Biggest Waste's of U.S. Tax Dollars

  • I am compiling a list of things that the U.S. Federal Government spends money on that is at the very least a questionable usage of those funds.

    This is just a start. And a waste of, by my calculations, roughly $388B. Feel free to challenge my thoughts, and add to my list. I’ll be adding more down the road. I’ll probably dig into Welfare next.

  • @Kcmatt7 how much do u know about farming?

  • Crimsonorblue22 said:

    @Kcmatt7 how much do u know about farming?

    And about the many recessions caused in US history by the collapse of crop prices due to overproduction, causing massive losses in farm values, leading to widespread foreclosures and bankruptcies? I agree price supports and paying for fields to lie fallow seem wasteful, but I am unsure and a bit nervous about what could happen if they were dropped.

    We have lost thousands of small farm in the past 50 years. Eliminating crop price supports and incentive payments to avoid overproduction could be the death knell of the rest.

    Edit: And so, @approxinfinity, here I am. Didn’t take long for me to be drawn into this category after all, did it?

  • Banned

    I agree for the most part except the NASA cost. Man that pennies for a space program. I mean we’re paying Russia to fly our astronauts to the space station.

    In fact I would believe that the US is falling behind in the Space Chase.

    Anyways just my two cents.

  • @mayjay To be frank, why support family farms at this point? They could sell their farm to a corporation for a pretty penny right now.

    I mean isn’t that the way capitalism works? We have come so far in technology that farming can be done by big corporations much more efficiently than they can by these family farms. Why fight the battle? It is just like mom and pop shops getting crushed by Walmart. Was that bad for them? Absolutely. But they were beat by a better, cheaper service.

    And the reason for agriculture being a major factor in the depression because 1/5 people grew and sold their own food and 30% of the economy back then was working on farms. Now, it is 2%. A price drop in crops at this point would benefit 98% of the population and overproduction currently isn’t an issue as we have a new problem that could help solve the overproduction of crops. I would rather see the $20B in subsidies go to grocery stores to help solve the problem of food deserts in poor areas. That would help to solve both problems instead of one that really doesn’t exist anymore.

  • @DoubleDD If I may ask, what is the benefit of competing in the space race? I’m all for it, but only after we can educate, feed, clothe and treat everyone medically first. Otherwise, seems like a waste of money to me. At least when other countries are working on it right now. Let China or Russia learn how to live on the moon or on Mars. Once they prove it is possible, we have enough brilliant people over here to do anything and everything they are capable of.

  • @Kcmatt7 have you been west of kc/Lawrence? I’d guess 2/3 of ks is farm ground. Mostly family farms. If there were no more? Guess?

  • @Kcmatt7 Most farmers work their ass off just to make ends meet. Farming will be a huge issue for our children or grand children because so many people and families are getting out of it. We will have too many mouths to feed and not enough crops to feed people. The trouble is the capitalism is too greedy. My in-laws recently stopped farming because they lost money in doing so for several year, food we buy at the market is higher priced than ever and yet the price of grain isnt squad so someone inbetween the two is makes large amounts of money.

  • I am no authority of current federal spending wastes, but I do know this: current trends have led to extremely stingy federal investments in U.S. higher education. I recently read that we are even at verge of cutting Fulbright award money by 47%. Deeply disturbing trends for a great nation which already trails many countries in accountable statistics regarding the effectiveness of school education at all levels.

  • @kjayhawks I know they are hard workers. But, it is becoming and automated job . Think about it, a job that used to require 30% of the population in the 20s now only requires 2%. It should be a job we let giant corporations take over. Eventually, they will be so much more advanced technologically than family farms that it will happen one way or the other.

  • @Crimsonorblue22 I have. And, I think it would look exactly the same as it does now. All farm land. And any of those families who own those farms would make a lot of money selling that land.

  • I’m not telling us to kill the farmer. I just want to use all the farm land we have to grow crops. Spend the $20B buying the overproduction of food and shipping it to feed hungry African’s. I don’t care. Just don’t use it to subsidize and create a fictional price floor. That is a waste of money that is not economical.

