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Friday, December 12, 2008

32 Really STUPID Uses of YOUR TAX MONEY in 2008

Voicemail for the homeless, an inflatable alligator, classes on how to make salsa, an historic trail that is completely underwater, these are only a few of the really stupid things your tax money has been used for during 2008. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) created a report that show some of the worst examples of federal spending in the last 12 months. Below for your appraisal are my 32 most favorite along with some snide remarks:
1) Voicemail For the Homeless-I wonder if they will put wires through the subway grate directly into into the Cardboard Boxes. 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 CDBG grant on transitional housing for "homeless single parents."
2) Training Classes for Casino Workers – Kansas ($784,000) Good casino workers are hard to find in the Kansas City area, according to the Departments of Labor and Education. Both federal departments teamed up this year and gave $784,000 in grants to the Kansas City Kansas Community College for a new training program geared to assist workers that may seek employment in a nearby planned casino. "Every casino operator has talked to us about this," said Lori Trumbo, dean of business and continuing education at the community college. "They are going to need these employees, and they’re going to need them to be well‐trained. Can't they just watch CSI?
3) Inflatable Alligator and Under‐the‐Sea Waterslide – Texas ($367,000) Can Someone buy me one for my my pool? A preliminary report by the Texas Education Agency, released this past April, found that $367,000 in federal funds were 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."
4)Tennis Courts and Artificial Baseball Field Turf – Howard Beach, New York ($1 million)- Fool Me Once Shame on you, Fool Me Twice It Must Be the Government. In 2000, the Frank M. Charles Memorial Park received a federal grant of $1 million to upgrade its deteriorating facilities, but according to Dorothy McCloskey, president of the park’s oversight committee, "the money was wasted." The problem, she insisted, was the park management’s "notorious inability" to perform routine maintenance, leaving the tennis courts and baseball fields in a state of disrepair. Taxpayers chipped in an additional $1 million grant this year to repair the tennis courts and to provide artificial turf for a baseball field.There is hope that this time will be different, "I’m not willing to see another million dollars wasted," McCloskey said.
5) The Heart of Rock and Roll gets $9,400/Student to teach Salsa Making – Cleveland Ohio ($517,000) Fifty‐five teenagers are learning to plant vegetables and do landscaping through the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s "Green Corps," a work‐study program that teaches teens to make salsa. A grant of $517,000 – or more than $9,400 per student – was directed to the Green Corps out of juvenile justice programs at the Department of Justice. Students are instructed how to use the vegetables they grow to bottle and sell "Ripe from Downtown® salsa and vinaigrette."Geri Unger, director of the program, noted the impact it is having on teens, "For many, this is the first time they've eaten vegetables they actually see growing."
6) Bridging the Generational Gap with Nintendo Wii – Indiana ($3,905) The Institute of Museums and Library Sciences, an arm of the federal government dedicated to "strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas," awarded a grant to Westfield Washington Public Library for the purchase of "a Nintendo Wii console, tv, camcorder and games." According to the Indianapolis Star, "The Wii will be used to encourage patrons to meet and exchange ideas with other community members during multi‐generational gaming events held at the library. "Hey Mom Can I got the Library ?"
7) Portraits of Pres Bush Cabinet Officers ($167,290)Even in the age of high‐resolution digital photography, numerous government officials prefer to have their likeness captured for posterity on the painter’s canvas. Nearly $170,000 was spent on just six portraits for the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Commerce, the NASA Administrator, the Commandant of the Coast Guard and even the director of the National Cancer Institute. You Could have purchased each one of them a top of the line digital camera,and saved $160,000.
8)"George Washington Slept Here" Travelling Museum – New Jersey ($49,000) Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, carries the proud distinction of being one of the places George Washington slept during one of the more than 24,000 nights in his life – and they want everyone to know. To commemorate the occasion – and others like it through its history – the federal government has given the township $49,000 for a traveling museum to be displayed in schools, libraries and just about anywhere else people might be interested. $49 Grand? Why can't they get a corporate sponsor to pay for it like Sleepys, or the Bill Clinton Slept here traveling hourly motel/ museum?
9) Senate Restaurants Post Huge Loss ($2 million) Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch? Certainly not the taxpayers who helped to subsidize lunches and snacks for Senators and their staffs in 2008. According to Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the committee that oversees cafeterias, Senate restaurants will post losses as large as $2 million in 2008, following a loss of $1.34 million in 2007.40 Data from the Chief Clerk of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee shows that, "Since 1993, losses have averaged over $900,000 annually and taxpayers have been required to provide $18.1 million in operational subsidies. In fact, the Senate Restaurants have operated at a loss in 37 of the last 44 years." There is a glimmer of hope, though, for the years to come. This is the Senate that wants to run the auto industry, but they can't run a Snack Bar. How do they lose money and the house which has Nadler and Murtha doesn't?
10) For a Preview of the Democratic Infastructure progects Scottsville Streetscaping Project – Virginia ($392,000) Minor’s Diner and the James River Store are just the latest victims of Department of Transportation "assistance" that has proved less than helpful. The businesses were forced to close after $392,000 was given to Scottsville for a streetscaping project that shut down main roads, blocked sidewalks, and "left roads unpaved and uninviting." The streetscaping project, intended to beautify the downtown area by burying power lines, is now a year behind schedule and $200,000 over budget.
11) Driving Tours and Exhibits for the America West Heritage Center – Utah ($200,000) The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences will provide $200,000 to the America West Heritage Center in Utah – open only during the Summer – to develop a driving tour to help visitors understand what life was like in the Cache Valley from the 1820s to the 1920s. I can tell them what life was like, THEY DIDN'T HAVE CARS. Come ON! Let them make a map---and SELL IT! Or Just tell them if you hit the Great Salt Lake you've gone too far !

