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The ever-rising national debt just surpassed $30 trillion this year — at least $91,613 for every person in the U.S. So, just how much federal waste, silliness, weird or unnecessary spending are your tax dollars funding?
Delving into the trillions of dollars in annual spending, our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com, recently examined Washington’s discretionary spending — beyond such big-ticket items as health, welfare and defense.
We found staggering examples and highlighted some of the worst in our new oversight report, “Where’s The Pork?”
Dead people paid billions: 2.2 million deceased people received $3.6 billion in economic stimulus checks. The government asked for it back, but dead people are notoriously bad about paying up. The federal government is equally bad about clawing it back.
How did this happen? Well, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) didn’t check the Social Security Administration’s “deceased persons” list. Why have a deceased persons list if you don’t check the list before cutting the check?
The Do Not Pay list — Got Paid: The Small Business Administration (SBA) doled out 57,000 Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) forgivable loans to entities on the Do Not Pay list housed at Treasury. Again, why have a do not pay list if you are not going to check it. Cost to taxpayers? $3.6 billion.
We found that the federal government is literally gambling away hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars — on pigeons.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) doled out a $463,330 grant to researchers at Reed College (Portland, Oregon) to “create a token-based economy where pigeons are taught to gamble with slot machines.”
The pigeons were given tokens and could choose whether to spend, save or gamble them. No explanation of how the gambling habits of pigeons translate to humans.
Then, there are the crappy projects.
For example, the National Science Foundation gave a $556,584 grant that, in part, funded a study of beasts pooping — yes, The Hydrodynamics of Defecation. Animal bowel movements were measured, studied and documented including the release of four very gross videos.
Nearly $7 million was spent on technology to film your butt — while you’re on the toilet. The National Cancer Institute gave this grant to Sanford University, whose researchers admitted, “To fully reap the benefits of the smart toilet, users must make their peace with a camera that scans their anus.”
These grants defy imagination, however, there are many others.
Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spent $478,188 in an attempt to turn monkeys transgender, the National Science Foundation gave a $300,000 grant for a virtual reality penguin study and gave Harvard a $75,000 grant to “blow lizards off trees with leaf blowers.”
Somehow, Congress still has its hidden slush fund for workplace disputes. First uncovered during the early days of the #MeToo movement, the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights paid $18.2 million since 1997 to settle 291 cases of workplace disputes. It’s beyond time to open those books.
When flashing back to egregious spending examples in recent years, we uncovered:
In 2018, the U.S. Air Force spent $1,280 per “hot cup” to keep coffee warm for their fighter pilots. Then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley asked the Air Force for an audit, which found it spent $300,000 on the expensive cups over three years. This waste was stopped.
In 2016, we found that Veterans Affairs (VA) spent $20 million on a high-end luxury art portfolio during a period when sick veterans were dying because the agency claimed a lack of budget to hire enough doctors. It was 27-foot Christmas trees costing $21,000, six-figure artwork and $700,000 sculptures. The VA secretary apologized.
Musician and former presidential candidate Kanye West, who claims a net worth of $3.2 billion, took $2.4 million in coronavirus relief from the PPP for his clothing and sneaker company, Yeezy LLC.
It’s an open question whether or not Chinese hackers funded an entire year of China’s military budget ($206 billion) by stealing U.S. unemployment aid. Primarily Chinese and Russian hackers stole up to $400 billion. It’s the largest public fraud in U.S. history.
Unfortunately, wasteful spending isn’t anything new.
Beginning in 1975, then-Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, gave the Golden Fleece Award to showcase wasteful and nonsensical spending.
Proxmire gave an early Fleece to the Federal Aviation Administration for spending $57,800 on a study of the physical measurements of 432 flight attendants ($314,028 inflation-adjusted). The study measured the length of the buttocks and the “knee-to-knee breath” of flight attendants while sitting.
If he were still alive and in office today, Proxmire would find a target-rich environment for his Golden Fleece award.
Originally published on Adam Andrzejewski’s OpenTheBooks Substack page.