Posts Tagged ‘Government Waste’
December 12th, 2013 at 4:18 pm
Reminder: The Pentagon Can be Big Government Too
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Those of us on the right tend to be more defensive about the Pentagon than most organs of the federal government, and with good reason: it’s unquestionably a legitimate function of the federal government to maintain a military and protect America’s security interests, both at home and abroad. Too often, however, we get caught in a false dichotomy about the Department of Defense, with hawks unwilling to entertain the notion of the military seeing its budget cut by even one red cent and a certain strain of libertarians wanting to cut the military to the bone.

In between those two poles is a more sensible position: the military should receive absolutely everything it needs to discharge its core mission of defending the country and our interests abroad … and should be brought to heel like any other government agency when it wastes that money. And believe me, there’s a lot of waste.

Reuters is currently in the midst of chronicling this dysfunction with a series of articles on the incredibly flawed accounting and procurement techniques used by the Pentagon. The most recent installment is jaw-droppingly detailed. It’s a very long read, but one worth your time. A sample:

In its investigation, Reuters has found that the Pentagon is largely incapable of keeping track of its vast stores of weapons, ammunition and other supplies; thus it continues to spend money on new supplies it doesn’t need and on storing others long out of date. It has amassed a backlog of more than half a trillion dollars in unaudited contracts with outside vendors; how much of that money paid for actual goods and services delivered isn’t known. And it repeatedly falls prey to fraud and theft that can go undiscovered for years, often eventually detected by external law enforcement agencies.

The consequences aren’t only financial; bad bookkeeping can affect the nation’s defense. In one example of many, the Army lost track of $5.8 billion of supplies between 2003 and 2011 as it shuffled equipment between reserve and regular units. Affected units “may experience equipment shortages that could hinder their ability to train soldiers and respond to emergencies,” the Pentagon inspector general said in a September 2012 report.

Because of its persistent inability to tally its accounts, the Pentagon is the only federal agency that has not complied with a law that requires annual audits of all government departments. That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for. That sum exceeds the value of China’s economic output last year.

You’ll be horrified by the waste and sheer administrative bloat. You’ll be even more disturbed, however, when you read how difficult efforts at reform have been. Read the whole thing here.

September 17th, 2013 at 12:29 pm
Three MORE Stupid Ways the Government Wastes Your Money

1) No manned space missions to Mars will be possible for at least 25 years, according to NASA projections. Still, NASA spends about $1 million a year “researching and building the Mars menu.” According to Sen. Tom Coburn’s annual “Wastebook” publication, NASA passed out an additional $947,000 in 2012 to researchers at Cornell University and the University of Hawaii to pretend they were on Mars and eat food that could be served on the Red Planet.

2) Because the federal government couldn’t actually afford to fund President Obama’s ill-conceived $833 billion stimulus debacle, American taxpayers will continue to pay for the scheme for years to come — with interest.

Among the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s more outrageous expenditures was a $20,785 handout to the Miccosukee Indian Village in Florida that funded, among other things, a high school-age alligator wrestler. Two other alligator wrestlers from the Miccosukee Tribe have been severely injured performing with gators in recent years. Now, thanks to Obama, taxpayers are helping to pay for a kid to engage in the senseless stunt.

3) In February the Government Accountability Office revealed that American taxpayers spent millions to shuttle the Attorney General and the FBI Director around in two high-tech luxury jets.

The pair of Gulfstream V jets were supposedly purchased for counterterrorism purposes, but were used more than 60 percent of the time for “non-mission flights” from 2007 to 2011. Flying Attorney General Eric Holder, his predecessor in the Bush administration and FBI Director Robert Mueller around on those “non-mission flights” cost taxpayers $11.4 million.

August 2nd, 2013 at 11:48 am
‘Vital’ Agriculture Programs Pay Millions to the Dead
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If you followed the recent debate in Congress over the farm bill, you know that the associated programs were often sold as vital to preserving a way of life in rural America. To cut one red cent anywhere would be to betray the nation’s farmers. So we were told, anyway.

Well, it turns out that there are at least a few beneficiaries who will probably be able to get by without the federal handout. From James Grieff at Bloomberg View:

It’s bad enough that the U.S. government showers billions of dollars a year in subsidies and handouts on the nation’s farmers, a group that as a whole is much better off than most Americans. Now the Government Accountability Office says in a new report that many of the recipients of that federal largess aren’t even alive.

The agency determined that thousands of dead farmers have received as much as $36 million in payments for crop insurance, disaster aid and conservation programs. The report doesn’t say how dead farmers received the checks or who went to the banks to cash them — but never mind, since that wasn’t the GAO’s assignment.

