Free Markets, Free People

How out of control is government spending?

This out of control. 

Obviously what I’m about to list isn’t going to make or break us as a nation in terms of monetary outlay.  Each taken individually is but a drop in the sea of $16 trillion dollar debt we now float in.  But the fact remains that each is an indicator of why we’re in that deep of a hole.  Each points to another area where government has no business, especially spending taxpayer, or more likely borrowed money.  Or it points to an expenditure not made on its reasoned merits, but on bureaucratic inertia, lack of control or monitoring or any of a great number of reasons the payment shouldn’t have been made.  Doug Bandow provides us with the list.

Now, on with the show:

~The U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID) spent $30 million to spur mango production and sales in Pakistan—and failed utterly.

Yup, mango production … in Pakistan.

~The Air Force spent $14 million to switch three radar stations to wind power; poor planning forced cancellation of one turbine and consideration of the same for the other two.

Because we all know windpower is proven and reliable.

~The Federal Aviation Administration devoted $6 million to subsidize air service at small, underused airports.

Market smarket … we’ll just create one.  Until the money runs out, of course.

~A federal grant for $765,828 went to—I am not making this up, to quote Dave Barry—bring an International House of Pancakes franchise to Washington, D.C.

Because bringing IHOPs to DC is a primary function of the United States government and worthy of every dollar spent.

~The Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided a $484,000 grant to build a “Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers” restaurant in Texas.

Because it is not the market’s job to decide what restaurants should exist in a certain area, it’s the job of government.

~Another HUD grant, this one for $1 million, went to a foreign architectural firm to move its headquarters from Santa Monica to Los Angeles.

Because we knew you’d want us to do it.  You need to move?  Tough cookies.

~NIH gave the University of Kentucky $175,587 to study the impact of cocaine on the sex drive of Japanese quail.

Because we’re sure Japanese quail are the next target of drug dealers.  Or something.  But this is important … important enough to up the debt over and don’t you forget it.

~The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) gave $916,567 to underwrite horse-drawn carriage exhibits and survey shipwrecks in Wisconsin.

Because, well, we couldn’t think of anything else to do with the money.

~The Oregon Cheese Guild received $50,400 to promote cheese.

Because obviously the Oregon Cheese Guild wouldn’t be able to promote cheese without this.

~Uncle Sam spent $111,000 to send brewery experts to conduct classes in China.

Because the folks making Tsing Tao obviously couldn’t handle that.

~The ever busy NSF devoted $300,000 to developing a dance program to illustrate the origins of matter.

Because without it … oh nevermind.

And my personal favorite:

~Washington helpfully gave almost $18 million in foreign aid to China—money effectively borrowed from China.

The circle is complete.  Borrowing money to give money back to the entity from which we borrowed it while still owing the balance.


Your government at work.  Be sure to read the rest of the top 100 wastes of money that Sen. Tom Coburn has helpfully put together.  And remember.  They’re the top 100.  There are plenty more than just didn’t make the cut.


Twitter: @McQandO

44 Responses to How out of control is government spending?

  • I’m torn as to what my favorite was – the wind powered radar site is right up there though. I guess they could bring in some prop planes from the Bone-Yard at Davis-Monthan and when the wind dies down, they can crank the prop plane up to generate wind for the turbines.

    Drugged up impotent Japanese quail was second….
    The other spending was just plain silly.

    EEEk! I just had a horrible thought, what if they’re using the turbines at the radar sites to charge batteries like they use in Chevy Volts? Then we could potentially have a burning non-functional radar on our hands!!! (okay, I know, to be fair, they have to either involve the radar in a collision, or rotate it vertically through 360 degrees holding position at each increment for something like 5 minutes for the batteries to catch fire, weeks later….)

    Oh what the hell, it doesn’t matter, the Iranian model of our stealth drone is 1/80th the size of ours, our radar would never detect it anyway.

  • If our government finds it too time consuming to consider and vote on each of the items separately, GOOD, I think most would agree with a government in which fewer votes meant less spending. And if they find the time consumption is still too great to even address the necessary and proper items that need to be addressed, perhaps our elected official might be pulled away from their primary use of time, the 30% to 70% of time they spend begging different interests for money.
    All of these are simple process changes that have widespread agreement, and yet still do not happen, in diametric opposition to the will of the people.
    And still people claim that there is the slightest chance in our current system that somewhere among the R’s and D’s we can get better government. We get the government we deserve, and special interests get the government we pay for.