    Let’s at least solve two problems at once. Instead of “solving” the “problem” of overproduction of food. No such thing in a world of 7 billion people.

  • @Kcmatt7 my parents were both raised on farms, we were blessed to experience it. My dad had to work other jobs, like most farmers to survive. They work from sun up to sun down. My folks sold their farms to out of staters. The towns in western ks survive on farmers, as do schools, hospitals, small business, etc. I don’t understand and can’t argue your pts but my bro in law could. He grows wheat, cotton, beans, rotates crops 'cause of prices. Wheat crop was great, price so low they couldn’t even break even. Hrs and equipment doesn’t even figure into that. Most people in kc area have no idea what goes on west of them. In the last 2 years there were 3 major fires that wiped out many farms, homes and cattle. @dylans knows a lot about farming. He might be able to answer your questions.

  • @Kcmatt7

    No disrespect intended but you really do not seem to know what NASA does.

    Yes, the Space Program is the most visible part of NASA but it also does extensive research on many other area including aeronautics, materials, health and medicine, biology, electronics, environment, climate, weather prediction, computer technology, software development just to name a few.

    The space program at NASA has contributed to the development of a huge number of consumer technologies that have had an incredible impact on society, from simple things such as Velcro and Teflon to cochlear implants and MRI scans. All the new, faster, more efficient airplanes now being produced by firms such as Boeing, use technology developed by NASA. The Dryden Facility (now called the Neil Armstrong) at Edwards AFB in California is one incredible facility where some of the most advanced research in aeronautics is carried out. The Vertical Motion Simulator in Sunnyvale, California is the most advanced simulator in the world and used to simulate all types of transport from school buses to helicopters, fighter planes and the space shuttle. It is booked years in advance by firms from all over the world.

    The problem with NASA is that it has now become bloated. I have done extensive work with NASA on the Space Shuttle program over the last 30 years and I have talked top the people that were there from its inception.

    One time I asked one the older Managers if we could get back to the moon and his answer was probably not, when I asked why not, his answer was…when NASA was created, it was run by engineers that made all the technical decision and there was a direct link between the hands-on engineers and top technical management. Then, what is now called “middle management” was created as way for politician to give cushy jobs away; this level of management does not produce anything other than paperwork and many layers of insulation between the hands on engineers and the decision making upper management, by people with zero technical background, and as a result, what little gets done takes considerably more time than it should. If NASA could shed these multiple layers of bureaucracy and get back to the way it used to be run, we could not only go back to the moon but also to Mars.

  • I realize that its fun to talk about government waste and poke fun at projects that we believe are “silly”.

    But let’s think about why it’s important to know whether or not sea monkeys can be trained to follow light so that, if we need to drill for oil or resources in their habitat, we can possibly lead them with light to a new habitat and away from the area that may be a good drilling area.

    Lots of different medical procedures and physical therapies have been pioneered through working with animals, so those Swedish massages for bunnies may be used to pioneer new therapies to help humans recover from injuries.

    That’s just two of the biggest “wastes” on that list. Add to that the fact that the good Senator’s list isn’t talking about much in terms of real dollars when it comes to the Federal budget. The 2014 Federal budget was $3.506 trillion, or $3,506,000,000,000. When you look at that number, $50,000 for Sea Monkeys isn’t even pocket change. It’s sofa lint. Anything that doesn’t cost at least $1,000,000 isn’t even really a line item.

    It sounds like a lot of money to us because our budgets aren’t in the billions and trillions of dollars, but a few hundred thousand isn’t even like pennies.

    Think about it this way. If you make $50,000 a year, a nickel is .0001% of your overall budget.

    If your budget is three and a half trillion dollars, $3,500,000 is worth the same as a nickel proportionally. It’s like saying buying one piece of nickel candy in a year is an enormous waste. Literally no one ever does that. And remember, that’s for a nickel. Spending $50,000 is nothing. Like literally nothing in comparison. Even a few hundred thousand barely registers because the numbers are so big.

