Your taxpayer dollars at work and play

(This article has been reposted since it was lost in the transition from Tucson Citizen.)

The fantastic federal budget is in the news again as Congress and federal agencies pretend to have taxpayers’ welfare in mind.  The Heritage Foundation has a new report titled

“Federal Spending by the Numbers, 2013: Government Spending Trends in Graphics, Tables, and Key Points.”  It is a long report, but well worth a read.

Of total federal spending, 23 percent goes to Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs; 22 percent goes to Social Security; 19 percent goes to National Defense; another 19 percent goes to “income security” and veterans benefits; and 6 percent goes to pay interest on the national debt.  That adds up to 89 percent.

In this post I will focus on wasteful spending. How is this spending justified by the Constitution or even common sense?  Here are some of the examples that the Heritage Foundation documents:

In 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture spent $300,000 on activities promoting caviar produced in Idaho.

The Federal Communications Commission spent $2.2 billion in 2012 providing phones to low-income Americans—up from $819 million in 2008. An FCC review found that 41 percent of over six million recipients were either ineligible or had not proved their eligibility for the program.

A $100,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts funded a video game that depicts a female superhero sent to save planet Earth from climate changes allegedly caused by social issues that affect women.

The Department of Energy’s Savannah River facility spent $7.7 million on severance packages for 526 temporarily hired contract workers instead of issuing layoff notices.

After receiving $150 million in taxpayer funds, a Michigan hybrid battery plant is putting workers on furlough. Not a single battery has been produced.

The General Services Administration’s poor oversight of 33 courthouse construction projects during the 2000 to 2010 time period cost taxpayers $835 million in extra construction costs. Taxpayers pay $51 million a year to maintain and operate an extra 3.5 million square feet of space that was built and remains unused today.

The Internal Revenue Service spent $4.1 million on a lavish conference in 2010 for 2,609 of its employees in Anaheim, California. Expenses included $50,000 for line-dancing and “Star Trek” parody videos, $135,350 for outside speakers, $64,000 in conference “swag” for the employees, plus free meals, cocktails, and hotel suite upgrades.

The Transportation Security Administration let 5,700 pieces of unused security equipment worth $184 million sit in storage in a Dallas, Texas, warehouse, which costs $3.5 million annually to lease and manage. Taxpayers lost another $23 million in depreciation costs, because most of the 472 carry-on baggage screening machines had been housed there for nine months or more.

The National Science Foundation awarded $350,000 to Purdue University researchers, who found golfers should imagine the hole is bigger to boost confidence and accuracy.

The National Science Foundation used part of a half million dollar grant to develop a video game that simulates a high school prom.

The National Science Foundation approved a $227,000 grant to a Michigan State University professor in the school’s Department of Animal Studies. The grant will fund a two-year study of the evolution of National Geographic’s depiction of animals from 1888–2008.

In a study costing $681,387, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research confirmed that men bearing firearms appear taller, stronger, and manlier.

The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research conducted a $300,000 study that concluded that the first bird on earth probably had black feathers.

The Office of Naval Research conducted a $450,000 study which determined that unintelligent robots are unable to maintain a baby’s attention.

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) fiscal year 2011 Performance and Accountability Report found $2.11 billion in overpaid Social Security benefits.

The same report found that the SSA overpaid old-age, survivors, and disability insurance benefits by $934 million in FY 2010 alone.

In 2010 alone, $6 billion or 17 percent of federal user fees were diverted from highway and road projects to pay for mass transit, even though transit accounted for only about one percent of the nation’s surface travel.

A 2012 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration identified $757 million in fraudulent tax refunds to prisoners in 2010.

Poor oversight allowed over one thousand Pennsylvania prisoners to collect weekly unemployment benefits over a four-month period, costing taxpayers $7 million.

According to 2012 Congressional Research Service reports, federal government agencies spent more than $900 million on advertising in fiscal year 2010 and spent an additional $750.4 million on advertising in fiscal year 2011.

That’s just part of the list.  It is time to demand that Congress and federal agencies practice some fiscal restraint.

See more examples of government waste here.

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8 comments

  1. Taxpayers do not pay for federal spending. If all taxes were $0, that would not affect by even one penny, the ability of our Monetarily Sovereign government to spend.

    When the federal government pays a bill, it sends instructions (not dollars) to the creditor’s bank, instructing the bank to increase the numbers in the creditor’s checking account.

    When the bank increases those numbers, dollars are created, ad hoc. Taxpayers are not involved in any way.

    Taxpayers also are not involved in the federal “debt,” which actually is nothing more than the total of T-security account deposits at the federal reserve bank. They essentially are bank savings accounts.

    To “pay off” this “debt,” the government merely transfers dollars from T-security accounts to checking accounts. Again, taxpayers are not involved.

    1. Why then do we pay taxes? Money, itself, is a portable means of settling debts. Transferring numbers between bank accounts (or the Treasury) is just an easier method of accounting – no physical transfers necessary. But the Fed is still using my numbers, i.e, spending them.

