There are a lot of reasons to hate big government. You might not like having your rights infringed. Maybe you take issue with having your hard-earned paychecks taxed to pay for killing babies.
One thing that both sides can usually agree on is that the government wastes a lot of money. Sometimes, it’s because things just don’t go according to plan. The F-35 is a good example.
Most times, the money is spent on something that was a bad idea at the start. It’s money that is spent being invasive in our lives, performing illegal actions or is funding something painfully stupid.
Today, we’re going to look at the very worst cases of bad government spending. Some might be good for a laugh, but strap in, because this is going to get your temper burning. And, to be clear, all of the following numbers were taken from the Obama era.
This isn’t even talking about invasive laws. There are countless cases of the federal government spending millions of dollars just to waggle their fingers at us and say how we should be living. For instance, $1.3 million are spent annually on a social media campaign that discourages women from tanning. When did the risks of tanning drift out of common knowledge? And, when did people start taking social media campaigns seriously?
A similar program spends about $500,000 a year texting people to tell them not to chew tobacco. Still, the worst example we could find was a $48,000 grant paid to a grad student to write a paper about smoking in Russia. Somehow, this was supposed to discourage people from smoking.
There are so many problems with this. First, these programs are trying to dictate actions to grown adults. If you want to smoke, chew or tan, then you can make a calculated decision. You know the risks, and your decision doesn’t hurt people around you. That’s why these actions aren’t illegal in the first place.
It’s bad enough that the government spends so much money on overreaching their position, but none of these programs work on any level. Unfortunately, this is the least frustrating thing you’re about to read.
Very Stupid Research
Look, research is a vein of spending that is always going to flirt with absurdity. Pushing science, engineering and understanding sometimes forces us to answer ridiculously specific questions to the outside observer. But, when you fund research with a political agenda, you are guaranteed to spend money on really stupid stuff.
Perhaps the best example is the $400,000 spent to argue for a feminist perspective on melting glaciers. Yeah, you read that right. And here, I never knew glaciers had a gender in the first place. Here’s the really bad news: that money didn’t pay for research. That was just a grant to pay people to argue that we should undertake this stupid project. They won, and the total cost of this asinine waste of money has yet to be totaled.
Some other bad research includes $225,000 on redundant research that investigated the effect of technology on kids (it’s been done to death at this point), $1.5 million looking at fish on treadmills (you read that right), and $300,000 to see if boys or girls prefer barbie dolls (it was girls).
A really fun study spent $5 million to observe college Greek parties. Their only conclusion was the members of sororities and fraternities drink more than the average college kid. Great job team!
A few more brainiac ideas spent $1 million to see why people don’t ride bikes to work more (because it was too far), $19 million on the content of cow farts and $160,000 to see which symbols are most effective in hexing people. No, that last one is not a joke.
This is nowhere near a complete list of stupid research, and we’ve already tallied a bill of almost $32 million. While that’s not enough to fix the federal budget, it is enough to house about 10 percent of all homeless veterans.
Making fun of stupid research would be amusing if you never stopped to realize that money comes out of your pocket. Subsidies are the real bane of American spending, and there is nothing fun about this part. There are silly projects that spend $3.5 million a year making wine. A $21.8 million subsidy buys excess cheese and then incentivizes more cheese production. Cheese is delicious, but not so much that it merits this kind of circular spending.
Private companies are subsidized in frustrating ways all the time. A private museum in PA received $4.3 million in tax dollars for renovation. A cool $11 million was spent on a private harbor in Cleveland, and over $3 million was spent to expand private parking in Chicago.
Those are bad, but there is a single perpetrator that dwarfs everything else on this list. Improper billing for Medicaid totals $142 billion a year. The total Medicaid budget is about $550 billion a year. A full 25 percent of it is spent on procedures that are either fraudulent or mistakenly billed to the program.
That’s almost four percent of the entire federal budget. Fixing this one problem would solve the deficit problem and dramatically slice the cost of health care across the country. I just don’t have the words.
Just Plain Waste
There is one more category that wastes significant amounts of money. We could talk about little things like spending $32 million to make a Native American prison 10 times too big. Or we could mock the $219,000 program that aims to teach college students how to watch TV better.
We’ll just skip to the big offender. Every year, the U.S. federal government spends about $3.1 billion on vacations for workers placed on administrative leave. Pay attention. This is not the cost of the paid leave. This is paid out in additional vacation hours to workers on paid leave.
Here’s the biggest problem. About $775 million of that chunk is paid in vacation hours to workers under investigation. Let’s be clear about this. They break rules and are investigated. They’re on paid leave during that investigation (which is arguably fair because they are innocent until proven guilty). In addition, they were paid $775 million in vacation hours during that period. Can we drain this swamp already?