  • @justanotherfan Well when you only make $50k, 200,000 in debt and your cost of living is $55,000, seems to me every nickel should start counting. And while nobody does that with their own money, that is each individuals choice.

    As an accountant, it is literally my job to find wasteful spending at our business. That doesn’t mean I don’t go buy my fair share of stupid things with my own money. But I don’t at my job. Because it is irresponsible. Same thing goes for those people using federal tax dollars. They have a fiduciary duty to be mindful of how tax dollars are spent.

    And sure, some of those things being spent are probably worth the cause. But the point is that we have thousands of nickels being spent every single year. And that is why we can’t do things like free education. Would you rather fund 2,000 projects for $50k and take shots in the dark that they will develop something meaningful, or would you rather have $10M to put toward something you could actually make a difference with. These $50k research projects are shots in the dark. I worked for researchers who’s salaries are paid by the federal government. When one grant runs out, the next one is given to them. The people assigning grants know how much money each of these researchers have left and as long as they submit a somewhat decent proposal, the federal government will give them research dollars.

  • @JayHawkFanToo Fair points all around.

  • @Kcmatt7

    I realize this is a lot of billions of dollars for a lot of questionable stuff, but…

    I am frankly vastly more concerned about the $10 Trillion or so that has reputedly simply gone missing!

    Think of American health care based on a $10 Trillion trust fund!

  • Banned


    I know what you mean. A couple pallets stacked with money goes missing nobody bats an eye. If Trump so much looks at a Russian then everybody wets themselves.

    Doesn’t make sense to me.

  • @Kcmatt7

    I understand your stance on shots in the dark. I agree that its something that could be open for waste. I am also in full agreement that they have a fiduciary duty to be mindful of how tax dollars are spent.

    But I also know that government is the only way to make those types of research possible because the private sector simply won’t spend the money on things that aren’t going to produce a financial return. Most of the big breakthroughs in medicine come from government teaching hospitals. Why? Because they do the type of widespread research that, while expensive, can produce those types of groundbreaking achievements. Private business just doesn’t fund that type of research purely because it is a shot in the dark that, while it may be good for society, does nothing for the bottom line or shareholder positions. This isn’t to criticize private business. Private business has a different function.

    But that is the role of government (to serve the greater good of the public). Government isn’t here just to keep people from killing each other and stay out of the way. Government is here to help build the best overall society for everyone to live in. That’s roads and infrastructure, sure, but also research and discovery.

  • @justanotherfan I totally agree. And I would love to have a philanthropic mindset to our government. But in our current financial situation, I just don’t find that to be a top priority. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m 25 years old and trying to plan for the future and retirement now. And, 40 years from now scares the hell out of me.

    The average person my age comes out with $30k in student debt, not including credit cards. They spend more time in class and on HW than any other generation so far, so working enough to pay for rent, food, school and extra curriculars is really out of the question. Maybe enough to have a little walking around money on the weekends and an xbox live subscription. Either way, $30k in debt to start our professional lives. 20 years ago that was only $12k. That is an increase of 250%. Or, you know, 5 times inflation. And, also cheap enough to pay off with a part-time job… So we have a massive debt, and yet, salaries are barely increasing. Certainly not increasing with inflation. On top of that, the social security problem has been getting avoided for so long that the odds of people my age NOT getting our full share of social security would be a heavy favorite in Vegas right now. Or, even getting social security before we turn 75. Which, I don’t know if you’ve done retirement planning, but I’m sure you have. It isn’t pretty when you start to consider how much you have to save if you don’t have a pension or social security. We are talking living off of $100k a year when in 40 years that is only $31k to live off of in today’s world. I will bust my ass for 52 years, pay a full share into social security, only not to get it and run out of all of my retirement funds at 82. According to my best calculations. That is while saving 20% of my yearly income and getting a 3% raise the rest of my life. I mean, unless I get some substantial raises, I’m screwed. And I am as average as a person can get. My salary, my age, my gender being male, being white, etc. That is the future that is coming, and we really have to debate whether or not $50k was worth trying to train some Sea Monkeys? So, in 40 years, do we just take on more debt? Or, Is our governments plan to just pay the interest until inflation catches up and our $21T debt is really only a $6.5T debt after inflation. If so, I did not give politicians enough credit. Probably where all that pentagon money disappeared to. @jaybate-1-0

    You see where I’m getting at right? That budget should be tighter than a well diggers butthole. That way my generation can at least have a life after we bust our ass.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Pretty sure that Matt Damon just has it in his basement.

