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Coburn Releases Annual Wastebook Highlighting Most Egregious Spending of 2013



Dec 17 2013
Coburn Releases Annual Wastebook Highlighting Most Egregious Spending of 2013

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today released his annual oversight report “Wastebook 2013” highlighting 100 examples of wasteful and low-priority spending totaling nearly $30 billion. 

“While politicians in Washington spent much of 2013 complaining about sequestration’s impact on domestic programs and our national defense, we still managed to provide benefits to the Fort Hood shooter, study romance novels, help the State Department buy Facebook fans and even help NASA study Congress,” said Dr. Coburn.

“Had Congress, in particular, been focused on doing its job of setting priorities and cutting the kind of wasteful spending outlined in this report, we could have avoided both a government shutdown and a flawed budget deal that was designed to avert a shutdown.  The nearly $30 billion in questionable and lower-priority spending in Wastebook 2013 is a small fraction of the more than $200 billion we throw away every year through fraud, waste, duplication and mismanagement.   There is more than enough stupidity and incompetence in government to allow us to live well below the budget caps.  What’s lacking is the common sense and courage in Washington to make those choices – and passage of fiscally-responsible spending bills – possible,” said Dr. Coburn.

“This report speaks volumes about why confidence in government is at an all-time low.  The hard truth is we’d much rather borrow than cut.  The American people are right to expect more,” said Dr. Coburn.

Examples of wasteful spending highlighted in “Wastebook 2013” include:

    Uncle Sam Looking for Romance on the Web – (NEH) $914,000

The Popular Romance Project has received nearly $1 million from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) since 2010 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.”

    Mass Destruction of Weapons – (Department of Defense) $7 billion

As the U.S. war effort in the Middle East winds to a close, the military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds worth of useable vehicles and other military equipment. The military has decided that it will simply destroy more than $7 billion worth of equipment rather than sell it or ship it back home.

    Millions Spent Building, Promoting an Insurance Plan Few Want and a Website that Doesn’t Work – (Department of Health and Human Services) At least $379 million

With nearly half-a-billion dollars in government funding put behind promoting a product that relatively few people seem interested in purchasing off a website that doesn’t work, Obamacare is perhaps the biggest marketing flop since Coca-Cola introduced the world to “New Coke” in 1985.

    Government Study Finds Out Wives Should Calm Down (NIH) $325,525

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.

    Fort Hood Shooter Continued to Collect Government Paycheck (Army) ($52,952 in 2013)

While the families of the survivors and victims were fighting to receive military benefits, the Fort Hood shooter Major Nadal Hasan was cashing his paycheck. Since the shooting, Hasan has received over $278,000 in military benefits because the Military Code of Justice doesn’t allow a soldier to be suspended until they are found guilty.

    NASA Searches for Signs of Intelligent Life … in Congress – (NASA) $3 million

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.

    Hurricane Sandy “Emergency” Funds Spent on TV Ads ($65 million)

In January 2013, Congress passed a bill to provide $60.4 billion for the areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  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.

    Federally Funded Solar Panels Covered at Manchester-Boston Airport Because the Glare Blinds Pilots and Controllers (FAA) - $3.5 million

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.

    Need Brains!  Fighting Zombies with Pluses and Minuses -- (NC) $150,000

A grant from NSF went to a company in North Carolina to develop a math learning game based on the zombie apocalypse.

    NASA’s Little Green Man (NASA) -- $390,000

Since NASA is no longer conducting space flights, they have plenty of time and money to fund a YouTube TV show and cartoon series called “Green Ninja” in which a man dressed in a Green Ninja costume teaches children about global warming.


All 100 at this link

snip the first few pages of 177 pages............... read the entire thing and then tell me Ryan and Murray just couldn't find anything other than the military or doctors to cut!!

Wastebook 2013
Table of Contents
Introduction ... 1
1. Paid to Do Nothing – (Government wide) At least $400 million .............................................. 3
2. It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s Superman! – (National Guard) $10 million .................................. 5
3. Uncle Sam Looking for Romance on the Web – (NEH) $914,000 .............................................7
4. Obama Administration Studies American’s Attitudes Towards Filibuster as Senate Majority Leader Eliminates the Longstanding Senate Right to Debate – (MO) $251,525 . 9
5. Beachfront Boondoggle: Taxpayer’s on the Hook for Paradise Island Homes – (HI) $500 million ... 11
6. Pimping the Tax Code – (NV) $17.5 million ................................................................................... 13
7. Mass Destruction of Weapons – (DoD) $7 billion ....................................................................... 14
8. Let Me Google That for You: National Technical Information Service – (Department of Commerce) $50 million ... 16
9. Millions Spent Building, Promoting an Insurance Plan Few Want and a Website that Doesn’t Work – (Department of Health and Human Services) At least $379 million ........ 18
10. Cost of Unused Mega-Blimp Goes Up, Up and Away – (Army) $297 Million .................... 20
Wastebook 2013
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 9-11.3

DOD grounded the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels,4 yet still spent $432 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.

