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December 13, 2008

2008 Guide To Government Waste

by Kevin

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has published a guide giving a snapshot of the most wasteful programs enacted by the Federal government this year. The programs highlighted total a little over $1.3 billion (which is small potatoes in a year where the budget deficit is hovering around $1 trillion).

Some of the programs highlighted are:

National Drug Intelligence Center – Pennsylvania ($39 million)
In 1992, Congress created, the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown to collect information on drug activity around the nation. Since then, though, it has been labeled a “boondoggle” and, according to U.S. News and World Report, “been rocked by scandal, and been subjected to persistent criticisms that it should have never been created at all.”76 Attempts have been made in recent years by the Department of Justice to shut down the center because of concerns related toduplication, overlap and wasteful spending. None of this stopped Congress from awarding NDIC $39 million in 2008.77 One former NDIC director said, “I recognized that a lot of reports were [awful], poorly written, poorly researched, and, in some cases, wrong.”

This program is a snapshot of the entire War on (some) Drugs. By the way, the Congressman for Johnstown, Pennsylvania just happens to be John Murtha.

Kanjorski Center Parking Garage ? Pennsylvania ($5.6 million)
That the Kanjorski Center, a 32,000 square foot office building in Pennsylvania, has stood completely empty since 2005 did not prevent Congress from trying to funnel $5.6 million in transportation money to add a large parking garage to it.83 Officials at the Department of Transportation opposed the project, noting that current law prohibits the department from funding parking garages unless they serve mass transit needs – and this parking garage would not meet the test. Angered by the rules, one local congressman is fighting to keep the project alive, saying, “I don’t think the rule should have any attention paid to it. Because in Congress we have our own rules.”84 When challenged by a reporter that the parking garage is costly to federal taxpayers, he replied, “For the community, it is free money.”

Paul Kanjorski, a corrupt Congressman who was reelected in November, has found yet another way to steal from taxpayers.

Field Trips for School Teachers – Illinois ($918,600)
Field trips aren’t just for students anymore. Teachers from Illinois were given a grant of nearly $1 million by the Department of Education Teaching U.S. History program for vacations in the name of “continuing education.” Upcoming outings are planned for New York City, while past trips to New Orleans, Boston, California and Washington, D.C. were paid for with federal funds. High school teacher, Chris Johnson, a veteran trip?taker, feels that excursions to other cities help to give teachers “ownership” of the material they teach. “I’m a better teacher today than before I started these trips,” he said.

Government workers taking yet another taxpayer funded junket.

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 pper 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 electroically. The devices were problematic from the start, and although they rely on basic technology found in nearly all cell phones, the agency was never able to get them working properly. When asked in 2006 whether it would be appropriate to have a backup plan in case the handheld computers did not work, then?director Louis Kincannon responded, “They will work. They have worked. You might as well ask me what happens if the Postal Service refuses to deliver the census form.”93 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.94 $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.

$800 million pissed away just to count people.

Billings Mustangs Minor League Baseball Stadium – Montana ($328,300)
In 2008, the Billings Mustangs – a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds – moved out of Cobb Field and into its new home, Dehler Park. While constructing the new stadium, which cost $13 million, 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 stadum 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.”

 
Now the Federal government is getting involved in building stadiums…

Senator Coburn has some solutions for fighting government waste:

1.Eliminate programs that do not work. Federal programs do not often disappear, but that does not mean they all work well. If a determination is made that a program is not achieving results, it should be eliminated.

Federal programs are power, for Congressman to buy votes and for bureaucrats to run citizens’ lives. I do not see the government giving up this power anytime soon.

2.Eliminate or consolidate duplicative existing programs. Those that duplicate existing government programs and are no longer needed and should be eliminated.

See item 1.

3. Eliminate earmarks. Earmarks, otherwise known as “pork,” are pet projects that members of Congress single?handedly direct, often to bring home money to their district. While that might seem like a good idea, or even a congressman’s job, the earmark process is corrupt, wasteful and non?transparent. Tax dollars are routinely directed into questionable projects, as seen in this report, which benefit lobbyists, special interest groups and the well?connected. They are not required to have a meritorious purpose or to demonstrate results, and should be eliminated.