12) Restoring Robert Frost Farm--Sort of – New Hampshire ($205,800) The funds from the Economic Development Initiative grant program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development will be used for "major improvements to bring Crowds gather on Riverwalk for Flugtag, sponsored by Red Bull, in which aircraft are launched into the Hillsborough River. Frost's former home to good condition," according to the Frost farm trustees. Give Me A Break ! At least get some free Red Bull out of it to bring down the Deficit of the Senate Snack Bar.
13) "The check’s in the mail" – IRS Mailings for Rebate Checks ($42 million) When Congress passed legislation this year giving every taxpayer a stimulus check, the Department of the Treasury felt recipients needed a little advanced warning. It spent nearly $42 million on a mailing to inform taxpayers not that their checks had arrived, but merely that they would be there soon. Anybody that did not know about the rebate probably lived in a different galaxy and couldn't spend the money on earth anyway. Wouldn't the money have been better spent on helmets for the idiots who thought of the mailing?
14) Remounting "World’s Largest Mounted Fish" – New York ($135,000) Following an absence of nearly a decade, a 32‐foot whale shark made a long‐awaited comeback at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum ‐ mounted on a wall, that is. Leaky plumbing damaged the stuffed shark – thought to be the largest stuffed mounted fish in the world – while on display more than ten years ago, leading many to believe that it would never again appear in public. David B. Schwendeman, taxidermist, thought otherwise and rescued the shark with the help of a $135,000 federal grant from the Save America’sTreasures program. I have been to that Museum. I can tell you that only three miles away from the Vanderbilt there is a Wal-Mart where they could have bought a mounted bass for $12.95, AND IT EVEN SINGS!

15) Search for Alaskan Ice WormsNew Jersey ($326,733) Fool Me Once Shame on you, Fool Me Twice It Must Be the Government, but FOOL ME SIX TIMES? The National Science Foundation awarded a grant of more than $325,000 to Daniel Shain, professor at Rutgers University, to trek to Alaska in search of the elusive ice worm. Unfortunately, he and several students spent two weeks this August hunting through snow and ice for ice worms, only to come back empty‐handed. According to the Cherry Hill Courier Post, "Shain said his sixth Alaskan voyage was a continuous adventure that had everything he'd hoped for but new populations of worms." Maybe he should start with something larger like a giraffe?
16) Bike Path Along Baton Rouge Levees – Louisiana ($1 million) A $1 million grant was awarded by the Federal Highway Administration – out of a fund set aside for road and bridge projects – to lengthen a bike path from downtown Baton Rouge to the campus of Louisiana State University. You're kidding me right? There are still people in Louisiana that need help from the Katrina tragedy over three years ago ! Let the kids WALK to LSU.
17) Microchips in Cactuses – Arizona ($???) Thieves looking to nab a saguaro cactus in Arizona may have another thing coming if Jim McGinnis has anything to do with it. He’s the top "cactus cop" in town and plans on using National Park Service funds to implant microchips in selected saguaro cactuses to help him track them down if stolen from federal property. Great and if Microsoft programs the chips, these plants will all turn blue and display error messages.
18) Visitor Center for National Fish Hatchery – Missouri ($2.8 million)
In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faced a $2.5 billion shortfall, forcing the agency to leave 200 national refuges unstaffed and to implement a plan to lay off 565 employees by 2009. In a sign of how fast budget priorities can change in only one year, the Fish and Wildlife service set aside $2.8 million in 2008 to construct a visitor center for the National Fish Hatchery in Neosho, Missouri. David Hendrix, manager of the Neosho hatchery, said that he wanted the center "to contain all the broad features the hatchery wants — a book and souvenir shop, an exhibit hall with displays, and a large aquarium." But on the bright side, those 565 people who lost their jobs get a free ticket to the hatchery.