Wastebook 2013

This lack of common sense was only accentuated in October when the government shut down, in part because Congress failed to approve even one regular appropriations bill. Agency heads were forced to decide what constituted essential and nonessential activities. As a result, veterans’ memorials were locked down and “closed” signs were put up. No similar dramatic notice was given to the government boondoggles that continued to waste of taxpayer money.

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.

And just days before the impending shutdown, when much of Washington was bracing for a protracted closure of most government offices and activities, USDA decided to celebrate Christmas early by funding six Christmas trees projects and—in the spirit of holiday cheer—35 different wine initiatives, including the creation of two smart phone apps to help “navigate to the next winery.”

These are only a few of the 100 examples of government mismanagement and stupidity included in Wastebook 2013. Collectively these cost nearly $30 billion in a year when Washington would have you believe everything that could be done has been done to control unnecessary spending. Had just these 100 been eliminated, the sequester amount would have been reduced nearly a third without any noticeable disruption.

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?

When it comes to spending your money, those in Washington tend to see no waste, speak no waste, and cut no waste.

Tom A. Coburn, M.D.
U.S. Senator

Wastebook 2013

1. Paid to Do Nothing – (Government wide) At least $400 million
The first session of the 113th Congress will likely go down as the least productive in history, more notable for what it did not do than what it did. A mere 57 laws were enacted, no budget could be agreed upon, and not a single regular appropriations bill to fund government operations passed on time, resulting, in part, in a 16 day government wide shutdown in October. Through it all Congress was paid. And eventually, so were all the other federal employees, including many deemed non-essential and therefore not permitted to report to work.

The White House estimates it cost $2 billion to provide back pay to federal employees “for services that could not be performed” during the shutdown. “Total compensation costs, including benefits, are about 30 percent larger, in the range of $2.5 billion.”11

Of course, it is not the fault of employees who are non-essential, formally deemed “non-exempt,”12 for the failure of Congress to do its job.

More than 100,000 federal employees being paid a salary of at least $100,000 were furloughed as non-essential. Each of these were paid $4,000 for the time off of work during the shutdown.
Again, it is not the fault of these civil servants that Congress did not do its job and, like everyone else, they have bills to pay. But it is truly unfair to charge billions of dollars to pay others not to work to taxpayers working to cover their own bills and the bills of the government. This is especially true when the non-essential federal employee is being compensated more than twice the average U.S. family income of $51,000.13

A sampling of just three federal agencies found more than 35,500 federal employees earning $100,000 or more who were furloughed for performing non-essential duties (and then paid for not performing those duties).

The Department of Treasury “furloughed 21,751 non-excepted/non-essential employees with an annual salary of $100,000.00 or more during the government shutdown.”14 This adds up to nearly $84 million spent to pay just these employees to do nothing. Meanwhile, the Administration furloughed as non-essential “nearly all of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), which implements the U.S. government’s financial sanctions against countries such as Iran and Syria.”15 And while taxpayers continued to file returns and make payments during the shutdown, they “could not receive assistance” from the IRS.16
“During the shutdown of the federal government in October 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs furloughed 1,406 employees who are paid an annual salary of $100,000 or more (356 in the Office of Information & Technology, 832 in the Veterans Benefits Administration, and 218 in the Office of the Inspector General).”17 This means $5.6 million was spent to pay $4,000 or more to each of the
More than 100,000 federal employees being paid a salary of at least $100,000 were deemed non-essential and not required to work during the government shutdown.

Wastebook 2013

employees for not performing any duties. Over this same period, some services to veterans were halted or curtailed and progress to reduce the veterans’ disability claims backlog was stalled.18 The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) deemed as non-essential and furloughed approximately 12,300 employees earning an annual salary of $100,000 or more during the government shutdown.19 The cost to pay these employees for a paid vacation of 16 days exceeded $47 million. At these three agencies alone, more than $135 million was spent to pay employees with salaries exceeding $100,000 to do nothing for two weeks. With 15 departments and at least 25 independent agencies within the executive branch, more than 100,000 federal employees earning $100,000 or more were likely furloughed and paid to do nothing, costing taxpayers $400 million. This is one-fifth of the total back pay for furloughed non-essential federal employees. Many who perform what most of us consider essential occupations earn on average far less than $100,000. A full-time public school teacher, for example, is paid about $56,000 a year.20 A registered nurse is compensated about $68,000 a year.21 And a police officer is paid about $58,000 a year.22

At least six state governors are also paid less than $100,000, including the chief executives of Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, and Oregon.23

