Eight Turkeys of Government Waste That Survived Thanksgiving

Senator Rand Paul last week released a Fall 2019 edition of his Waste Report, describing some of the more unusual ways in which bureaucrats have wasted U.S. taxpayer dollars in recent years. Because many of us were either traveling for Thanksgiving or were otherwise distracted with holiday plans, it pretty much flew under the radar, but these turkeys of government spending are too good to go unnoticed. Here’s the list!

  • $153 million for Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in 2020, despite its falling ridership and ongoing fiscal shenanigans to obscure how its bureaucrats are managing the government agency.
  • $300,000 from the U.S. State Department to sponsor Model United Nations training and tournaments for Afghan university students who want to roleplay as pretend diplomats at the United Nations, where they would also simulate participating on UN committees. In Afghanistan.
  • $708,466 from the National Institutes of Health to get zebrafish addicted to nicotine to research how addiction might affect their genes. The research will be conducted at the Queen Mary University of London. In the United Kingdom.
  • $84,375 so the U.S. State Department could buy a sculpture to decorate the U.S. embassy in Mozambique from world-famous American folk musician Bob Dylan, who would also appear to have some talent for producing ironwork sculptures. They prioritized spending the money to obtain this sculpture during the last partial government shutdown.
  • Over $4.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to research if drinking alcohol contributes to injuries that require emergency medical care. Senator Paul, who is also a medical doctor, writes “We likely all know someone whose life has been tragically impacted by alcohol. But at a time when we have to borrow from China just to pay our bills, is there really a reason this research, especially when so much common sense is involved, at the very least could not have been conducted without the taxpayers’ resources?”
  • $16 million from the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) to improve the quality of education of Egypt’s schools. In Egypt.
  • USAID also spent almost $34 million to supply textbooks to Afghanistan’s schools. Most of which are either not usable or are being stored in warehouses. In Afghanistan.
  • What is it about the U.S. government and spending money on cheese? This time, USAID is the bureaucracy doing the spending, which is costing U.S. taxpayers $22 million to bring Serbian cheese, made in Serbia, up to international standards to be sold worldwide. Don’t U.S. bureaucrats have enough cheese?

All told, Senator Paul’s list adds up to over $230 million worth of wasteful spending. All these turkeys have survived Thanksgiving.

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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