19) Renovating Old Tiger Baseball Stadium – Detroit ($4 million) In 2000, the Detroit Tigers baseball team moved out of Tiger Stadium. Demolition of the stadium was well underway when the decision was made to stop, due to the efforts of the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, an organization formed to preserve the semi‐demolished remains as a "public park, youth sports venue, and destination for baseball fans." Fortunately for the conservancy, taxpayers are now coming through in the bottom of the ninth with a $4 million federal grant to renovate the old stadium, in addition to several "federal tax credits." One city developer, noting that the value of the land would be greater if stadium were cleared away, remarked, "To try to raise money to just hold on to a portion of an old stadium might not be easy. Maybe this is how Detroit learned about asinine federal bailouts.
20) Studying American and Chinese Video Game Habits – California ($100,000) American and Chinese video game playing habits have been too long overlooked by mainstream science, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF). To remedy this, NSF gave University of California at Irvine a $100,000 grant to study the differences in how gamers from the U.S. and China play World of Warcraft, a popular online video game that allows opponents to do battle on the planet Azeroth. The key difference scientists discerned to date: "the Chinese tend to play a ‘more challenging’ version of the game." Wow I am sure that kind of information will help feed the world and win the battle against Islamic Terror.
21) First Tee Golf Program – South Carolina ($3 million) Kids around the nation will be invited to learn and appreciate the game of golf through a $3 million grant from the Pentagon to First Tee. First Tee is a non‐profit organization that was founded to bring underprivileged youth off the streets and onto the golf course. When one member of Congress responsible for arranging the grant was asked what childhood golf had to do with the military, he responded that golf "helps you make generals and colonels." I have been playing golf for 30 years, It doesn't make generals, it makes frustration cussing and of course ugly pants.
22) 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. A Parking Garage next to an empty building, not for transportation but for parking. Sounds like a congressional porkbarrel project to me.