These are the same people, keep in mind, who think that government can make health care less expensive than the private sector. Count me skeptical. In fact, I’m guessing that experiment will play out like an exaggerated version of the scenario above: with more money wasted and a higher body count.

June 20th, 2012 at 1:45 pm
Federal Government Creating Green Jobs … at $12 Million a Pop
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Further evidence that the Obama Administration’s green jobs fetish defies all logic, economic or otherwise, comes from this report from CNS News:

An Obama administration green jobs grant program that spent $11 billion lacks a verifiable job-counting system and likely created only a fraction of the jobs it claims, according to a staff report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

While Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the grants “created tens of thousands of jobs,” the government’s own National Renewal Energy Laboratory estimates it created 910 direct jobs.

The House report criticized even those numbers, saying: “The job creation numbers that exist for Section 1603 are based on models, not actual data from completed projects. Neither Treasury nor DOE have turned over actual jobs data on the Section 1603 grants program to the committee.”

In the spirit of generosity, let’s assume the 910 number is correct. At $11 billion, that comes out to well over $12 million per job. A ludicrous amount to be sure, but also one that comes with an enormous opportunity cost. Scroll down the page to Ashton’s post on the cost-effectiveness of Washington D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship program and you’ll find that the whole thing (which the Obama Administration has consistently targeted for elimination) could be funded at the cost of less than two of those green jobs.

The character of this administration can be defined by its priorities. Does anything more need to be said than that they would rather slip millions of taxpayer dollars to tech firms who haven’t so much as worked up a business model than to poor children in the inner city? Hope indeed.

April 4th, 2012 at 12:13 pm
Head of Federal Government’s Cost-Cutting Agency Resigns Amidst Revelations of Taxpayer-Funded Excesses
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Every week or so it seems there’s another story out of Washington about the federal government spending an eye-popping amount of money on something that’s either dramatically overpriced or outright unnecessary: $115,000 a year for someone to update the Interior Department’s Facebook page, for instance, or the Maryland town where more than $800,000 of stimulus money was spent in order to publicize how well stimulus money was being spent.

Perhaps, in a fit of rage at one of these stories, you’ve wondered why there isn’t a government watchdog tasked with reining in these expenditures. Though it’s little know outside of Washington, there actually is such an organization, the colorlessly named General Services Administration (GSA), which describes its mission as “to use expertise to provide innovative solutions for our customers in support of their missions, and by so doing, foster an effective, sustainable, and transparent government for the American people.” And now the head of the organization, Martha Johnson, is stepping down after the GSA went on a taxpayer-funded spending binge.

From the Federal Times:

GSA’s Public Buildings Service spent $822,000 on the biennial Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas for only 300 employees, according to an inspector general’s report.

The expenses included $147,000 for airfare and hotel lodging for six planning trips by conference organizers. That figure included $100,000 on two “scouting trips” and five off-site meetings and an additional $30,000 on catering costs for those trips, according to the report.

Among the other expenses were $3,200 for a mind reader; $6,300 on a commemorative coin set displayed in velvet boxes; and $75,000 on a training exercise to build a bicycle, according to the IG report, which was obtained by Federal Times.

GSA also promised the hotel an additional $41,480 in catering charges in exchange for the “concession” of the hotel honoring the government’s lodging limit.

The agency also spent $44 a person per breakfast and $95 per person for its closing reception dinner.

The agency also spent money on mementos for attendees, clothing for GSA employees and tuxedo rentals, according to the report.

The GSA: Looking out for the taxpayers since 1949. But who will watch the watchmen?

h/t — Mollie Hemingway at Ricochet.

December 22nd, 2011 at 6:15 pm
Taxpayers Footing the Bill to Create Pakistani Version of “Sesame Street,” Video Game Based on Michelle Obama’s Garden
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You’ve really got to hand it to Senator Tom Coburn. In a job where the only real responsibility is to raise your hand from time to time, the junior senator from Oklahoma has taken it upon himself to use the full powers of his office to fight for a smaller, less wasteful government. One of the mechanisms he employs in waging this battle is his annual “Wastebook Report,” chronicling the most outrageous excesses in federal spending over the past year. The 2011 version is now out and well worth a read (assuming you have blood pressure medication nearby). Here are just a few samples from Coburn’s collection of 100 outrages:

  • $35 million of taxpayer money to pay for both major parties’ political conventions
  • Around $500,000 to purchase equity in a Washington D.C. IHOP
  • $120 million in benefits for federal employees who were ineligible — because they were dead
  • Over $100,000 to preserve vintage video games
  • $18 million in foreign aid … to China, our banker
  • $100,000 for a celebrity chef road show in Indonesia
  • $10 million to help develop a Pakistani version of “Sesame Street”
  • Approximately $1 billion in falsely-claimed tax credits for household energy efficiency
  • Nearly $1 million for an online soap opera about single mothers (starring Billy Dee Williams, no less)
  • Over $175,000 to fund a study on the connection between cocaine use and risky sexual behavior … in quail
  • Half a million dollars for research on the trustworthiness of tweets
  • $4.4 billion in wartime contracting fraud
  • Over $200,000 for an online organic farming video game based on Michelle Obama’s White House vegetable garden.
  • $600,000 for research on why chimps throw their own feces.

