U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, released a report in 2012 detailing wasteful government spending. See some of the most outrageous ways your tax dollars are squandered.
Funds in the wind: The Air Force attempted a $14 million construction project to convert three Alaskan radar stations from diesel to wind turbine energy using stimulus funds. However, the Air Force had no assurance the project was properly planned or would result in any cost savings, according to the Department of Defense Inspector General.
As a result, the Inspector General told the Air Force to shut down their construction efforts at one station altogether, and to consider ending the other two before spending more taxpayer funds on the botched effort.
Up and away: A federal airport assistance program spent $6 million to assist small airports in 2011, but has little to show for its efforts in over a decade of assistance. A 2005 review by the Government Accountability Office found the program to have achieved mixed results and that only about half of its projects helped achieve sustainability.
Not stacking up: Almost $800,000 of federal taxpayer funds went to subsidize a pancake restaurant in the nation‘s capital. An International House of Pancakes (IHOP) franchise was built with financial assistance courtesy of the federal government. It was intended to help an “underserved community.”
The new IHOP is not located in an “underserved community”, but a popular Washington D.C. neighborhood. The neighborhood is Columbia Heights, which has become a local shopping hot spot for some and “one of Washington‘s more desirable neighborhoods.”
The bridges to nowhere in Alaska may be the most infamous symbols of government excess and waste. Both bridges are still going nowhere and may never go anywhere. The proposed 2.7-mile bridge would connect a small Alaskan community with the Anchorage area, at a cost supporters say will run between $650 million and $700 million.
At least $15.3 million was spent on the project in 2011 alone. Federal taxpayer money has been directed to various aspects of the project, including $57,390 for a 14-minute video, “The Knik Arm Crossing, Bridge to Our Future.”
Dead Benjamins: The federal government sent an average of $120 million in retirement and disability payments to deceased former federal employees every year for several years. In a September 2011 report, the Inspector General (IG) for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management found that “the amount of post-death improper payments is consistently $100- $150 million annually, totaling over $601 million in the last five years.”
In one example, the Inspector General found, an annuitant‘s son cashed his dead father‘s checks for 37 years. The son‘s scheme, which cost taxpayers more than $500,000, was discovered in 2008, when he himself died. The improper payment was not recovered, the Inspector General reported.
Zapped: The International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) received over $100,000 in federal funds for video game preservation. According to the organization‘s website, it “collects, studies, and interprets video games, other electronic games, and related materials and the ways in which electronic games are changing how people play, learn, and connect with each other, including across boundaries of culture and geography.”
In the red: America‘s national debt surpassed $16 trillion, much of which it borrowed from a variety of foreign countries. China, whose U.S. debt holdings exceed $1.1 trillion, is at the top of that list. Taxpayers might be shocked to learn that each year the United States provides millions in aid to China.
In 2011, the U.S. government spent nearly $18 million on foreign aid programs to its biggest sovereign lender. This included $2.5 million for social services and about $4.4 million for programs to improve China‘s environment. Effectively, the U.S. borrowed $18 million from China to give to China.
Straight from the puppets mouth: In 2010, Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, a Pakistani arts organization, was awarded $20 million over the next four years, to create “130 episodes of an indigenously produced ‘Sesame Street.’”
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided the first $10 million for the project in FY 2011. The Pakistan Sesame Street would be produced in cooperation with Sesame Workshop, creators of the original Sesame Street.
Nothing up my sleeve: Nearly $150,000 in federal funds went to the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan, which “celebrates magicians and their magic.”
Home Improvement: As much as $1 billion or more in tax credits for energy efficient residential improvements are being claimed by individuals with no record of owning a home, including prisoners and underage children.
Based on a review of a statistically valid sample by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, 30 percent of the individuals who claimed the credit “had no record of owning a home.” Nearly a half-a-million dollars of tax credits were being claimed by hundreds of prisoners and children within the TIGTA sample.
Merry Christmas: More than $75,000 of your tax dollars went to “increase awareness about the role Michigan plays in the production of trees and poinsettias.”
It is unclear why the state needs help promoting a very successful industry. The $40 million industry is the third largest in the nation in total trees harvested with about 3 million trees. The state also grows more than 2.3 million Poinsettias‘ annually.
High flying: The University of Kentucky received a grant of $181,406 in 2010 from the National Institute of Health to study how cocaine enhances the sex drive of Japanese quail. In 2011, grant funding was extended and an additional $175,587 was provided for the study.
Up in smoke: The Virginia Commonwealth University received $55,000 in 2011 (part of a larger $170,000 grant) to study changes in the hookah smoking habits of students in the nation of Jordan. The study sought to answer the question: “How many Jordanian students believe that water pipe tobacco smoking is more harmful than cigarettes smoking?” The answer, provided by your tax dollars, is 62.2 percent.