The problem with earmarks, as Senator Coburn writes above, is not the amount of money given (which is quite small in the big picture), but the fact that earmarks are often the currency of corruption.

The rest of the items are:

Implement stronger transparency measures. Transparency in government should allow the taxpayer to know how every penny of federal money is spent. The advantages of this are obvious, and include the accountability brought to officials who know that poor spending decisions will be found out and penalized. Taxpayers should be able to track every federal expenditure on loans, grants and contracts down to the penny.
 
Conduct more congressional oversight. Congressional oversight and hearings provide an opportunity to exert Congress’ “power of the purse” on the actions of the government. Oversight should ensure money is spent wisely and in line with objective performance standards. Members of Congress should be held accountable for how tax dollars are spent, and they in turn should agencies accountable for how they spend tax dollars.

End automatic budget increases. Too often, Congress increases the budget of every government agency without regard to the previous year’s performance. This practice must end with resources being directed only to those programs performing well and not to those that fail, as well as to only those programs that are true national priorities.

Require Performance Metrics for All Programs. Many federal programs operate with objectives that are illdefined or nonexistent. Every program should be given performance metrics that are measureable and enforceable.

All of the above require an informed and engaged citizenry that believes in liberty or at the very least an efficient government. That is something we do not have in this country. Until that happens, abuses like ones outline above will continue..

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11 Comments

  1. Paraphrasing De Tocquelville I believe, Democracy works great til the public realizes it can vote itself funds from the treasury. Way past that now eh?

    What happens when we vote ourselves money from our childrens’ and grand childrens’ treasury as well as the treasuries of other countries then spend it 10 times over?

    Does the term Indentured Servant sound appropriate?

    Comment by Pernsickety Cumudgeon — December 13, 2008 @ 7:33 pm
  2. At some point the financial system will break down. The government will collapse. And we will probably get something worse in its place.

    Just as the hyperinflation of the Weimar years paved the way for the Nazi rise to power, and the inflation of the post 1904 inflation paved the way for the Bolshevik rise to power in Russia, the collapse of the U.S. economy as a result of George Bush’s brand of governance will probably pave the way for authoritarian government. My guess is that we will experiment with fascism.

    Comment by tarran — December 13, 2008 @ 11:42 pm
  3. My choice for most wasteful program is the federal government at large.

    Comment by Clint — December 14, 2008 @ 6:06 am
  4. Unfortunatley we have one more leg to go in this train wreck. Tax and Spend was followed by Borrow and Spend and now we get Tax and Borrow and Spend. We spend the money of the next generation; we inflate the value of assets which we then pledge the same collateral for 10 seperate loans.

    From what I can gather about our incoming government their theory is: If we take all the failed policies of the last 100 years and try them all at that the same time everything will be ok. “This time it’s bound to work” ought to be their motto; “”all we have to do is spend even MORE money” their rallying cry.

    Good luck to us all…

    Comment by Persncikety Curmudgeon — December 14, 2008 @ 7:40 am
  5. You know, after shovelling several trillion to Wall Street, I just can’t get excited over $100,000 for rabbit crap research.

    Comment by Joshua Holmes — December 14, 2008 @ 5:29 pm
  6. I believe the better federal grant programs would include food stamps, state health insurance for children and pregnant women, and energy assistance. And now with more jobless Americans, unemployment insurance and benefits will surely help.

    Comment by Lia — December 17, 2008 @ 3:15 am
  7. Lia, Lia, Lia – those programs ARE the problem. Because of aid to pregnant women you have unemployed mothers with multiple children out of wedlock raised without fathers (Poverty Cycle).

    Food tamps may be a short term necessity – mt family used them at one time but it is a hugely abused program – I wish I was poor enough to get hundreds of dollars a month to buy soda, chips and brand name snacks. It also creates a huge federal lobby by those who sell food to the fed and raises prices fro the rest of us so we pay for the program twice (taxes and increased prices).

    lastly unemployment insurance. Don’t be fooled by the name – it is not insurance. Employers pay for this out of money they could otherwise use to expand their business, hire people or give you a raise. Economics tells us that subsidize something and you get more of it.

    Comment by persnickety curmudgeon — December 17, 2008 @ 6:02 am
  8. Many government programs are started with the best of intentions.

    Pragmatically, the trick is to try to measure them by their results, not the intentions.

