal government is adding to its monstrous debt by funding a miniature museum.
“The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded $40,810 to the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys (DMMDT) to ‘create a digital inventory of its collection of 2,180 historic, iconic, and artisan toys.’
“The ‘relatively small museum’ has a number of permanent exhibits, including ‘dolls; fully furnished miniature houses; miniature trains, planes and cars; giant teddy bears; a miniature circus; antique dolls.’ The museum’s director describes the museum as ‘a place you can see what toys your grandparents may have played with.’”
12) Federal Government Paying Salaries to Hundreds of Thousands of Tax Cheats
“While millions of Americans continue to send back portions of their hard earned wages to Washington, many federal employees are tax cheats.
“During the year of sweeping budget cuts, millions of federal employees faced layoffs, furloughs, and other cutbacks as a result of Congress’ failure to replace sequestration with responsible, targeted cuts. Most of these federal employees are responsible citizens who pay their taxes. Some, however, don’t feel they have to live by the rules like other Americans.
“In 2011, the IRS found nearly 312,000 federal employees and retirees were delinquent on their federal income taxes, owing a total of $3.5 billion in unpaid federal income taxes. This represented an 11.5 percent increase in the number of federal employees failing to pay their taxes, and a 2.9 percent increase in the total taxes owed the Treasury by these public servants.”
13) A federally funded “Moosical” (pg. 96)
“Move over, Rudolph. There’s a new antlered holiday character in town, and he’s got the financial backing of U.S. taxpayers.
“Funded by a $10,000 federal grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, ‘Mooseltoe: A New Moosical’ will be touring the nation this holiday season.
“Taxpayer dollars pay for ‘Mooseltoe’ to feature voices from celebrities from Broadway, television, and movies, as well as costumes from the costume designer of Broadway’s ‘The Lion King.’
“In addition to its original songs, parents will appreciate the 16 characters in ‘Mooseltoe’ that are entertaining their children on the taxpayers’ dime, including three snobby penguins, a mobster snowman, and a fat walrus.”