The famed free-market economist Milton Friedman left us a remarkable insight when he pointed out the 4 ways to spend money: spending your own money on yourself, spending your own money on someone else, spending someone else’s money on yourself, and spending someone else’s money on someone else.
Unsurprisingly, because the government is spending our money on someone else, it is incredibly inefficient and wasteful.
Nonetheless, and despite this well-known fact, a look at the report “Wastebook: PORKemon Go” published by Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake highlighting 50 examples of “outrageous and wasteful federal spending” would leave you bamboozled.
With the U.S. paying more than $284 billion in debt interest payments every year (this is more than the amount spent on transportation, education, and the environment combined) one would presume that there is little room for pork spending; unfortunately, as the reports confirms, this assumption would be wrong.
In fact, the federal government spends so liberally that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a program that allows federal farm loans to be repaid in peanuts, effectively subsidizing surplus supplies of peanuts and costing taxpayers $74 million last year.
But if the 383 million pounds of surplus peanuts stashed by the federal government weren’t enough, the USDA also acquired approximately 11 million pounds of surplus cheese, costing taxpayers another $20 million.
However, government waste doesn’t limit itself to unnecessary subsidies. It comes in all forms, sizes, and shapes.
Take, for instance, the grants given by the National Science Foundation to – in the words of the researcher – “buy all the toys” for an experiment with fishes on a treadmill ($1.5 million) or the $3 million grant to finance a study on “The Effect of Background Music in Shark Documentaries on Viewers’ Perceptions of Sharks.”
It doesn’t get any better at the National Institute of Health, which funded a $3.4 million hamster cage-match experiment and a $3.5 million study to find out “What causes fear of the dentist?”
But the waste doesn’t end with questionable research experiments. The State Trade and Export Promotion program of the Small Business Administration that last year spent nearly $18.9 million in free travel money for business. Equally infuriating is the $200 million spend by the Federal Aviation Administration on an airport where only one airline operates, and which has never made a profit.
With this kind of wasteful spending as a backdrop, it should not come as a surprise that just 32% of Americans have a favorable view of the government, according to a Pew Research study – despite the $1.4 billion dollars that the federal government spends on public relations every year.
So it’s quite reasonable to say that government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
This year is a great opportunity for Congress to step up and eliminate egregious waste and return hard-earned dollars to the American people.
After all, as Milton Friedman pointed out, individuals spending their own money make far better decisions than government spending our money on someone else.