  • @Kcmatt7


  • Kcmatt7 said:

    I’m not telling us to kill the farmer. I just want to use all the farm land we have to grow crops. Spend the $20B buying the overproduction of food and shipping it to feed hungry African’s. I don’t care. Just don’t use it to subsidize and create a fictional price floor. That is a waste of money that is not economical.

    Let’s at least solve two problems at once. Instead of “solving” the “problem” of overproduction of food. No such thing in a world of 7 billion people.

    The US has had a cheap food policy in place for decades. This has kept prices artificially lower. The farmer subsidies are to keep your costs at the store lower. Take the subsidies away and alllow a true free market for food and you may as well be shopping at Whole Foods price wise… CRP acres have been coming out of the program for the last decade or so s the government has cut back on that program and the price of grain has enticed many to put that highly errodable land back into (poor)production.

    Most of the $20 billion you speak of in the farm bill is used to pay for school lunches and food stamps. Not exactly the same as feeding starving Africans we’re taking care of our own. I’m not sure why that’s in the farm bill?

  • @KCmatt7 Also being average leads to an average life with not a lot of money. Sorry it’s the facts of life bud. Sucks that most of us figure this out in our 20s like you apparently are. It’s more fun when you’re (20 year olds) full of optimism about the future instead of the feeling sorry for yourself. Dig in and do your self a favor don’t believe all you read. There is no reason why you can’t excede what your parents generation was able to do other than if you set the ceiling to low. Move get a better job after you have experience. You could be making better money in Minneapolis as an accountant. - My accountant friend up there is doing very well, but he has more than a decade of hard work on you and all that experience pays. Put in your time properly and it will pay you in spades. Do nothing to better yourself and the future you painted will come true. Best of luck

  • @dylans By average I meant my demographic. I am a white male who makes the average household income. I don’t need the typical Republican pep talk “Keep your head down, be a good soldier, work hard and good things will happen.”

    If that is what you got from my post, you missed the point of it.

  • @Kcmatt7

    I’m about a decade older than you, but the problems you point to are very real. The debt issues, pay rates lagging well behind inflation, while the cost of education continues to skyrocket. All of that is truly problematic and you are absolutely right that something needs to be done to break the cycle.

    But here’s the thing - the private sector hasn’t broken that cycle. While business earnings are up, wages have not kept up with those profits for rank and file workers. Businesses are continuing to make money (which is good), but earnings are not keeping pace for most workers (which is bad). The cost of education keeps going up, but its not because the salaries of educators is taking off. Its because the things you need to keep schools running (buildings, electricity, books, equipment, etc.) continue to rise. Those companies are making plenty of money.

    And this is where government has two functions. The first I addressed above, which is providing for research, etc. for the greater good because the private sector won’t do that (although the private sector benefits from the advances - through healthier workers, more efficient uses, etc.).

    The second is regulation, which has somehow become a dirty word these days. Many oppose raising the minimum wage (a form of salary regulation) but wages continue to stagnate. Right now, a company’s profits could increase 200% and the owners of the company could keep wages stagnant if they chose to do so. Yes, it’s their business and yes, that is their right, but that is the problem that we face right now. Businesses are making plenty of money, but not passing it down to the working class. Government has never attempted to regulate that (and there are significant legal and moral questions about whether government even should attempt to regulate that), but that’s the root of the problem that you point to.

    If salaries were keeping pace with the increase in profits for companies (or at least coming close) taxes could be lower because the higher earnings would expand the tax base. Because that is not happening, taxes must rise to keep up with the increasing cost of services (remember, companies are making more money both by selling more products and also by increasing the cost of those products). When the cost of gas rises, the cost to run school buses, police cars, fire trucks, etc. also goes up. When the cost of paper goes up, the cost of textbooks, forms, etc. also increases. The oil companies make money. The paper and printing companies make money. The cost increases for everyone (including government) but the level of service doesn’t change.

