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  • 50 Examples of Government Waste

    The Congressional Budget Office reported yesterday that the U.S. government ended its 2009 fiscal year with a deficit of $1.4 trillion, the biggest since 1945.

    Washington will spend $33,932 per household in 2009–$8,000 per household more than last year. Following President Barack Obama’s budget, Washington will be spending $33,000 per household (adjusted for inflation) by 2019, and that does not include the costs of Obamacare. This spending is not inevitable.

    In the 1980s and 1990s, Washington consistently spent $21,000 per household (adjusted for inflation). Simply returning to that level would balance the budget by 2012 without any tax hikes. Alternatively, returning to the $25,000 per household level (adjusted for inflation) that Washington spent before the current recession would likely balance the budget by 2019 without any tax hikes.

    To help move back to these healthier levels of spending, Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Brian Riedl has identified 50 Examples of Government Waste. Eliminating waste cannot balance the budget. But here’s a start:

    1. The federal government made at least $72 billion in improper payments in 2008.
    2. Washington spends $92 billion on corporate welfare (excluding TARP) versus $71 billion on homeland security.
    3. Washington spends $25 billion annually maintaining unused or vacant federal properties.
    4. Government auditors spent the past five years examining all federal programs and found that 22 percent of them–costing taxpayers a total of $123 billion annually–fail to show any positive impact on the populations they serve.
    5. The Congressional Budget Office published a “Budget Options” series identifying more than $100 billion in potential spending cuts.
    6. Examples from multiple Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports of wasteful duplication include 342 economic development programs; 130 programs serving the disabled; 130 programs serving at-risk youth; 90 early childhood development programs; 75 programs funding international education, cultural, and training exchange activities; and 72 safe water programs.
    7. Washington will spend $2.6 million training Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job.
    8. A GAO audit classified nearly half of all purchases on government credit cards as improper, fraudulent, or embezzled. Examples of taxpayer-funded purchases include gambling, mortgage payments, liquor, lingerie, iPods, Xboxes, jewelry, Internet dating services, and Hawaiian vacations. In one extraordinary example, the Postal Service spent $13,500 on one dinner at a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, including “over 200 appetizers and over $3,000 of alcohol, including more than 40 bottles of wine costing more than $50 each and brand-name liquor such as Courvoisier, Belvedere and Johnny Walker Gold.” The 81 guests consumed an average of $167 worth of food and drink apiece.
    9. Federal agencies are delinquent on nearly 20 percent of employee travel charge cards, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
    10. The Securities and Exchange Commission spent $3.9 million rearranging desks and offices at its Washington, D.C., headquarters.
    11. The Pentagon recently spent $998,798 shipping two 19-cent washers from South Carolina to Texas and $293,451 sending an 89-cent washer from South Carolina to Florida.
    12. Over half of all farm subsidies go to commercial farms, which report average household incomes of $200,000.
    13. Health care fraud is estimated to cost taxpayers more than $60 billion annually.
    14. A GAO audit found that 95 Pentagon weapons systems suffered from a combined $295 billion in cost overruns.
    15. The refusal of many federal employees to fly coach costs taxpayers $146 million annually in flight upgrades.
    16. Washington will spend $126 million in 2009 to enhance the Kennedy family legacy in Massachusetts. Additionally, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) diverted $20 million from the 2010 defense budget to subsidize a new Edward M. Kennedy Institute.
    17. Federal investigators have launched more than 20 criminal fraud investigations related to the TARP financial bailout.
    18. Despite trillion-dollar deficits, last year’s 10,160 earmarks included $200,000 for a tattoo removal program in Mission Hills, California; $190,000 for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming; and $75,000 for the Totally Teen Zone in Albany, Georgia.
    19. The federal government owns more than 50,000 vacant homes.
    20. The Federal Communications Commission spent $350,000 to sponsor NASCAR driver David Gilliland.
    21. Members of Congress have spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars supplying their offices with popcorn machines, plasma televisions, DVD equipment, ionic air fresheners, camcorders, and signature machines–plus $24,730 leasing a Lexus, $1,434 on a digital camera, and $84,000 on personalized calendars.
    22. More than $13 billion in Iraq aid has been classified as wasted or stolen. Another $7.8 billion cannot be accounted for.
    23. Fraud related to Hurricane Katrina spending is estimated to top $2 billion. In addition, debit cards provided to hurricane victims were used to pay for Caribbean vacations, NFL tickets, Dom Perignon champagne, “Girls Gone Wild” videos, and at least one sex change operation.
    24. Auditors discovered that 900,000 of the 2.5 million recipients of emergency Katrina assistance provided false names, addresses, or Social Security numbers or submitted multiple applications.
    25. Congress recently gave Alaska Airlines $500,000 to paint a Chinook salmon on a Boeing 737.
    26. The Transportation Department will subsidize up to $2,000 per flight for direct flights between Washington, D.C., and the small hometown of Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY)–but only on Monday mornings and Friday evenings, when lawmakers, staff, and lobbyists usually fly. Rogers is a member of the Appropriations Committee, which writes the Transportation Department’s budget.
    27. Washington has spent $3 billion re-sanding beaches–even as this new sand washes back into the ocean.
    28. A Department of Agriculture report concedes that much of the $2.5 billion in “stimulus” funding for broadband Internet will be wasted.
    29. The Defense Department wasted $100 million on unused flight tickets and never bothered to collect refunds even though the tickets were refundable.
    30. Washington spends $60,000 per hour shooting Air Force One photo-ops in front of national landmarks.
    31. Over one recent 18-month period, Air Force and Navy personnel used government-funded credit cards to charge at least $102,400 on admission to entertainment events, $48,250 on gambling, $69,300 on cruises, and $73,950 on exotic dance clubs and prostitutes.
    32. Members of Congress are set to pay themselves $90 million to increase their franked mailings for the 2010 election year.
    33. Congress has ignored efficiency recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services that would save $9 billion annually.
    34. Taxpayers are funding paintings of high-ranking government officials at a cost of up to $50,000 apiece.
    35. The state of Washington sent $1 food stamp checks to 250,000 households in order to raise state caseload figures and trigger $43 million in additional federal funds.
    36. Suburban families are receiving large farm subsidies for the grass in their backyards–subsidies that many of these families never requested and do not want.
    37. Congress appropriated $20 million for “commemoration of success” celebrations related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
    38. Homeland Security employee purchases include 63-inch plasma TVs, iPods, and $230 for a beer brewing kit.
    39. Two drafting errors in the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act resulted in a $2 billion taxpayer cost.
    40. North Ridgeville, Ohio, received $800,000 in “stimulus” funds for a project that its mayor described as “a long way from the top priority.”
    41. The National Institutes of Health spends $1.3 million per month to rent a lab that it cannot use.
    42. Congress recently spent $2.4 billion on 10 new jets that the Pentagon insists it does not need and will not use.
    43. Lawmakers diverted $13 million from Hurricane Katrina relief spending to build a museum celebrating the Army Corps of Engineers–the agency partially responsible for the failed levees that flooded New Orleans.
    44. Medicare officials recently mailed $50 million in erroneous refunds to 230,000 Medicare recipients.
    45. Audits showed $34 billion worth of Department of Homeland Security contracts contained significant waste, fraud, and abuse.
    46. Washington recently spent $1.8 million to help build a private golf course in Atlanta, Georgia.
    47. The Advanced Technology Program spends $150 million annually subsidizing private businesses; 40 percent of this funding goes to Fortune 500 companies.
    48. Congressional investigators were able to receive $55,000 in federal student loan funding for a fictional college they created to test the Department of Education.
    49. The Conservation Reserve program pays farmers $2 billion annually not to farm their land.
    50. The Commerce Department has lost 1,137 computers since 2001, many containing Americans’ personal data.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    35 Responses to 50 Examples of Government Waste