Any federal employee collecting an annual salary of $100,000 or more should be performing essential work and considered exempt from furlough during a government shutdown. Likewise, Congress, which is expected to perform essential work, should not be paid when it fails to pass an annual budget as required by law.
Wastebook 2013

2. It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s Superman! – (National Guard) $10 million
Sequestration, the across-the-board spending cuts agreed to by Congress and the President, will reduce the strength of the Army National Guard by more than 8,000 soldiers.24 So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that in the face of these cuts, the National Guard is turning to Superman for help.
Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, not even the menacing threats of sequester or a government shutdown could furlough the caped crusader and his fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

This year, the Army National Guard teamed up with Superman on a $10 million “Soldier of Steel” promotional campaign, intended “to increase awareness and consideration of service opportunities in the National Guard.”25 The recruitment ads “dovetailed with the release of the Warner Bros. blockbuster movie, ‘Man of Steel,’” the latest Superman movie26 and, strangely enough, with a downsizing of the National Guard.

“The centerpiece of this awareness campaign were two theater spots airing in 90 percent of theater screens nationwide,” according to the National Guard.27 Signs and video monitors were placed in more than 1,500 theaters “and supporting elements included in-gym networks ads, ads placed with targeted high school magazines/websites, and online/mobile/video ads.”28

The promotional campaign also included online video games,29 a series of work out and fitness videos,30 and sports cars design wraps. Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove the National Guard “Man of Steel” Chevrolet SS on June 16th at the Michigan International Speedway.31 Panther Racing’s No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet IndyCar was repainted blue and red with Superman’s iconic “S” placed prominently on the nose of the car for the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race as part of the National Guard’s “Soldier of Steel” recruiting campaign.32

Theater and social media placement for the Superman tie-in recruitment campaign cost the Army National Guard $8 million for development, and production cost another $2 million.33 These costs do not include the “motorsport car wraps” because the cars were already partnering with the National Guard.34

The real super men and women fighting for truth, justice, and the American way don’t wear red capes.
Players “crack the codes, pilot the experimental helicopter and test your aim on the firing range with prototype weaponry” as part of the Army National Guard’s Soldier of Steel video game. 5

Wastebook 2013

In addition to taxpayer cash, the “Man of Steel” collected more than $160 million from over 100 other promotional tie-ins.35 The movie itself, Superman: Man of Steel has grossed over $662 million worldwide to date36 and it will earn more with its DVD release.

The Army National Guard’s budget did not fare as well as Superman’s. As a result of the spending restraints imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, “the Army may have to reduce at least 100,000 additional personnel across the Total Force – the Active Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. When coupled with previously planned cuts to end strength, the Army could lose up to 200,000 soldiers over the next ten years,” according to Army leadership.37

Yet, the Army still spent $10 million to subsidize the promotion of Superman with the hopes of enlisting new recruits. This money could have been better spent on the real life supermen and superwomen in the Army National Guard who are courageously risking all in the fight for truth, justice, and the American way.
As Superman flies away with massive profits from sponsors and ticket sales and the force size and budget of the Army National Guard shrinks, the U.S. national debt continues to go up, up and away.

A car in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race was repainted blue and red with Superman’s iconic “S” on the nose as part of the National Guard’s “Soldier of Steel” recruiting campaign. 6

Wastebook 2013

3. Uncle Sam Looking for Romance on the Web – (NEH) $914,000

More and more people are looking for love online and now Uncle Sam is paying to make the web a little more romantic.

The Popular Romance Project has received nearly $1 million from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) since 2010 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.”38 In addition to the funds provided by NEH, the Library of Congress Center for the Book is also a participant in the project.39

According to the Popular Romance Project, “with this funding, we will develop an expanded website—including hundreds of new video interviews and blog posts, games that explore branding and marketing, and archival materials—as well as a mobile version.”40

“Taking love and its stories seriously, wherever they may be found, the Popular Romance Project will spark a lively, thoughtful conversation between fans, authors, scholars, and the general public about the writing, production, and consumption of popular romance, including its history and transformation in the digital age.”41

The Popular Romance Project aims to “bring new audiences into the conversation about the nature of love, romance, and their expression in novels and popular culture more broadly” through four programs:

• A documentary entitled “Love Between the Covers”;
• An interactive website dedicated to romance and romance novels;
• An academic symposium on “the past and future of the romance novel” hosted by the Library of Congress Center for the Book; and
• A “nationwide series of library programs dealing with the past, present, and future of the romance novel” with a traveling exhibit.42

Your post is a keeper for further reference. Thanks!

The website for the Popular Romance Project - - is amusing

yep...I saw the good Senator presenting his list today, and it reminded me of good old Bill Proxmire's "Golden Fleece Awards"...he used to turn up the damndest stuff....


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