2008: Worst Waste of the Year

Congress is out of control. They love your money!



A Report By Senator Tom Coburn
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Relations



Senator Tom Coburn has released an end of the year report profiling some of the most egregious examples of wasteful government spending. As we continue to hear a clamor for bigger government and more spending to stimulate the economy, take a look at what your government spent your hard-earned tax dollars on this year. The list below is a short summary of the report and contains only a few of my favorite examples. Click here to read the whole report.

Voicemail for the Homeless - Ohio ($15,000)
While the homeless in Summit County struggle to find food, shelter and clothing, this Ohio community made sure they were not lacking in one essential service: voice mail. A $1 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) will carve out $15,000 for the free voice mail service. Interestingly, the community spent only $10,000 of the same grant on transitional housing for "homeless single parents."

Inflatable Alligator and Under-the-Sea Waterslide - Texas ($367,000)
A report by the Texas Education Agency found that $367,000 in federal funds was misspent by the Cleburne school district. Audit officials became suspicious when, "The district did not provide lesson plans or other documentation to show how rental of an inflatable alligator and an under-the-sea water slide supported reading instruction."

Billings Mustangs Minor League Baseball Stadium ¨C Montana ($328,300)
In 2008, the Billings Mustangs - a minor league baseball team - moved into its new home at Dehler Park. While the new stadium came in under budget and completed its first season of operations, the federal government is sending the team a check for $328,300. Funds will come from the Community Development Block Grant program despite the fact that local citizens fully funded the stadium with municipal bonds and more than $2 million in private donations, making federal money unnecessary. "But I have plans for it," insists Mike Whitaker, director of the park. He would like to use at least $100,000 of the extra cash to put up a foul ball net that the stadium does not need, "We feel we need to put netting along North 27th Street, even though it's not required."

Bike Path Along Baton Rouge Levees - Louisiana ($1 million)
Even as Louisiana continues to rebuild its levees following the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Congress has made sure one priority project stays on track: a bike path along the Mississippi River levee. A $1 million grant was awarded by the Federal Highway Administration - out of a fund set aside for road and bridge projects - to lengthen a bike path from downtown Baton Rouge to the campus of Louisiana State University. Noted one member of Congress from Louisiana who was instrumental in securing the funds, " I think it's a great investment."

In Tune Youth Music Program - Washington, D.C. ($430,000)
In 2005, a half million dollar grant was given to the non-profit organization to teach youth about "funk music and Nobel Peace laureates," though it is doubtful money was ever spent for that purpose, according to the Department of Education. A report from In Tune was due in September 2006, but had not been turned in to the department as of December 2007 - fifteen months late - because a "senior consultant became ill." Questions remain about how the new $430,000 grant will be used, but according to Eugene Maillard, director of In Tune, "It might be music camps. It might be lessons. It might be how to be a DJ. It might be how to create a television show.'

2010 Decennial Census Bailout - ($210 million)
Since 2004, the Census Bureau has embarked on an effort to bring the 2010 Census into the 21st Century, but wound up in the 18th Century. One of the significant challenges facing the Census is the collection of information from 300 million Americans entirely by paper and pencil. To do so, the Bureau awarded a $600 million contract to the Harris Corporation to develop handheld computers that would help census takers collect data electronically. The devices were problematic from the start and the agency was never able to get them working properly. Despite enormous cost overruns, the devices will only contain half of the functionality originally intended. As a reward, Congress gave the Census Bureau a $210 million bonus in the form of an "emergency" bailout. $800 million later, the 2010 Census will still be collected, not electronically but by paper and pencil, just like the first census over 200 years ago.

Freewheel Midtown Bike Center Cafe and Bike Shower - Minnesota ($560,000)
he Freewheel Midtown Bike Center is a rest stop of sorts for bicyclists using the Midtown Greenway, a 5.5 mile bikepath for city residents who travel throughout town without their cars. It features a cafe, bike store, bike valet and the city's first shower. Freewheel bike center is located less than three miles from the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, which collapsed on August 1, 2007, killing 14 people. Ironically, the federal grant was funneled to the bike center from the Department of Transportation just as the Federal Highway Trust Fund - used for major road abridge projects - teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.

National Park Service 100-Year Birthday Party ($24.6 million)
The National Park Service (NPS) turns 100 years old in 2016 and the agency is throwing itself a birthday party in style, with the taxpayer picking up the tab. Congress authorized $24.6 million for 2008 to spend on the Centennial Challenge, which is comprised of questionable projects - "And that's just for this year" said National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar. Recently, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that the NPS maintenance backlog has grown to more than $9.6 billion on all of its properties, making some question the need and timing for an elaborate and expensive birthday celebration.

The examples of government waste in this report, totaling more than $1 billion, are just a small amount of the taxpayer money wasted during 2008.

For the past several years, politicians from both parties have lived under the fiction that the Treasury is an unlimited source of funding for programs of all kinds, freeing them from the responsibility to choose high priority projects over low ones.

Some of the blame rests with a congressional habit known as earmarking. In 2008 alone, more than $17 billion was spent on 11,610 earmark projects without any of them having undergone a serious merit review process.

But the spending problem extends far beyond earmarks, as this report demonstrates. It reaches into programs and departments across government in the form of wasteful grants, contracts and agreements that receive little notice. Whatever the form of government waste, it is clear that there is plenty of room to trim the federal budget.

At the heart of wasteful Washington spending is the fact that politicians and government agencies mask government spending behind program names or descriptions that sound laudable, but make it difficult for taxpayers to discover exactly how the money is spent."  (AmericansForProsperity.org 12/19/08)

Josie06 Josie06
56-60, F
1 Response Feb 11, 2009

'But the spending problem extends far beyond earmarks, as this report demonstrates. It reaches into programs and departments across government in the form of wasteful grants, contracts and agreements that receive little notice. Whatever the form of government waste, it is clear that there is plenty of room to trim the federal budget.' <br />
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(from http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=9badb127-e02d-49b0-946d-a2bd8cb50eae)<br />
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Well said and a message that should be a required screensaver for all federal employees, top to bottom.