    1. Elizabeth Cox, Washi says:

      Speaking of government waste has the thought occured to anyone that the reason the administration does not want the bills proposed to be read is because of the pet projects that are hung on the bills. Especially the Obamacare health bill?

    2. Albert campbellsvill says:

      I just dont know what to say,this just makes you sick if you have any kind of common sense.Ive said for years if they ended fraud,waste and theft we would have a huge surplus.these people steeling from us is downright evil,but they are never held accountable.I thought hussein was goig to fix all this,CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN.

    3. bobbie Jay says:

      Thank you Conn and Brian.

      If given an in depth research of Obama's employment history and present demeanor, there's little doubt he is directly or indirectly involved in most of the waste. He ignores his duty to correct the current waste. His will is to increase.

    4. John, Madison, WI says:

      Hmmm. NO mention of the 2 wars and direct spending on TARP. Guess those were too obvious.

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    7. Papa Ray Central T says:

      I don't own a calculator. Could someone add all this up and give a ball park figure on what is presented here?

      Then lets see if we can divert all this money to our Troops and to the VA.

      Where it is needed.

      Papa Ray

      Central Texas

    8. Donna Sudbrook, Balt says:

      Is there no mercy in Congress on real people who go without things so that they can waste money?

    9. Michael Brün, U says:

      Before we get too self-righteous about government misallocations, is there any documentation about private sector misallocations? People say the profit motive ought to prevent these, but that's dumb ideology. Staff working in corporations have other interests besides its profitability.

      It seems this is a universal feature of human organization and self interest. Fun to point at, sure, but what's the policy response? Eliminate all organizations?

    10. Pingback: Could Fixing Government Wastefulness Solve the Deficit?

    11. James Becker says:

      Would we really want 'this government' to run our health care?