  • I’d wager, though I pity the fool who takes the wager, that every single one of these boondoggles, large and small, benefitted at least three parties, a private sector client, the lobbyist, and the Congress critter to which the lobbyist showered with the largess of the client (and found that largess returned in exponential fashion).
    Conspicuous in it’s absence from this list is the voter, whom our government was Constitutionally created to represent, but is now merely a cog in a machine which the voter follows instead of leading.
    There are reforms which we could argue about, but one that seems to be agreeable to all but protectors of the status quo is the notion of unbundling any and all appropriations of any sort. If We The People wish to spend $750,000.00 to subsize the opening of an IHOP in DC, then by all means, let We The People, through our elected representatives, vote specifically and exclusively on the matter of approving that funding.

    • @CaptinSarcastic I think you pretty much nailed it.

      • @looker @CaptinSarcastic One does not need a lobbyist to get Federal money.

        Anybody can write a grant application, and several of those mentioned boondoggles were for other governmental agencies (i.e., U of K). Others were just pure waste or fraud.

        • @Ragspierre @looker I would say that all of it is waste AND fraud waste for obvious reasons, they are just ridiculous, and fraud because our money was spent without specific line item authorization. Congress has to approve every dollar spent, whether directly in a appropriation bill, or through the funding of specific agencies which have to get their budgets approved by Congress. The IHOP grant is a perfect example. If you dig deeper, that grant was made in exchange for an equity stake in the restaurant. There is no way that the HHS should be involved in owning restaurants. HHS is a monster agency that oversees about 1/4 of all federal outlays (including Medicare and Medicaid). All of these are approved by Congress, every grant, loan, and benefit.

        • @CaptinSarcastic @Ragspierre Well, yeah, approved in the usual fashion….

          “Hey! What the hell is this section in the (whatever) bill! What has a study on displaced drunk piebald pigeons got to do with veterans benefit funding anyway?
          Oh, one of your constituent contributors? okay…I won’t mention this if you promise not to ask about the Tower of Babel for my constituent/contributors.”.

          You know, as Nancy observed and as so often seems to be the case – you have to approve the bill to find out what’s in it.

          Two options – line item veto, or mandating that no riders be allowed.

          All of this crap was done in a time period when they needed to be expedient because they weren’t spending their entire yearly lives as Congresscritters and it took days to reach Washington by horse, steam or sail power. That does NOT apply any more. I notice that we can grow the Constitution’s mandates according to the changing times, but we don’t seem to be able to trim their earthly powers.
          Must be nice.

        • @looker @Ragspierre Good point! Imagine how much we would trim the budget by if any expense over a hundred grand had to exist in it’s own bill. “Hey, I’d love to fund your research on KC Hookers, but if I vote for that my opponents will destroy me, by the way, will you vote yay for my bill to fund a new golf course in an underserved island off the coast of New England?”

        • @CaptinSarcastic @Ragspierre Having to at least explain the bridges to no where might help, but probably not.
          I can think of, my birth state which repeatedly sent (and sends) the same people back for their life-time job in Congress. I’ve always maintained that (to be current) Boehner, really doesn’t have to appeal to all of us, he only has to appeal to HIS constituents, right?

          The fatboy lion of the Senate returned again and again and again. Remember Cap, it’s not MY representative and Senator’s who are the problem, it’s almost always yours, know what I mean?
          And why? Well, because MY senators return that fat loot from across the nation to my state, as does my rep….what more can a good American ask for.
          And THERE is the biggest part of the problem.

        • @looker @Ragspierre I agree to a point, but I think if MY Congressman voted Yes on an up or down bill to fund $18M in foreign aid to China, someone could probably make a pretty good case to throw him out. At least I hope so. but you may be right, safe districts are probably the worst thing that has happened to our elected represntatives, the party(s) of the incumbant won’t support a challenger, and the opposing party can’t win.
          Every state should pass a Constitutional amendment to gerrymander FOR the most demographically competitive balance they can arrange, not the least competitive. Make these suckers sweat a little!