    People blame government for that, but government doesn’t change the price of paper or gas (for the most part).

    So instead of funding things like Social Security (a social good) or pensions (something that has been neglected by both the public and private sector), government has to divert funds to keep up with today’s services.

    This isn’t to make a partisan point, because these have been issues under both Republican and Democratic administrations. This is more to point to the problems and honestly say that we haven’t moved the ball on any of them. I’m not arguing for bigger government necessarily, but government has a role in this. To say that the private sector will self regulate is folly. We would see almost zero safety standards and little (if any) paid leave time if that were the case because business is supposed to make money. It has no moral code. It has only a bottom line. And that is where a government for the people should step in.

  • @dylans “I’m not sure why that’s in the farm bill?”

    Food stamps are in the farm bill because agricultural state legislators wanted to ensure, besides welfare for poor people, that there was a steady demand for farm products even in a recession when people have less income or are unemployed. Bob Dole, among others, opposed the food stamp program set up in the mid-60s when he was in the House, but became a prime supporter of the program as a senator with 1977 amendments that revamped the whole thing.

  • @justanotherfan As usual, very well done. What companies are doing to employees is counter-productive, IMHO. Too many are destroying employee loyalty by cutting hours to avoid health insurance, eliminating OT for workers whose income has always depended on it, lowering wages to maximize profits, outsourcing jobs (hey, Carrier!), eliminating pensions or other incentives to devote decades to a company you love working for, and instituting layoffs whenever they sense doing so will result in a net short-term higher profit margin. On top of that, they have started imposing non-compete agreements right and left, mostly intended to restrict employee movement rather than to protect a customer base or proprietary information. Finally, many companies are not actually directly employing anyone except higher management–they farm out their work to contracting firms which unfortunately results in numerous workers having no vested interest in the results of what they do. If you have ever had to deal with a consolidator of insurance claims (rather than an adjuster representing just his own employer), or a billing office for a dozen medical practices, you might have run into the impersonal service that makes you wish for someone who gives a hoot about your view of the company.

    Southwest Airlines and a number of others have tended to buck this trend. It is always good to look at lists of best companies to work for to see who envisions their workforce as an asset to invest in rather than use/discard.

    My biggest concern is that as our economy continues to transition from industrial well-paid jobs to white-collar jobs requiring new skills and training, middle-class incomes will continue to fall and low-income workers will really just be scraping by. The result will be a huge decline in disposable income, resulting in less spending overall on ordinary daily items even as luxury spending thrives because of spending by the well-off. An economic disaster waiting to happen.

    That is why I see this desperate desire by corporations to maximize short-term profits, and thus stock prices resulting in bonuses to execs, as horribly against their own interests. Ask Circuit City or Home Depot how well it works to replace experienced employees with whom customers form trust with fungible (minimum wage) functionaries.

  • @mayjay

    We are on the brink of a huge double whammy in this country - the need for a highly educated, highly skilled workforce (particularly with technical and computer skills), but the lack of any means to get the education necessary to get those jobs. Look at the countries that are consistently producing the most technically skilled workers - they are all under a variety of regimes politically, but they all have one thing in common - higher education is either very cheap, or it is free.

    Doubling back to @Kcmatt7 and his point, the debt load on students leaving school is simply too high and it is going to cause many students to re-think whether college is a viable path. If education is too high to make the higher salary justifiable, smart kids simply won’t pursue college if they are not on scholarship, or will pursue lower degrees (i.e. associates rather than bachelors, or bachelors rather than a graduate degree). Because most businesses have outright dropped on the job training, it is very difficult to increase education while working without returning to school part time, meaning many workers will not get any education beyond the highest level they have prior to entering the workforce.

    How does the US compete with Europe and Asia when they educate their youth for free, while we make it incredibly expensive (and don’t look now, but Africa is doing much the same)?

Log in to reply