Every year the United States Government spends trillions of dollars on programs that most Americans know about and approve of. Hidden in those hundreds of pages of approved budget documents however are the programs that are so outrageous and wasteful that every American would be in an uproar if they knew about them. Of all the governmental branches in the United States, The Defense Department seems to have the least accountability. According to a 2004 United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the Department of Defense (DOD) purchased $100 million worth of plane tickets it never used. In fact, the DOD even qualified for refunds on many of these tickets but never claimed them.(1) Another GAO report revealed that military personnel spent $100,000 on cruises, prostitutes, gambling, and concert tickets. The Pentagon even paid $998,798 to ship two nineteen-cent washers. It also paid $455,009 to ship three machine screws costing $1.31 each.(2) It would take a whole book to list all of the cases of fraud, theft, and waste that riddle the Defense Department budget. The real problem is that these extreme cases are just those that have been uncovered. Who knows what the real waste of defense spending is per year?
Government waste certainly isn’t limited to the Defense Department however. Bush’s 2007 budget included $200 million over five years for responsible-parenting programs, $100 million for faith-based community organizations, and $50 million to mentor prisoners’ kids. One of the more absurd items in the health-care budget for 2007 was $206 million for abstinence education activities, an increase of $39 million from the previous year. Abstinence education has of course been shown by almost every study to be completely ineffective. President Bush also requested $1 billion over five years to promote healthy marriages through demonstrations, research, and a matching state program. First, there has been a significant amount of research done on marriage by sociologists at hundreds of universities across the United States. There is absolutely no need to spend extra money. Second, it is doubtful that demonstrations will cure a marriage. If the government wants to help solve married people’s problems, it would be far more effective to eliminate some of their financial obligations, which studies have shown to be one of the major stress-causing factors in a marriage. Just reduce taxes. Married people would most likely appreciate that far more than a demonstration. Third, what business does the government have promoting healthy marriages?
In 2008, the federal government approved $2.6 million to teach Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly.(3) In the same year the government made $72 billion in improper payments due to fraud and misdirected reimbursements.(4) In 2009, the federal government made $98 billion in similar improper payments.(5) According to the Cato Institute, the federal government spent $92 billion in 2006 on “corporate welfare,” or subsidies to businesses.(6) It also spent $34 million on teaching Americans to be better shoppers, as if the federal government is any kind of authority on the subject!(7)
In addition, the government spent $823,000 of stimulus money to teach uncircumcised African men how to wash their genitals after having sex.(8) And in 2010, the US Treasury spent $120 million to print 1.1 billion newly designed $100 bills. Unfortunately, the bills were accidentally folded before the printing process, which left part of the bills blank and thus worthless.(9)
According to the Heritage Foundation, government auditors found that 22 percent of all federal programs have failed to show any signs of success. Eliminating these programs would save $123 billion annually. The auditors also identified $25 billion in annual charges for vacant federal properties. A GAO study estimated that 41 percent of government credit card purchases were fraudulent or abusive.(10)
In 2012, the General Services Administration (GSA), which is supposed to keep an eye out for outrageous government spending, spent $823,000 on a lavish Las Vegas party. The GSA employees even made music videos about their ability to spend American’s money without recourse.
These are just a few examples of waste. This kind of behavior should not be shocking, however. Anytime someone or some organization has access to what is believed to be an unlimited source of someone else’s money, there is going to be theft and corruption. There always has been, and there always will be.
1) “DOD Travel Cards,” U.S. Government Accountability Office, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04398.pdf.
2) “Pentagon Paid $998,798 to Ship Two 19-Cent Washers (Update3),” Bloomberg, http://noir.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aY5OQ5xv9HR8.
3) “U.S. Will Pay $2.6 million to Train Chinese Prostitutes to Drink Responsibly on the Job,” CNSNews.com, http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/47976.
4) “Federal Spending By the Numbers 2010,” The Heritage Foundation, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/06/federal-spending-by-the-numbers-2010.
6) “The Corporate Welfare State: How the Federal Government Subsidizes U.S. Businesses,” Cato Institute, http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=8230.
7) “Three Little Pigs: How Entitlements Will Destroy Us,” Cato Institute, http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=11988.
8] “Feds Spent $800,000 of Economic Stimulus on African Genital-Washing Program,” CNSNews.com, http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/75198.
9) “Badly Printed $100 Bills Are Multibillion Dollar Problem,” DailyFinance, http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/badly-printed-bills-are-a-multi-billion-dollar-problem/19747727.
10) “Governmentwide Purchase Cards,” U.S. Government Accountability Office, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08333.pdf. 61 “Voting rights in the United States,” Wikipedia,