        • @CaptinSarcastic @Ragspierre Point taken, if they DID have to show up or down votes on, my piebald drunken pigeon funding, then yeah, suddenly maybe MY representatives wouldn’t look so good to me. They might even have to explain the sweet back scratching deals they’ve arranged for all these years on the QT.
          No, on second thought, you’re right, that would probably fix a good part of the problem because they couldn’t bury ANYTHING and voting for more funding to dig big holes in Massachusetts, or run rails in California, might not sound so good to North Dakota’s citizens, who might take exception to their representative voting for the aforementioned projects just to get a subsidy on new grain silo in the local township.

  • Then again, our idiots in government may self solve the problem by creating a plague friendly environment for themselves.

  • I am currently attempting to create a formulation which equates public debt, or at least excessive public debt with a violation of civil or human rights. We know those things which are necessary for the growth of human wealth, dignity, liberty, economic opportunity. Things like sound money, rule of law, free markets, and low rates of taxation.

    Debt destroys at least two of these things and harms the others. With excessive debt you will of necessity have some debasement of the currency, you will of necessity have confiscatory taxation. This will cause a decrease in economic well being which may cause an reliance upon others (at least for poor individuals) thus impacting human dignity and freedom.

    A nations leaders who run up unpayable debts, then, can be said to do a real and lasting harm to their own people. Perhaps in the future they could be brought to trial for violation of human rights?

    • @kyle8 It’s a nice idea and it sounds logical. My only reluctance would be to suggest that there are times when deficit spending is a good idea and times when it is a bad idea. More precisely, during good times, the government should not spend more than it takes in, but during downturns, there are multiple forces at work that make attempts to balance the budget counter productive.
      When a normal (or worse) cyclical downturn or bubble burst happens and the economy contracts, receipts will go down and it would be a mistake to add to the reduction in the private economy with a reduction in goverment spending, and the alternative of raising taxes during a downturn would be a mistake as well.
      But to your point, and to Socratic definition of liberalism, it is wise to save when times are good so you can afford to spend when they are not.

      • I would think that our current problems would disabuse you of those Keynsian notions. The evidence is overwhelming that during a recession it is the governments who cut and balance which have the fastest recoveries. Now, if they spent saved money then I would not have a big problem with it, but then again, If a government is saving money that means it’s people are overtaxed.

        • @kyle8 Well Kyle, think of saving as saving useable debt. Consider the debt of 2002, around $5T until the economic crisis that began in 2008 but didn’t really show in the numbers until 2009. Now, assume that during this period of moderate growth the United States ran on a balanced budget, however you want to assume it could have been balanced, whether with taxes increased to match spending, or spending reduced to match revenues. That would have put us at a $5T deficit in 2008. Now, when the recession hit, assuming no reduction in spending, no increase in taxes, but reduced revenues as a result of the receding economy. That alone would have created a $400b deficit in 2009, a $340b deficit in 2010, $330b in 2011, leveling off by 2013. Even with TARP and the stimulus plan, the total deficit for the recession period would have been less than 2.5T, leaving us with a total debt of $7.5T, a little more than half what they are now, but more importantly, with no forecast of the trillions in debt coming. All very manageable.

        • @kyle8 We ran deficits during a growth period, and created a budget of perpetual deficits that were magnified with the recession to create a federal deficit picture of a NEW $7T over the 10 years following 2008, PLUS the $5T in debt created between 2002 and 2008. That is $13T of unnecessary debt that made (arguably) practical deficit spending during the recession far more painful than it needed to be (remember if we had abalanced budget during the good times, we would likely have a $7.5T total debt through 2018. Including TARP and Stimulus and giving grants for IHOPS in DC.
          This is water under the bridge, we can’t go back, but we should not forget how we got here either.

        • I suppose you could take care of deficits which happen with a natural market turndown by allowing a space of time, lets say two years for the budget to go back into balance. Other wise the government just has to cut expenditures and/or sell assets. . . The thing is, if we also had a hard rule effecting the growth of the money supply then you would never have the kind of large bubble which we did have. @CaptinSarcastic

  • MetroScoot in Virginia Beach, picks up people who can not drive due to drinking and takes them and their car home. I’ve been told that 10 of the Navy Seal teams stationed here pay $20,000 (each) per month (I calculate 2.4 Million annually) to have their Seals picked up. The Seals pay only a tip. Who pays the 2.4 Million????

