Government spending will come under the microscope in the coming weeks as we approach the debt limit and our elected officials try to figure out how to keep the government open for business. In all of these negotiations, the topics of revenue (taxes) and spending (expenses) will surely rise. One thing has been very obvious over the past many years: Politicians love to spend our tax dollars—and spend and spend and spend.
This disease is not limited to one party over the other. During the eight years under George W. Bush, gross domestic product grew by about 15 percent, and spending grew by a whopping 57 percent. Under President Barack Obama, GDP growth has averaged 1.53 percent per year, and spending has exploded to the point where in five years our debt has grown from $11 trillion to almost $17 trillion. As you can see, both parties are responsible for the loose purse strings that are creating all kinds of economic headwinds for the U.S.
A key player in the upcoming negotiations and budgeting process, if we ever get a budget again—we have not had Congress approve a budget since Mr. Obama took office—will be Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Love her or hate her, she is always good for some unintentional comic relief. Famously stating that the national health care law would have to be passed in order for anyone to find out what was actually in the bill will be a tough one to beat, but she is trying. Last week, Ms. Pelosi stated that it is now impossible to cut any additional spending out of the budget. Impossible!
I thought it would be amusing to look at some of the items that she, and many others in our capital, feels are too important to cut out of our budget.
- The government spends about $100 million every four years to subsidize parties at the political conventions.
- The Department of Agriculture spent $2 million to fund an internship program. The program hired one full-time intern.
- Last year, $120 million was paid to dead federal employees.
- A total of $146 million was paid for federal employees to upgrade their flights to business class.
- The government spent $2.6 million to encourage Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly.
- The Department of Health and Human Services provided an $800,000 subsidy to build and IHop in Washington, D.C.
- The National Institutes of Health has given $1.5 million to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to study why “three-quarters” of lesbians in the United States are overweight and why most gay males are not.
- During 2012, $25,000 of federal money was spent on a promotional tour for the Alabama Watermelon Queen.
- The U.S. government spent $505,000 “to promote specialty hair and beauty products for cats and dogs” last year.
- NASA spends close to $1 million per year developing a menu of food for a manned mission to Mars even though it is being projected that a manned mission to Mars is still decades away.
- Over the past 15 years, a total of approximately $5.25 million has been spent on hair care services for the U.S. Senate.
- The U.S. government spent $27 million to teach Moroccans how to design and make pottery in 2012.
- During fiscal 2012, the National Science Foundation gave researchers at Purdue University $350,000. They used part of that money to help fund a study that discovered that if golfers imagine that a hole is bigger it will help them with their putting.
- A total of $10,000 of U.S. taxpayer money was actually used to purchase talking urinal cakes in Michigan.
- Vice President Joe Biden and his staff stopped in Paris for one night back in February. The hotel bill for that one night came to $585,000.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent $300,000 to encourage Americans to eat caviar produced in Idaho.
- The National Institute of Health recently gave $666,905 to a group of researchers that is conducting a study on the benefits of watching reruns on television.
- The National Institute of Health also spent $592,527 on a study that sought to figure out once and for all why chimpanzees throw poop.
- The federal government spent $750,000 on a new soccer field for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.
- The IRS spent $60,000 on a film parody of Star Trek and a film parody of Gilligan’s Island.
- Last year, the federal government spent $96,000 to buy iPads for kindergarten students in Maine.
- The U.S. government spent $200,000 on “a tattoo removal program” in Mission Hills, Calif.
- Last year, the government spent just under $1 million posting snippets of poetry in zoos around the country.
- The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research spent $300,000 on a study that concluded the first bird on Earth probably had black feathers.
- The federal government spent $75,000 to promote awareness about the role Michigan plays in producing Christmas trees and poinsettias.
And this list could go on and on and on. Folks who want to keep spending taxpayer dollars on these items call them necessary and important “investments.” If common-sense business people ran the government like a business, none of these items would survive after money-losing year after money-losing year. But then again, when has common sense ever been part of the equation?