    12. Paul Dibble Ada, MI says:

      I think this kind of waste is inevitable in government–regardless of who is in power. The answer is not cleaning up the waste (though we can try). The answer is reducing the size and power of the government.

    13. Greg Lawritson, Sout says:

      …. what's the difference between what's been found and organized crime? Nothing. It's all about self-entitlement on the backs of others under the threat of harsh consequences. Instead of "Knuckles and "Guido" visiting you late one night to help you find your wallet, … we have the IRS performing 'walletectomies' without due process of law. Try and find an attorney who will honestly fight the IRS, … near impossible. We are self destructing – imploding from the inside, … we'll continue to ignore what has been described above and stand by apathetically, hanging on to our individual slice of freedom and job like zebras in the herd hoping the lions in Washington don't pick us off to quickly. I love this country, but am ashamed of our leadership and what they are doing to our legacy.

    14. D.R., Orlando, FL says:

      If the waste is in the private sector, the tax payers are not being forced to pay for the waste, whoever owns the company is. And if the company owner can discover who is robbing his company he can have them charged, tried and sent to prison if found guilty. Unfortunately, in the government sector the crooks get made cabinet secretaries, presidential "czars", congress people, and senators so they can rob the tax payers ever more!

    15. Patricia Brittell A says:

      I think I made a comment in another issue that would have fit this better. I will just shorten it to say this; Obama wants to get as many people on welfare as possible. This is in the plan to overtake the government and bring about a dictatorship. When people completely depend on the government to feed, house, and medicate them the country will go broke because there won't be enough taxes or tax payers to keep up the handouts. It might sound crazy to you, but think about it. I would venture to say most of the unployment right now quit their jobs because, woopee, now they can sit on their ass and get paid for it. We have millions on welfare, the give-me-free individuals.

      Then the big Corporations take their business' to foreign countries so they can pay cheap wages. Everything thats happening now was a plan years ago and the very wealthy hired Obama as their puppet to reinforce the evils with his charismatic speaches. We need more than money to fight, we need people in huge numbers if we want to win back our free country and the Constitution.

    16. Bobbie Jay says:

      That's right. Private sector pays their own money if trouble arises, without infringing on the tax payer. Everything the government is doing outside their job of upholding the American Constitution, is a total violation and financial infringement on innocent taxpayers who are accustomed to living by the American Constitution that the government is freely destroying…

      When there's financial mayhem in government it is usually covered up and an increase of tax to boot. More government thievery!

    17. Bobbie Jay says:

      To continue government unaccountabilities less our knowledge of it.

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    20. Miles, California says:

      "Before we get too self-righteous about government misallocations, is there any documentation about private sector misallocations?"

      There aren't any because the private sector has economic calculation through the free price mechanism. Anyone who's taken a basic course in Econ 101 would tell you that. An act of waste from a private institution would be a loss of profit, which is that last thing a private institution would want to do. It would mean debt and impoverishment for workers and employees (not to mention shareholders). Government however, isn't driven by that same price mechanism. They coercively plunder revenue and redistribute wealth in accordance to THEIR own consent as opposed to the consumers. People voluntarily consent to the purchase of private services, ergo the businesses adjusts their product/services to the consumers desires to remain profitable. People DON'T voluntarily consent to the purchase of government services, ergo government has no motivation to remain profitable nor do they understand what the citizens truly want or need to improve the quality in product/services. The government isn't threatened to remain profitable from price and competition like business is nor are they motivated to improve their quality of service/product again like the business is.

      As for abolishing organizations? Yes, as long as they're government run. I'd vote for any politician promising to have a field day gutting these frivolous and unconstitutional bureaucracies.

    21. Donn, Ohio says:

      After reading this list, I dont think I will be so sick about not being able to pay my back taxes due to loss of work.

    22. Pingback: Need for Education Reform - Page 6

    23. B. Morgan, Oregon says:

      You forget the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan. I guess a conservative think tank would forget that.

    24. David California says:

      Gee I wonder why folks don't like paying taxes. It seems to me if the Government would clean up its act we would have no taxes at all.

    25. mary,sacramento. says:

      No kidding. We the people are just as responsible for the government waste bercause we kepp the lieing, thiefing bastards in office. We are lied to and BIG BROTHER, never has to answer for their actions. The deciet is pittiful, and because we are a corrupt nation from from the top down, and so greedy, we will tear this country into shreads and separate the class,. We are a prejudice nation, nad are cowards to what really needs to be done top fix America. Look out people if you don't comply with Big Brother you will be and are considerate a threat. Free- better look around. Pay attention or is that you really don't want yo know the truth. It is so sad that we do not take care of ourselves as a nation. Money is the route of alL EVIL.