    • @EmmySwain Sources, please.

      • @Ragspierre I live here and have used the service. Drivers, close friends of seals … no documentation.

        • @EmmySwain @Ragspierre Well, if it is accurate, it would reasonably come out of the defense budget, but without some documentation it’s all hearsay, and hardly solid evidence. People make stuff up, constantly, to appear knowledgeable, to pass the time. Doesn’t take much to create a myth.

        • @looker @Ragspierre This is true, however I was in the restaurant business for years. I know people who still are … and in the bar business. People talk. Some Seals love to brag. I have received the same information from more than one source. Exactly the same information, from very different people.

        • @looker @Ragspierre Neither of you have a bio posted. Sources, please. ?!? Who are you?

        • @EmmySwain @looker Ya got me. I’m undocumented…

        • @EmmySwain @Ragspierre does it matter? we merely asked what the sources were for your contention. I didn’t even say it was false, I just pointed out that it’s hard to verify when it’s what was overheard, especially in a bar. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true, it doesn’t mean it is either. This is the internet, it’s a giant online combination fantasy reality sphere.
          And to that point, I didn’t check your bio, I’m going on your statements.
          Let me ask, and I mean this politely and not to be an asshat.
          Why would you necessarily believe any bio, or even photo I posted? Wouldn’t it be better to verify information I post (provided I source it, and it’s not just my 2 cent opinion, which it frequently is) rather than to consider the package I could concoct in a bio?

          Rags really IS undocumented though.

        • @looker @Ragspierre “Especially in a bar” … NO, I said I know restaurant and bar owners. Not, something that was said in a bar. None of it …. NONE was said in a bar. Even so, what difference would it make? Bio or not, I know more than I care to know.

        • @EmmySwain @Ragspierre
          Again, not saying it’s not real, just saying it would be nice if we could source it beyond one person, with due respect.

        • @EmmySwain @Ragspierre
          “I know people who still are … and in the bar business. People talk. Some Seals love to brag”

          This is why i said, “Especially in a bar”. Where was I to think the bar owners you refer to got their information?

        • @looker @EmmySwain I wasn’t mean or nothin’. I just asked for sources. What’d I do wrong…???

          I’m so confused… Why is Emmy mad? I LIKED Emmy… (Gloom)

    • @EmmySwain Assuming this is true, what do you think a Navy Seal is worth and how much is it worth to protect that value? They don’t get paid like pro athletes, who often have transportation provided for them (granted, not taxpayer money), but then again pro athletes are not taxpayer assets. I don’t think the number is remotely accurate, but for what these guys do, and for the little compensation they do it for, I’d consider a more cost effective method, but I’d gladly pay to get these guys home safely after blowing off some steam. Hell, if it would not attract the wrong kind of people (think pro athletes), I’d like to pay them that much.

      • @CaptinSarcastic I don’t compare them to professional athletes. I think pro athletes are insanely overpaid. It disgusts me. Our military is paid well, depending on their call of duty. A Seal is paid a bit more, but a Seal is getting paid to do what He or She wants to do. They are a different breed. They live and breathe the excitement and/or challenge. They want it. In addition, they are awarded for multiple skills, additional housing, medical and education … for how long? You can not compare them to pro athletes. “We The People” are not paying pro athletes to get home after a ‘night on the town’. Nor are we paying for their health, insurance and special needs.

        • @EmmySwain @CaptinSarcastic “She?” We have female SEALs now? And until you produce something other than hearsay, which is, to this point all you’ve managed to produce, it’s all rumor.

        • @Bruce McQuain @CaptinSarcastic Okay. It’s rumor and you know it all. I am a writer. I am used to writing he/she. Human error. Something I am sure you will never experience. You wanted to know about wasted gov’t spending. I gave you something. Delete it. I don’t exist. Anything I know or say is not real. You are Captin Know It All. I rest my case. I have no time for you.

        • @EmmySwain @Bruce @CaptinSarcastic Run off if you wish, but don’t let the doorknob catch you in the ass when you do. You may think people should believe hearsay and rumor. Sorry … that’s a fools game. Come back when you grow up and can back what you claim.

