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A few taxpayer dollar misdirects from Senator Coburn’s 2014 Wastebook

November 11, 2014
Cover of Senator Coburn's 2014 Wastebook.

Cover of Senator Coburn’s 2014 Wastebook.

Senator Coburn’s office released its 2014 Wastebook. Last year I looked at a few highlight (lowlights) from the 2013 Wastebook. This book includes one hundred outrageous wastes of taxpayer dollars. In a day when even some big-government type politicians are starting to worry about the national debt and deficit (not so low as touted) it is worth finding programs such as this to trim. There are over $25 billion worth of government waste in this years edition. That is slightly down from the $30 billion in last years edition; but it worth noting that many of the programs from last years edition are still going…

Often when talking about government waste I will hear something similar to “well, these government agencies are doing good and are very thrifty with the taxpayers dollars”. Even supposing most government agencies are doing good work for the public (which I doubt with most agencies), it still doesn’t mean these agencies are being thrifty with the taxpayer dollars. Here are some examples from the 2014 Wastebook highlighting how various government agencies are misdirecting taxpayer dollars in a way that is clearly out of alignment with what their mission is.

#15 – US Coast Guard protects the parties of the rich

Faced with budget cuts, the U.S. Coast Guard reduced drug and migrant interdictions while continuing to provide free patrols in the waters along “some of the country’s most exclusive real estate” to stop uninvited guests from crashing private parties.

 

While taxpayers appreciate the crucial role the Coast Guard serves protecting our nation’s waterways and rescuing nearly 5,000 people a year,255 most are probably unaware its crewmen also serve as bouncers to keep the general public and other uninvited guests out of private events on and along yachts, beaches, and estates.

The Wastebook goes on to tell examples of the Coast Guard being used as basically private security for the rich, all put on the bill of the taxpayers. It is estimated that such protection for rich boaters has cost US Taxpayers over $100,000. Of course since the Coast Guard doesn’t document all of this security work it is hard to tell for sure. And don’t be mistaken, the security work being done is not against terrorists or anyone that wishes to cause harm. Rather the coast guard is making sure that rich boaters are not disturbed by common folk. That doesn’t sound like a good use of Coast Guard resources to me.

#39 – SBA backs Polynesian Resort loan guarantees for Disney

One of the biggest companies in the world, the Walt Disney Company ranked 61st in the Fortune 100 rankings for 2014 – and may not seem like an obvious candidate to benefit from small business assistance.538 It operates nine of the world’s ten most popular amusement parks, which together bring in more than $2 billion in annual profit.539

The Small Business Administration provided a total of $1.4 million in surety bond guarantees to two firms hired by Disney, meaning if they fail to perform the taxpayer will step into make sure Disney is made whole.

I believe most taxpayers would be hard pressed to believe Disney would qualify as a small business. Since the SBA supposedly is there to help small businesses it seems odd they would put $1.5 billion dollars of taxpayer dollars on the line in order to help one of the largest corporations in the world. Of course I personally believe the SBA should be done away with. Recent research shows that the SBA may actually be reducing economic growth within the US. But that is a different debate. Whether the outcomes of the SBA are good or bad, it is hard to discern why the SBA would be so blatantly providing a corporate-welfare type safety-net to one of the world largest corporations.

#75 – Federal dollars spent to promote tax increases in Austin

An extensive, and expensive, rail project for the City of Austin, Texas, is getting some fiscal assistance from Washington. Project Connect, the program management group spearheading transit for the Central Corridor Advisory Group in central Texas, has spent $157,000 on an ad campaign to prop up public support to approve floating a billion dollar bond to help pay for the rail line.9

The catch? Approximately 80% of the ad campaign is being financed with federal grant money, essentially using taxpayer money to encourage taxpayers to pay more taxes. Critics have voiced concerns over the media campaign’s funding sources and questioned want to know how it can be considered appropriate when “Taxpayers are paying money to the federal government, which is then turning around and lobbying Austinites to support more taxpayer spending.” The advertisements ended just before being subjected to provisions on election laws regarding ballot measures

Talk about taxpayer dollars being used against them. In this case federal dollars were used to create a media campaign to raise local taxes for a special interest group. I actually spoke with a friend of mine that lives in Austin. He said the fliers he received during this campaign from Project Connect were outright misleading. Sadly it is typical for political propaganda fliers to be misleading (I’m sure plenty of people received many misleading fliers during the 2014 election); what is troubling though is that taxpayer dollars were used to for a special interest group so they could use the peoples own money to lobby against them.

#88 – The Navy’s green initiative utilizes massive amounts of paper to propagandize itself

Yet for all its efforts to showcase itself as the “Great Green Fleet,”1011 the Navy still mails out 9,500 hard copies of the magazine every quarter, including 535 to each member of Congress, at a cost of an additional $72,000 a year over the $260,000 it takes the staff of four contractors and federal employees to develop the content

This publication, Currents, is little more than a magazine used to promote the Green efforts by the US Navy. Going green is good. What the Navy is doing actually counteracts many of the good green steps they’ve already taken, especially since all issues of Currents are available digital. If the Navy were truly serious about going green they would get rid of this wasteful propaganda program.

It is worth reading the whole 2014 Wastebook to see where taxpayer dollars are going. I believe these few examples I highlighted show some areas that government agencies have used taxpayer dollars in direct conflict to their actual mission. Until such wasteful spending is reduced it is hard to believe that any “revenue enhancements” are ever needed at the federal level.

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