In what he calls, “Chairman Rand Paul’s Festivus Report” he picks out some of the worst examples of “pork” totaling nearly $115 million. Though some might consider this to be minor in cost and scope relative to the entire federal budget, few listed here are things our national government should have any involvement with. (Keep in mind that the average taxpayer pays a little over $8,000 annually in federal taxes, so this sum represents the hard earn income taxes paid of about 14,000 households.)
Here is a list of the items found in this year’s report (in no particular order):
- $15,000 spent by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) on “‘theatrical research and engagement strategies’ to combat homelessness and poverty.” This went toward L.A.’s skid row. How theatrics combat homelessness will be interesting to see.
- NEA gave a grant of $15,000 for “‘Stoned Prince,’ a fictionalized opera about Prince Harry” in which the main character dreams of becoming a porn animator. Wonderful. The recipient, the American Opera Projects, Inc. already receives considerable funding from New York taxpayers along with many charitable organizations.
- State Department spends $75,000 “to market U.S. colleges to Indian students. Indians are already the second largest group of aliens to attend. This amount is also three times what it was 18 years ago.
- USAID will “as much as $18 million over the next four years to support Egyptian tourism” even though nearly 15 million tourists visit the Great Pyramid of Giza annually. It is designed to “‘enhance Egypt’s cultural heritage assets and competitiveness as a tourism destination…’”
- The State Department spent $1 million on supporting “legislative priorities in Libya.” [Libya’s government and political system are a mess after our involvement during the Obama (Clinton State Department) administration even though we’ve spent “over $400 million on foreign aid in Libya alone since 2011.”]
- U.S. Embassy in Rwanda spent $250,000 “to teach special interest groups and citizens … how to lobby.”
- U.S. Embassy in the U.K. spent “$200,000 to bring British student social activists to the U.S.” This was intended to “‘focus on efforts in the U.S. to counter hate crimes and build community resilience to conflict.’” Among the qualities necessary for these students to demonstrate are” “inclusion and tolerance, … economic and social justice and … youth activism.” Just what we need more of.
- NIH continues to fund an ongoing project to study daydreaming so far costing taxpayers $2,488,153. Yes, daydreaming.
- State Department “is spending $50,000 on trips to museums in Bosnia and Herzegovina for Bosnians and Herzegovinians.”
- State Department spending $50,000 “to teach female entrepreneurs in India to make sales pitches with vlogs.”
- The Somali National Army has received over $76 million since 2009 from the State Department. The army there is corrupt and has not met even our minimum standards for accountability. It appears it has done nothing buy enrich its highest officers.
- National Science Foundation (NSF) spent $75,691 to “blow leaf blowers at lizards” to see how long “which lizards could hold on to a wooden pole.”
- National Institute of Health (NIH) granted nearly $875,000 over 6 years to study “the sexual habits of quails that are high on cocaine.”
You really can’t make this stuff up.
Here are a few other examples from previous years:
- “Department of Defense lost $29 million (1400 pieces) of heavy equipment in Afghanistan.” (2016)
- LA School District misused “$158 million of federal School Lunch Program funding to other uses including buying lawn sprinklers and paying the salaries at the district’s television station.”
- National Park Service spending $150,000 “to investigate supernatural events in Alaska.” (2016)
- NSF provided a grant of nearly $450,000 to develop a video game designed to “educate young people about Global Climate Change.” (2015)
The organization, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has also been publishing egregious federal spending programs for a number of decades. Here is a huge earmark listed on its website from 2018:
- $65 million for Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery, a 333.3% increase from FY 2015. (President Trump had recommended its elimination entirely.)
Then, of course, there are the programs that start out to fix a specific social need and end up staying around forever. After all, if the bureaucracy solves a problem, it works itself out of a job. And in most cases, these budgets grow by leaps and bounds because the political representative demands earmarks (federal dollars spent in his or her districts) to gain the appropriation bill’s support.
CAGW especially shines the light on the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). It was created by Congress in 1965 to “bring the 13 Appalachian states into the mainstream of the American economy,” and covers all of West Virginia along with portions of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The ARC duplicates dozens of federal, state, and local programs.”
The agency also received earmarks in the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, in 2018 totaling $128,340,000. This was an increase of over 200 percent from the amount earmarked in FY 2017. At a time when our annual deficit approaches $1 trillion with total national debt is over $22 trillion, this earmark for a program started over 50 years ago gives the program the most money it has ever received.