    • @EmmySwain “MetroScoot in Virginia Beach, picks up people who can not drive due to drinking and takes them and their car home. I’ve been told that 10 of the Navy Seal teams stationed here pay $20,000 (each) per month (I calculate 2.4 Million annually) to have their Seals picked up. ”

      Backing up my truck in reflection –
      assume for the moment the Department of the Navy is doing this, and is embarrassed enough to find some creative way to cover it, like, “shoe laces, black, admirals shoes, 1 set – $2.4 million, paid to MetroScoot, Virginia Beach, Virginia”.
      I’m not a tax lawyer, but wouldn’t MetroScoot have to account for $2.4 million dollars annually received from the Department of the Navy?
      That’s a line item on the big budget (which we never do any more in Congress anyway), but it’s a big one on a department budget, somehow that has to show up if it’s an annual payment.

      Also, why would the Navy pay a flat rate when all the company would have to do is bill back the Department of the Navy for their service as and when provided? Standing agreement, if we pick up your guys, we charge, (x), we’ll bill you once a month. Depending on their rates, now the $20,000 flat might work out to be a bargain.

      Hmmmm. Applying a little math – Their rate is $10 Pickup Fee plus $4.00 per mile (so, 5 Seals – i picked 5 at random, 8 miles from the base, $50.00 for the pickup, plus $160 – $210 for this jaunt to the bar. – so these 5 guys, or 5 like them have to hit the bar 96 times a month AND get driven around to make the 20k worth the cost. So, they have to get drunk and driven home 3 times a day, every day, for every month…..
      Well, maybe what they did was closed the bar at 2:00 – got a ride home, called MetroScoot to pick them up at the base, and drive them BACK to the bar as 12:00, and THEN get another ride home, but that’s not going to work…and I’m going to be lazy and not figure out the algorithm.

      I guess there must be more than 5 guys doing this per team every month…..Okay, maybe part of the cost is clean up of Seals trashing the MetroScoot vehicle during the ride. But that would reduce MetroScoot’s availability, and I mean how fast can you service badly damaged or puked on vehicles and get them back into useful service before you start telling the Seals you’re not picking them up because it’s not worth the expense? Let’s assume they’re all perfect gentlemen once they get picked up then….

      I would have thought a highly trained elite bunch of guys like the Seals would really be forced to spend less time in bars getting drunk and using the MetroScoot service.

      How do the guys identify themselves? Can’t just any old drunken swab in a Navy uniform now call them and say “This is Frank from Seal Team 900, I’ve had too much to drink at the corner of 4th and Vine, come get me”

      so many questions.

      • @looker @EmmySwain First of all, looker, there are only 9 active duty SEAL teams, not 10 (the tenth is a SEAL vehicle delivery team). And they’re split between the two coasts, with only 4 in the Va Beach area. That immediately set off my BS meter. The rest follows kind of naturally. In all there are 2,500 active duty SEALs. And they are rarely all in their home station areas at once. Kind of the nature of the beast. They’re training, deployed or downtime.

        So our “writer” came off as full of it from the beginning. She didn’t even have the basic facts straight. But somehow we were supposed to believe her nonsense heard from “bar owners” and her numbers based on “10” SEAL teams in the area. Yeah, sorry, not happening here.

        • @Bruce McQuain @EmmySwain Like anything, I try to give unknowns the benefit of some doubt, but when my brain randomly jumped back to the economic aspects and started to (against my will) analyze some of the simple daily mechanics involved in such a transaction….I was trying to be nice for once!

          I didn’t even start to get into what I thought of the idea that an elite organization that tries reallllly hard not to put it’s membership on the front page would be willing to load said members, consistently, on readily identifiable commercial vehicles, to identify themselves to drivers, drunk, where any Achmed Imawhackjob could land a hit on a bunch of them at once and assure his place in paradise.

          Pondering the idea that we’d have to have multiple brigades of Seals to justify the economics was up there too, that or I had to assume ALL our Seals were actually drunks…well, you already know, and you can use the appeal to ‘authority’ argument with me for some strange reason. Maybe it’s your bio or something.

  • Because the folks making Tsing Tao obviously couldn’t handle that.

    >>>> To be fair, that brew kinda blows. They need the help 🙂

  • Come on now. This is just an attempt to get Erb come in here and tell us that Obama will start making “cuts.”

  • Hey, chocolate chip pancakes are a human right!