With Congress winding down for the holidays and budget talks wrapping up, it’s time to look back at the good, the bad and the wasteful for 2013.
On Tuesday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released Wastebook 2013, his annual survey of wasteful spending by the federal government.
“While the President and his cabinet issued dire warnings about the cataclysmic impacts of sequestration, taxpayers were not alerted to all of the waste being spared from the budget axe,” Coburn wrote.
This year, Coburn identified 100 projects that cost taxpayers nearly $30 billion. Among Coburn’s top offenders were:
Paid to Do Nothing – Between sequestration, furloughs, the government shutdown and the work, or lack thereof, of the “least productive” Congress in history — the 113th Congress only passed 56 laws in its first year — taxpayers spent $400 million to pay people not to work.
“Any federal employee collecting an annual salary of $100,000 or more should be performing essential work or considered exempt from furlough during a government shutdown,” Coburn wrote. “Likewise, Congress which is expected to perform essential work should not be paid when it fails to pass an annual budget as required by law. This is especially important since many of the same employees furloughed during the government shutdown may end up being furloughed again-this time without pay-in a few months as a result of sequestration if Congress fails to do its job passing a budget.”
Soldier of Steel – Thanks to sequestration, the Army National Guard will reduce its strength by 8,000 soldiers. Over the next 10 years, the Army’s Total Force will have to be reduced by at least 100,000.
In 2013, as part of a promotional campaign, the Army National Guard spent $10 million on a “Soldier of Steel” tie-in with the Superman movie, “Man of Steel.”
“This money could have been better spent on the real life supermen and superwomen in the Army National Guard who are courageously risking all in the fight for truth, justice, and the American way,” he wrote.
Romancing the Web – Since 2010, The Popular Romance Project has received almost $1 million in funds from the National Endowment of the Humanities to “explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective-while looking back across time as far as the ancient Greeks.”
“NEH may love to waste money on this project, but taxpayers are likely to feel jilted subsidizing the promotion of a billion dollar industry that generated over $1.4 billion in 2012,” Coburn wrote.
Do You Like Filibusters? – Through the National Science Foundation, the Obama administration is paying Washington University in St. Louis $251,525 to measure Americans’ attitudes toward eliminating the filibuster. Coburn questions the necessity of such spending when private polls have already measured the public sentiment on Senate members filibustering presidential nominations.
“The right to filibuster nominations has largely been dismantled without the backing of public opinion and both the Majority Leader and President have left open the possibility of eliminating the legislative filibuster in the future,” Coburn wrote.
Cheaper to Destroy – With the war effort in the Middle East winding down, the Department of Defense destroyed $7 billion in weapons rather than selling them or shipping them home.
“Obamacare” – Coburn objected to the government spending millions of dollars to promote the Affordable Care Act and launching the beleaguered HealthCare.gov website.
“Obamacare is perhaps the biggest marketing flop since Coca-Cola introduced the world to ‘New Coke’ in 1985,” he said