23) 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. That's almost a million dollars. You could buy a senate seat in Illinois for that money.
24) Captain John Smith Water Trail – Virginia ($446,500) Seafaring taxpayers can hardly wait for the completion of the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail in 2009 – the nation’s first trail completely under water. Using $446,500 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), buoys throughout the Chesapeake Bay will mark the waterways used by John Smith in his early exploration of America. I won't complain about this one, if the people who approved it WALK the entire route.
25) Wattstar Theatre and Education Center – California ($294,000) Don’t let the fancy name fool you, the Wattstar Theatre and Education Center is an ordinary movie theater – only most movie theaters have not received nearly $300,000 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. While not yet built, the Wattstar Theatre boasts that it would be the "Only Entertainment Venue in Watts" and plans to show first‐run movies on its four screens with over 1,000 stadium seats. According to the theater’s website, the presence of the Wattstar will eliminate travel time of 7‐10 miles to see a film. Stanton added, "Senior citizens have basically given up going to the movies because it is too far." Maybe the Senior's have given up movies because the government wastes too much of their tax dollars.
27) Let Them Eat Curley Fries-Specialty Potatoes for High End Restaurants – Idaho ($298,068) "Demand has gone way up for specialty potatoes, especially in restaurants," so says Robert Tominaga, President of Southwind Farms, when discussing the 2008 crop. That is good news for him, since his farm grows a large variety of specialty potatoes, such as Russian banana fingerlings, red thumbs and ruby crescents, that it sells to high‐end restaurants. Despite its success, USDA officials decided that the potato farm was in need of taxpayer assistance and provided it with a nearly $300,000 grant to help advertise its products. Co‐owner Jerry Tominaga was thrilled about getting government money to expand his business. "We want to be able to go out and attract new customers," he said.
28) Feasibility Study for Medical School that Will NEVER Be Built – Mississippi ($478,492) While there are no plans to ever build an osteopathic medical school at Jackson State University (JSU), Congress funneled nearly half of a million dollars to study the possibility, anyway. Tom Meredith, the state commissioner for higher education, discussed the matter with the President of JSU, and said that, despite the congressional money, both the state and the university are opposed to the
building of a new medical center. Meredith said, "It has become clear that Jackson State has no intention of pursuing such a school; it simply agreed to conduct a feasibility study for the state at the request of [Congress]. Congress funding a school that won't be built with money that was NEVER theirs.
29) Art Museum in Iraq ($13 million) The State Department gave $13 million to International Relief and Development, a non‐governmental organization, to help caretakers at the Iraq National Museum in Iraq learn better.Some hope the project may one day lead to the artifacts being put on display in public, though the Iraqi museum is currently closed. Sigh and this money could have bought more supplies for our heros in Iraq.
30) What a load of Bull Crap-Statewide Barn Census – Vermont ($150,000) Barn enthusiasts of all ages participated in a statewide barn census this year, volunteering to "roam across the Vermont countryside counting barns and collecting information and stories about them." Supporters hoped to get a picture of and a story about every barn in the state, though the task was admittedly daunting, according to Eve Pearce, one of the volunteers. "A stop at a barn can take up a few hours, as the owner has many stories about the barn's history," she said.
31) NOT STUPID BUT CRIMINAL-Powder to Protect Soldiers from Chemical Attack – Pennsylvania ($5.6 million) Members of Congress have put U.S. troops in the field in danger through the congressional earmarking process, simply by choosing powder over lotion. Rohm and Haas, a well‐connected company that produces a powder useful to resist chemical attacks, received $5.6 million in Defense Department funds to produce kits for soldiers. While this may seem beneficial to the troops, the Pentagon has determined that a lotion available to do the same thing is seven times more effective than its powder counterpart.
32) Fish and Mermaid Mural – Wisconsin ($6,000) Mayor Gary Becker of Racine, Wisconsin, first got the idea for a mermaid mural while walking the streets of Philadelphia. A friend took the mayor to Zagar’s Magic Garden – a downtown maze and mural made of "empty bottles, broken dishes, bicycle wheels" – and he knew that the idea would be perfect in his city. Becker personally searched out Isaiah Zagar, the creator of the Philadelphia murals, and coaxed him into coming to Racine with $6,000 in federal block grant money given to the city. Mayor Becker didn't you hear the announcement, don't take the brown Acid.
The following is a list of all 65 examples of wasteful government spending contained in the report.
Search for Outer Space Aliens – California ($9.4 million)
Voicemail for the Homeless – Ohio ($15,000)
Training Classes for Casino Workers – Kansas ($784,000)
Inflatable Alligator and Under‐the‐Sea Waterslide – Texas ($367,000)
Tennis Courts and Artificial Baseball Field Turf – New York ($1 million)
Cleveland Botanical Garden Green Corps – Ohio ($517,000)
Free‐Bike Library – Colorado ($66,000)
Bridging the Generational Gap with Nintendo Wii – Indiana ($3,905)
Portraits of Cabinet Officers ($167,290)
FCC‐Sponsored NASCAR Events to Promote Digital Television Transition ($350,000)
"George Washington Slept Here" Travelling Museum – New Jersey ($49,000)
Senate Restaurants Post Huge Loss ($2 million)
Scottsville Streetscaping Project – Virginia ($392,000)
Constructing the Tampa Riverwalk – Florida ($294,000)
Driving Tours and Exhibits for the America West Heritage Center – Utah ($200,000)
Restoring Robert Frost Farm – New Hampshire ($205,800)
"The check’s in the mail" – IRS Mailings for Rebate Checks ($42 million)
Remounting "World’s Largest Mounted Fish" – New York ($135,000)
Redecorating Train Station – New Jersey ($1.9 million)
Search for Alaskan Ice Worms – New Jersey ($326,733)
Medicare Overpayment for Name‐Brand Drugs with Generic Alternatives ($6.5 million)
3‐D Space Theater – Indiana ($2.4 million)
Bike Path Along Baton Rouge Levees – Louisiana ($1 million)
Microchips in Cactuses – Arizona ($???)
St. Louis Zoo Bridge to Parking Lot – Missouri ($5 million)
EPA Administrator Junket to Australia ($280,000)
Revitalization in Cleveland – Ohio ($1.1 million)
Visitor Center for National Fish Hatchery – Missouri ($2.8 million)
Renovating Old Tiger Baseball Stadium – Detroit ($4 million)
Studying American and Chinese Video Game Habits – California ($100,000)
Military Funding Diverted to Tentmaker – New York ($1.6 million)
Low‐Income Student Program Used for Employee Bonuses – California ($3 million)
Halloween Signs in Salem – Massachusetts ($50,000)
National Drug Intelligence Center – Pennsylvania ($39 million)
First Tee Golf Program – South Carolina ($3 million)
Teen Club and Whitewater Rafting Trips – Florida ($651,500)
Kanjorski Center Parking Garage ‐ Pennsylvania ($5.6 million)
B In Tune Youth Music Program – Washington, D.C. ($430,000)
Field Trips for School Teachers – Illinois ($918,600)
Captain John Smith Water Trail – Virginia ($446,500)
Wattstar Theatre and Education Center – California ($294,000)
2010 Decennial Census Bailout – ($210 million)
Airplane‐Shaped Gas Station – Tennessee ($9,000)
The Unwanted Sidewalk – Kentucky ($1 million)
Specialty Potatoes for High‐End Restaurants – Idaho ($298,068)
Train Depot for "Birthplace of American Railroad" – Pennsylvania ($170,000)
Mississippi River Flood Memorial Plaza – Illinois ($200,000)
Feasibility Study for Medical School that Will Not Be Built – Mississippi ($478,492)
Billings Mustangs Minor League Baseball Stadium – Montana ($328,300)
Unwanted Neon Bike Signs – New York ($148,773)
Art Museum in Iraq ($13 million)
Tibbits Opera House Facelift – Michigan ($500,000)
Small Business Loans to Liquor Stores ($82 million)
Statewide Barn Census – Vermont ($150,000)
Powder to Protect Soldiers from Chemical Attack – Pennsylvania ($5.6 million)
High Altitude Airship – Ohio ($3.2 million)
Retractable Canopy for Haddad Riverfront Park – West Virginia ($2.4 million)
Lobster Institute – Maine ($188,000)
Wilson Skateboarding Park – California ($296,601)
Fish and Mermaid Mural – Wisconsin ($6,000)
Freewheel Midtown Bike Center Café and Bike Shower – Minnesota ($560,000)
Congressional Junket to Galapagos Islands ($???)
National Park Service 100‐Year Birthday Party ($24.6 million)
Weed and Seed Program – Department of Justice ($32 million)
Transportation Enhancement Grants ($800 Million)
Total Wasteful Spending: $1,315,476,562
Click HERE to read the full report


