Friday, October 4, 2013

How Government Spends Taxpayer Money

With the recent government shutdown in full swing, it makes sense to consider how government spends American taxpayer money.  The Obama Administration has wasted scarce time in closing the World War II Memorial to Veterans, the Lincoln Memorial and privately funded historic sites such as Mount Vernon to the public but is any of it necessary?  What other areas could government possibly shutdown instead that would make a significant difference in curbing the excessive government spending that has brought our nation to almost $17trillion in debt?  In a 2009 study for The Heritage Foundation, Brian M. Riedl listed 50 examples of government waste.  Although the study is almost 4 years old, the information provided is still relative.
According to Riedl, there are six categories of wasteful spending in the federal government but two of them in particular are noteworthy.  These two categories are the “duplicative programs and inefficiency, management, and fraud.”  Indeed, many of the examples in Riedl’s research fit one or the other category perfectly.  Of the 50 examples of wasteful spending listed in his report, below are 15 (in random order) that are especially interesting:

1. The federal government made at least $72 billion in improper payments in 2008.

2.  Washington spends $92 billion on corporate welfare (excluding TARP) versus $71 billion on homeland security.

 3.  Washington will spend $2.6 million training Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job.

4.  A GAO classified nearly half of all purchases on government credit cards as improper, fraudulent, or embezzled.  Examples of taxpayer-funded purchases include gambling, mortgage payments, liquor, lingerie, iPods, Xboxes, jewelry, Internet dating services, and Hawaiian vacations.

5. The Securities and Exchange Commission spent $3.9 million rearranging desks and offices at its Washington, D.C., headquarters.

6. The Pentagon recently spent $998,798 shipping two 19-cent washers from South Carolina to Texas and $293,451 sending an 89-cent washer from South Carolina to Florida.

7.  The refusal of many federal employees to fly coach costs taxpayers $146 million annually in flight upgrades.

8.  Members of Congress have spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars supplying their offices with popcorn machines, plasma televisions, DVD equipment, ionic air fresheners, camcorders, and signature machines—plus $24,730 leasing a Lexus, $1,434 on a digital camera, and $84,000 on personalized calendars.

9.  Washington spends $60,000 per hour shooting Air Force One photo-ops in front of national landmarks.

10.  Taxpayers are funding paintings of high-ranking government officials at a cost of up to $50,000 apiece.

11.  Washington has spent $3billion re-sanding beaches—even as this new sand washes back into the ocean.

12.  Washington recently spent $1.8 million to help build a private golf course in Atlanta, Georgia.

13.  Congressional investigators were able to receive $55,000 in federal student loan funding for a fictional college they created to test the Department of Education.

14.  Government auditors spent the past five years examining all federal programs and found that 22 percent of them—costing taxpayers a total of $123 billion annually—fail to show any positive impact on the populations they serve.

15.  Washington spends $25 billion annually maintaining unused or vacant federal properties.

Riedl admits “wasteful spending is not easy” and much more is needed to “balance the budget” including reforming government programs.  Yet, before the government can "reform" other programs including creating Healthcare (to Obamacare) and Comprehensive Immigration, it ought to curb its excessive wasteful spending.  Riedl’s report offers a great place to begin the process of reformation.  For there to be true reform of any kind, the leaders of our nation must exhibit restraints on their own indulgences before oppressing the American people with programs that are bound to fail. 

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