With this report, Tom Coburn is earning his taxypayer-funded salary. He may be the only one.

March 23rd, 2011 at 12:40 pm
Federal Government Offers Six Figure Jobs Updating Facebook Pages
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In the continuing debate over the size and cost of government, Democrats are fond of saying that there’s not much in the way of waste when it comes to federal employment. In a piece up on the Daily Caller today, Chris Moody begs to differ:

The Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs needs someone to run the Facebook page for the Dept. of the Interior and they’ll pay up to $115,000 a year. Over at the Dept. of Defense, they’ll drop nearly 50k a year for a new mail room clerk, plus the glorious benefits that comes with government work.

In Washington, D.C., there are more than 1,000 openings this month alone. These include a “student internship” program at the Federal Housing  Finance Agency that pays the equivalent of $48,304 a year; a $155,000-a-year gig at the Peace Corps to ensure the agency is complying with Equal Opportunity Employment standards; and a similar job at the Dept. of Transportation that promises nearly $180,000 a year.

Needless to say, this is an unquestionable example of Washington excess. But it has implications for the private sector too. After all, what college kid will want to take the risks of creating the next world-changing company when he can make six figures a year — with total job security and lavish benefits — at taxpayer expense?

March 18th, 2011 at 4:37 pm
The State of the Union in One Paragraph
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From the opening graph of a story in today’s Washington Times:

As a thank-you to its most famous customer, Amtrak is renaming the train station in Wilmington, Del., after stimulus “sheriff” Vice President Joseph R. Biden — after the project received $20 million in stimulus money and came in $5.7 million over the initial announced budget.

May 5th, 2010 at 7:43 pm
Freddie Mac Back to Remind You of Its Failures

As Goldman Sachs is reeled into court for potential securities fraud, a bigger fish is still swimming free and wreaking havoc on the public.  Freddie Mac, one half of the not-so-dynamic duo of government-backed mortgage peddlers, took another massive hit during the first quarter of the year.  The company, which is largely owned by the federal government after the 2008 bailouts, is set to ask for an additional $10.6 billion in “federal aid,” aka more bailouts.

With assistance and pressure from Washington to make housing affordable for all, one can see how Freddie Mac thinks that money grows on trees.  Unfortunately, all of us in the real world, from whom the government is funded, should be concerned how “We the Taxpayers” are going to come up with another $10 billion to flush down the toilet.  Not to mention why.

More troubling, while Goldman Sachs is getting grilled at congressional hearings, financial reform legislation, which unleashes a broadside against banks, but not a single provision addressing the troublesome Fannie and Freddie, will soon be ushered to a vote.  The Kansas City Star’s E. Thomas McClanahan stated it well:

“Wall Street’s excesses sent the markets and the economy off a cliff, but the seeds of the debacle were planted by politicians and richly fertilized by their creations: Fannie and Freddie…”

The shenanigans on Wall Street may or may not have brushed up against the law, but the opportunity and incentive would not have existed had the federal government and its lending arms, Fannie and Freddie, not insisted on giving mortgages to folks who could not afford them.  Congress should remember as they point a finger at Wall Street that four fingers are pointing back at them.

March 16th, 2010 at 12:32 am
Taxpayer Money Going to Fund TV Ads Promoting Big Government
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The 2010 Census is quickly turning into an extended metaphor for everything that’s wrong with big government. There was a $2.5 million Super Bowl ad buy, a huge spending spree on make-work employees (instead of employing technology that would have been cheaper AND more effective), and — my favorite — a letter letting us know that we’d be receiving a letter.

The Census Bureau’s current “March to the Mailbox” ad may the biggest offense yet. In the 30-second spot, a suburban schlub touts filling out the census as the cure to every policy ill, from education to health care to transportation.


If only.

The census serves a legitimate purpose, but its ad campaign is egregious — and its assertion that more money is all it takes to solve social problems is (a) patently false and (b) a wildly inappropriate use for taxpayer funds. The Census Bureau needs to stay in its lane and save the rest of us some money.