(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.