    Philosophically, the question becomes: When is it okay to take things from people by threat of force? How deeply would I have to care about an issue for it to be okay for me to take your hard-earned money to support my interest?

    Legally, the question becomes an interpretation of the U. S. Constitution. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The language is a little dated, but still approachable. Congress is supposed to have enumerated powers. If a power is not enumerated in the list at Article 1, Section 8, then they’re not authorized to do it. See also Amendment 10:

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    If enough people want to add to those enumerated powers, Article 5 allows us to change them.

    I believe the better federal grant programs would include food stamps, state health insurance for children and pregnant women, and energy assistance. And now with more jobless Americans, unemployment insurance and benefits will surely help.
    If by “state health insurance”, you mean “provided by the States” as opposed the Federal Government, then we’d have to check the constitution of the states involved. If you meant “the state” as a more general reference to the national governing entity, then the U. S. Constitution is what we need to consult.

    It can feel very natural to seek governmental solutions to what we perceive are cultural problems. But governmental solutions often provide ineffective, immoral, and illegal answers to issues which can be better addressed by the voluntary interaction of free people.

    Comment by Akston — December 17, 2008 @ 8:07 am
  9. Many government programs are started with the best of intentions.

    Pragmatically, the trick is to try to measure them by their results, not the intentions.

    Philosophically, the question becomes: When is it okay to take things from people by threat of force? How deeply would I have to care about an issue for it to be okay for me to take your hard-earned money to support my interest?

    Legally, the question becomes an interpretation of the U. S. Constitution. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The language is a little dated, but still approachable. Congress is supposed to have enumerated powers. If a power is not enumerated in the list at Article 1, Section 8, then they’re not authorized to do it. See also Amendment 10:

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    If enough people want to add to those enumerated powers, Article 5 allows us to change them.

    I believe the better federal grant programs would include food stamps, state health insurance for children and pregnant women, and energy assistance. And now with more jobless Americans, unemployment insurance and benefits will surely help.

    If by “state health insurance”, you mean “provided by the States” as opposed the Federal Government, then we’d have to check the constitution of the states involved. If you meant “the state” as a more general reference to the national governing entity, then the U. S. Constitution is what we need to consult.

    It can feel very natural to seek governmental solutions to what we perceive are cultural problems. But governmental solutions often provide ineffective, immoral, and illegal answers to issues which can be better addressed by the voluntary interaction of free people.

    Comment by Akston — December 17, 2008 @ 8:09 am
  10. Many government programs are started with the best of intentions.

    Pragmatically, the trick is to try to measure them by their results, not the intentions.

    Philosophically, the question becomes: When is it okay to take things from people by threat of force? How deeply would I have to care about an issue for it to be okay for me to take your hard-earned money to support my interest?

    Legally, the question becomes an interpretation of the U. S. Constitution. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The language is a little dated, but still approachable. Congress is supposed to have enumerated powers. If a power is not enumerated in the list at Article 1, Section 8, then they’re not authorized to do it. See also Amendment 10:

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    If enough people want to add to those enumerated powers, Article 5 allows us to change them.

    I believe the better federal grant programs would include food stamps, state health insurance for children and pregnant women, and energy assistance. And now with more jobless Americans, unemployment insurance and benefits will surely help.

    If by “state health insurance”, you mean “provided by the States” as opposed the Federal Government, then we’d have to check the constitution of the states involved. If you meant “the state” as a more general reference to the national governing entity, then the U. S. Constitution is what we need to consult.

    It can feel very natural to seek governmental solutions to what we perceive are cultural problems. But governmental solutions often provide ineffective, immoral, and illegal answers to issues which can be better addressed by the voluntary interaction of free people.

    Comment by Akston — December 17, 2008 @ 9:37 am
  11. I believe the better federal grant programs would include food stamps, state health insurance for children and pregnant women, and energy assistance. And now with more jobless Americans, unemployment insurance and benefits will surely help.

    There are NO good Federal grant programs. The FedGov is so far away from the needs of the recipients that the money often ends up in the wrong hands, wasted.

    And, to reiterate Akston, by a strict reading of the Constitution, the programs are all illegal.

    Comment by Quincy — December 17, 2008 @ 11:45 am

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