CheeseHarlette said...

Check out this link to the story of Richard who used Community Voice Mail to get a job, get himself out of homelessness and enroll in a full time program at a local university to train himself for a new career. If you bother to do so, perhaps you won't be so quick to call voice mail for homeless people a boondoggle. Your comment shows you hold some very common stereotypes in your mind about the in boxes? Most homeless people are families with children and they are invisible. You won't see them living in the subway. One of the reasons homeless people stay homeless is isolation caused by the lack of access to simple things like phones. With voice mail, people in isolation are able to pull themselves up and out of difficulties like homelessness. This tool SAVES money. The biggest users of this service are homeless and women getting out of a domestic violence situations who need a confidential voice mail number to receive information and correspond with people who are helping them. Right now, more than 40,000 people around the country are using free voice mail. The average time people need it is 6 months. Of those who report back, more than 75% reach whatever goal they had -- most often finding housing or getting a job. To contribute to the nonprofit organization that is managing this national network, go to their web site at and make a gift.

oriello said...

Coburn put the Federal Highway Administration’s entire “transportation enhancement” (TE) program on his list as well. This $800 million program (in 2008) has been the source of most of the bike lanes, bike paths and many of the sidewalks in the nation since 1991 thanks to far-sighted members of congress who funded the enhancement program to the tune of about 4% of all federal highway monies. Thanks to them also for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program which funded the Fort Collins Bike Library, our Bicycle Coordinator, and many of the bike paths in town. These programs and the hard work of City transportation planners, in large part, have made Fort Collins a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community, according to the League of American Bicyclists, and have made Fort Collins one of the best places to live and to locate a business in the country, according to Money Magazine. Oklahoma hasn’t a single bicycle friendly community compared to eight in Colorado.

For Coburn's 2009 list we're working on using library bikes to offer escorted rides for kids, seniors and visitors from Oklahoma who otherwise might not bicycle.