      1. On August 15, 1971, the U.S. became Monetarily Sovereign. That means its ability to create its sovereign currency, the dollar, no longer was restricted by its supply of gold.

        Federal taxes are a relic of the pre-1971 days.

        When you send dollars to the federal government, those dollars leave the U.S. money supply. They no longer exist. They are destroyed. The government does not, indeed cannot, use them.

        The American public has been brainwashed into believing federal finances are like personal finances. You and I (and states, counties, cities, businesses and even the euro nations) are monetarily NON-sovereign. We cannot create unlimited amounts of our sovereign currency, for the simple reason that we have no sovereign currency.

        So we need a source of income in order to pay our bills.

        The federal government needs no source of income. It pays its bills by sending instructions (not dollars) to creditors’ banks, telling the banks to increase the balances in creditors’ checking accounts.

        When those balances are increased, money is created. The federal government has the unlimited ability to send instructions, at the press of a computer button.

        See: http://mythfighter.com/2013/07/27/i-just-thought-you-should-know-lunch-really-can-be-free/

    1. The notion that federal deficits and debts must be reduced has been sponsored by the upper .1% income/wealth group. The rich have bribed Congress and the President (via campaign contributions and promises of lucrative employment later) to reduce deficit spending.

      The reason: Deficit spending mostly benefits the 99%. By making the public believe (falsely) that federal spending is, or should be limited, the rich establish the excuse for austerity, which widens the gap between the rich and the rest.

      Eliminating, or even greatly reducing, the federal deficit would expose the fact that taxes are not necessary, and that federal spending is limited only by the possibility of an inflation (which easily could be controlled via interest rates).

      In summary, the rich want you to believe spending is limited (especially for social programs) and taxes are necessary (especially regressive taxes like FICA and sales taxes). That belief widens the gap.

      If taxes were greatly reduced or eliminated, you might say, “Hey, if they can cut taxes, and the government still can spend, why do they have to cut Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other poverty aids and all other programs that benefit the middle and the poor?”

      That is one question the rich do not want you to ask.

  2. comment from a friend:
    Cindy Coping:
    Mr. Mitchell discounts the fact that when the federal government electronically increases M1 thereby creating new dollars out of thin air, it is a zero sum game and purchasing power of every dollar in all of us normal people’s bank accounts will suddenly buy fewer goods and services. It is a direct although rather invisible transfer of wealth from the citizenry to the government. This is inflationary and was the cause of the Weimar Republic’s economic collapse. This also occurred early in US History shortly after the Revolution. (see the Wikipedia article on Continental currency https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_dollar#Continental_currency ) This is also why counterfeiting money is a very serious crime, as it is stealing from everyone who has cash.

    Second, he states that taxpayers are not involved in the federal debt. Taxpayers and welfare queens alike are in fact very much involved because in order to pay off the debt, the federal government must either tax us or steal the money from us directly by expanding the M1 money supply. Typically the government depends on inflation so that it repays debt with dollars that have less spending power (are worth less) than the dollars that were borrowed. So when someone buys T bills they either must demand an interest rate that compensates for their inflationary losses or the seller loses money on the deal. Eventually China will call in its debt and we will have no means to repay it, especially considering the BO Administration’s stranglehold on economic activity, so to avoid a repeat of the Weimar economy we may be forced to divest federal lands or sign them over directly to the Chinese in order to pay the debt with something real.

    1. You said: “. . . the federal government electronically increases M1 thereby creating new dollars out of thin air, it is a zero sum game and purchasing power of every dollar in all of us normal people’s bank accounts will suddenly buy fewer goods and services.”

      The value of anything, including dollars, is based on supply and demand. You neglected to include demand in your thesis.

      In fact, since the U.S. government became Monetarily Sovereign, there has been zero relationship between federal spending and inflation. See: http://mythfighter.com/2010/04/06/more-thoughts-on-inflation/

      —————————————————————————————————————
      You said,
      “in order to pay off the debt, the federal government must either tax us or steal the money from us directly by expanding the M1 money supply.”

      Federal “debt” is nothing more than the total of T-security accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank. When China “lends” to us, it buys T-bonds. It instructs the FRB to debit its checking account at the FRB and to credit its T-bond account, also at the FRB.

      To “pay off” the “debt,” the FRB merely debits China’s T-bond account and credits its checking account. The process is identical with you transferring dollars from your savings account to your checking account.

      This requires no new money and is no burden on the U.S.

      —————————————————————————————————————

      By the way, the Weimar hyperinflation was due to onerous stipulations put on Germany, following WWI. It had no similarity to current U.S. finances. Completely different situation.

  3. I am surprised that Robert is trolling this blog to promote this own blog. It’s not really a matter of what define the tax dollar if they destroy our tax money it’s still a waste and stupid. If you on the other camp where you are seeing debt that is growing faster then the GDP is not good for us or the dollar or the government

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