$6.5 Billion Wasted
A new report highlights the worst of federal spending.


Andrew Stiles

Many Americans are no doubt making resolutions to eliminate their bad habits in the New Year. The federal government would be well advised to do the same. President Obama and members of Congress could start by reviewing the jaw-dropping report put out by Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) outlining 100 examples — totaling more than $6.5 billion — of wasteful federal spending over the past year alone. What follows is a collection of some of the more outrageous examples.

— $120 million paid out in retirement and disability payments to deceased federal workers. According to the Inspector General of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, that’s in line with the annual average.

● A $113,000 grant for video-game preservation awarded to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, an organization that “collects, studies, and interprets video games . . . and the ways in which electronic games are changing how people play, learn, and connect with each other, including across boundaries of culture and geography.”

● $17.8 million in aid to China, a country that currently holds U.S. debt in excess of $1.1 trillion. The aid package included $2.5 million for social services and $4.4 million for “green” initiatives and environmental-improvement programs.

● $10 million awarded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to a Pakistani arts organization to create “130 episodes of an indigenously produced Sesame Street.” The project, which will included characters such as Haseen O Jameel, “a conceited well-dwelling crocodile,” and Baily, “a hard-working donkey who longs to be a pop star,” is expected to receive $20 million over the next four years.

● A $147,000 grant to the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Mich. The museum, which purports to “celebrate magicians and their magic,” intends to use the funds to “better understand its various audiences and their potential interest in the history of magic entertainment.”

● $49,000 awarded to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture in support of the 2012 Hawaii Chocolate Festival, which aims to “highlight the culinary talents and products specifically linked to Hawaii’s chocolate industry.” Last year’s festival goers were treated to a wide selection of chocolate-infused comestibles, including popsicles, vodka, and beer.

● $1 billion in tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements awarded to individuals who, according to a survey by the Treasury’s secretary general for tax administration, “had no record of owning a home.” Recipients included hundreds of prisoners, and children as young as three.

● A $176,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health awarded to the University of Kentucky to study the effects of cocaine on the sex drive of Japanese quail. The study, which began in 2010 and is scheduled to run through 2015, has already received more than $350,000 in federal funding.

● $96,000 in federal stimulus funding to purchase iPad 2 tablets for students in a Maine school district. When asked via an online survey whether the investment was worthwhile, 96 percent of local parents said no.

● $50,000 to the Oregon Cheese Guild, which plans to operate a statewide “Cheese Trail” connecting local farms and restaurants. The funds will go towards the production of 24 “video vignettes” featuring local farmers and experts expounding on the history of cheese.

● $1.4 million for an “entrepreneurship initiative” in the small Caribbean nation of Barbados. The USAID grant will help a local business school develop a curriculum focusing on “social” and “cultural” entrepreneurship, as well as “alternative energy initiatives.”