    26. Nancy Entrup Oneonta says:

      As a recent employee of the Job Corps in Oneonta New York. I can TRULY say , Job Corps is a hoax on the American public/tax payer. The program is a glut of greedy breaucrats sucking up American Tax dollars, 1.7 billion to be exact all told at record pace. The % of graduates from this program who will really gain from going through this program is so small it is NOT worth the money spent. $30,000 per student to get them through the program, at the end they have to still teach them how to dress for an interview ???? The breaucrats that run these programs , work hardest to massage paper work [documents], so they can get through government audits. The system is corrupt from top tobottom. I worked for nine weeks with a purchasing agent, who had ALL of the financial control over the center, and other control as well. He didn't trust this one, didn't trust that one, kept everything he did private, refered to it as his deal, and when the books didn't juggle $$$$$ wise, all he had to do was go into the system, make up a lie, and make a change order on a purchase order to make it all LOOK KOSHER. HOW COMPLIANT IS THAT. The accounting woman would have signed a pile of "SH***T", if he brought it to her and asked her to approve it.

      THIS IS PATHETIC THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA WOULD APPROVE MONIES FOR THIS PROGRAM IN THIS ECONOMY. ETR/ that ran this Job Corps in Oneonta, got about 2 Million in ARRA stimulus funding. They were coaching the buyer that every CENT of it needed to be spent , do not leave a dime on the table , whether the items purchased are needed or not. The students GET ENDLESS pizza parties, swimming trips to indoor pool at local college, bowling locally, shopping trips, endless amounts of clothes and athletic supplies, tickets to see the Harlem Globe Trotters, $25 gift certificates to Walmart just for doing what they are there to do anyway, $25 gift certifications if they don't go AWOL- which by the way is a behavioral problem, the most expensive food purchasable or they complain. How many tax paying Americans during this economy have had to give up all of these things. They are preached to that they should try to get everything they can for FREE. Nice lesson they are being taught there.

      EVERYTHING IS UNDER THE HAT AND COVERT, NOTHING IS VISIBLE AT THIS CENTER. They try to cover up everything. The woman who is over the educational program of technical trades that exists there now knows less than nothing about what any of the trades she is over DO. Employees are brow beaten into submission like the students are.

      This is the tax payers money and the Federal Government paying coo to something that is INEFFECTIVE TOTALLY and is COMPARABLE TO ORGANIZED CRIME.. ONLY NOT RUN AS WELL.

    27. CHUCK,RIVERSIDE CA says:


    28. David Gharibyan says:

      Anarchy now

    29. David, Wichita,KS says:

      I would like to know how much money the taxpayer has payed out for NASA

      programs like the Cassimi mission. ( so we could find out that, yea, there is ice

      on some of the moons around saturn) Can anyone tell me how this is going to

      be a benefit to mankind? Well, I guess it keeps some of these astrophysics

      from going hungry!

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    31. sharon vilone says:

      please Pat Robertson from the 700 club. read this article and stop saying the rich corporate owners are right in refusing to give up their tax breaks and take america's debt and put it on the burden of the most vulnerable in society, the elderly the disabled, and the poor by cutting back on social security, medicare, and medicaid!

    32. Jakepi says:

      What about the US Navy having two oil tankers built but not finished for 300 million and then after letting them just sit there rusting never being used, they decide to send them to a shipyard in the UK to be turned into scrap metal for an additional 10 million dollars and none of the scrap metal is recycled and the funds returned to the US treasury! If the Navy can wast that much with out the Secretary of the Navy not facing criminal charges then you can forget about ever receiving another check for back taxes from again!

    33. Brian says:

      Maybe one of the reasons Obama's budget is so high is that he included the two wars the last president got us into and then kept them off the books and out of the budget so nobody would know what they were really costing. Going back to Reagan, Republican Presidents and Congresses have been deficit spending us into the hole we're in now. Conservatives are all up in arms about the so-called entitlement programs some of our citizens need to survive, but don't want to talk about ending the corporate welfare to companies who are posting record profits and tax breaks to these same companies. All it would take to fix our problems over the long run is to close all the loopholes in the tax codes – every one of them, stop corporate welfare, stop tax refunds/credits to companies already making billions in profits, stop wasteful political earmarks in legislation, and get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Initiating term limits (8 or 12 years) for all those worthless politicians (Democrats & Republicans) in Washington would also be a big step in the right direction.

    34. Adam Summers says:

      This article is very revealing. It is not surprising, but it is very sad. I just wish we could undo all of this blatant corruption. Keep up the great work finding this Heritage.

    35. Arthur says:

      Obama does not care about america. He has been allowed to throw trillions of dollars away and if relected, he will give all of america's money away to foreign countries (who hate americans). There appears to be no way america can fight it's way back to the way our founding fathers set up our form of government.

      I am hoping for a new president in 2013, but if not all is lost for the usa.

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