Talking Points on the Economy: Boondoggles

Archive of Cards Published from 1991-94



Talking Points on the Economy: Boondoggles #6

(A publication of The National Center for Public Policy Research)

Government Management Horror Stories

The federal government's mismanagement of its own business could cost taxpayers dearly. Among the worst mismanagement horror stories:

According to the General Services Administration, courthouse construction costs are excessive. The new $218 million federal courthouse in Boston, for example, will have over $750,000 in artwork and a $450,000 floating marina. Its out-of-the-way location will cost another $278 million for an extension of Boston's transit line. A federal courthouse in Phoenix was over-built by 38,441 feet, costing an extra $9 million and an additional $1 million in yearly maintenance.

Auditors of the Department of Defense found that 85 of 190 contracts were not competitively awarded. During one six-month period in 1993, the General Accounting Office found that $305 million out of $392 million in checks issued by the Defense Finance Accounting Service had been returned due to contract overpayment. Almost all the overpayments were detected by the contractors, not the federal government.

In April 1993, the Office of the Inspector General discovered that the National Weather Service was paying over $5,000 for a spare part worth just $500, up to $15,000 for another that retailed for $2,600, and about $3,000 for a third that cost $250.

In recent years, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has been criticized by government auditors for having accounting systems that are "totally unreliable." Case in point: The BIA once assessed the value of three chain saws at $99 million each, one television at $96 million, and two typewriters at $119 million. The BIA had overstated its inventory by $538 million.

The Environmental Protection Agency spends nearly 40 percent of its budget on administration and management. In ten years, only 80 of 1,275 hazardous waste Superfund sites have been cleaned up. One Superfund contractor charged EPA $2.3 million for tickets to sporting events, alcohol at company parties, and travel by non-employee spouses of company personnel.

Information from "Danger: Risky Business," Citizens Against Government Waste (Washington, DC) September, 1994.

Issue Date: November 7, 1994

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Talking Points on the Economy: Boondoggles #5

(A publication of The National Center for Public Policy Research)

Pork from the 103rd Congress

Congress approved an estimated $186 billion in pork and wasteful projects in 1994. When one considers the 1994 Earthquake Relief Bill, its easy to see how: The bill grew to a hefty $11 billion, $4.8 higher than President Clinton's request, as lawmakers cynically took advantage of human suffering to fund their own pet projects. Among the "earthquake relief" programs funded by Congress: $122 million for cooperative space ventures with Russia; $40 million for NASA's "Spacehab" module; $20 million for 500 new employees at an FBI fingerprint facility in West Virginia; $10 million to convert a post office into a train station in New York; $4.5 million for high-speed rail research; and $1.3 million for two sugar mill communities in Hawaii. Other wasteful programs approved by the 103rd Congress include:

* $1.1 million for a Plant Stress Lab at Texas Tech University.

* $11.5 million for power plant modernization at the soon-to-be-closed Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

$58 million to bail out millionaire New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner's American Shipbuilding Company in Tampa, Florida.

* $25 million for an Arctic region supercomputer at the University of Alaska to study how to trap energy from the aurora borealis.

* $2 million for the restoration of the Liberty Theater and Lucas Theater, both in the historic district of Savannah, Georgia.

* $1.5 million for a National Pig Research Facility in Iowa.

* $1 million for the Palmer Chiropractic School in Davenport, Iowa.

* $600,000 to ease fish migration up the Sacramento River, California.

Information from "Critical Waste Issues and Solutions," Citizens Against Government Waste (Washington, DC) September 1994

Issue Date: November 4, 1994

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Talking Points on the Economy: Boondoggles #4

(A publication of The National Center for Public Policy Research)

Record Tax Hike Funds Pork Barrel Spending

1990's Budget Summit Agreement, which included a record-breaking tax hike, was supposed to reduce the federal budget deficit and help stabilize the economy. Instead, both have further deteriorated--the deficit is soaring, projected to hit $400 billion in 1993, and the number of jobless in the U.S. is at its highest level since 1983. But this hasn't stopped Members of Congress from continued pork-barrel spending, adding more to the average American's burden.

To follow are just a few examples of "pork" procured by Congress in the one-year period following the tax hike:

* Senator Quentin Burdick (D-ND) snagged $4.4 million for a physical fitness center at North Dakota's Grand Forks Air Base (despite military down-sizing) and an additional $800,000 for highway beautification around that whopping town of 44,000 people. Not a bad haul -- between these two projects alone, residents of Grand Forks will enjoy over $118 in befits per capita at the expense of taxpayers throughout the country.

* Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR) managed to get $5 million appropriated to fund 1992 actitivities relating to 1990's "Salmon Summit," a meeting of businessmen, power companies and Indieans in the Pacific Northwest to discuss the plight of the endangered Snake River Sockeye Salmon.

* Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) wrangled $148.5 million for a highway project in his home state to "demonstrate methods of eliminating traffic congestion and to promote economic benefits." With just 88 people per square mile in West Virginia (compared to, for example, 1,027 in New Jersey and 748 in Massachusetts) it's not clear what "traffic congestion," this program is intended to help alleviate. Indeed, West Virginia's population density is much closer to that of Kentucky (94 people per square mile) and Washington (66 pers square mile), states not normally associated with traffic jams.

* Representative Joseph McDade (R-PA) procured $10 million for Immaculate Heart of Mary nuns at Marywood College in Scranton, Pennsylvania to study stress in military families.

Information from 1990 Information Please Almanac (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston); and "1992 Congression Pig Book Summary," Council of Citizens Against Government Waste (Washington, D.C.)

Issue Date: March 3, 1992

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Talking Points on the Economy: Boondoggles #3

(A publication of The National Center for Public Policy Research)

Time for Another Tea Party

In 1774, John Hancock said: "We shall... free ourselves from those unmannerly pillagers who impudently tell us that they are licensed by an act of Parliament to thrust their dirty hands into the pocket of every American." But did we? Or did we simply trade "the dirty hands of Parliament" for the "dirty hands of Congress"?

Since 1962, federal tax collections have increased by over 222% after inflation, leaving Americans with less disposable income. While average Americans have made tremendous sacrifices, the same can not be said of Members of Congress: On average, U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives take $3.5 million and $1 million, respectively, in congressional perks each year - that's in addition to their salaries of close to $130,000.

Among the congressional perks:

* Members of Congress continue to receive a $3,000 tax deduction for the cost of maintaining their Washington homes even though they voted themselves a 51% pay hike in 1989 - in theory - to help defray such expenses.

* Members receive free medical and dental care and prescription medicines.

* When travelling, Members of Congress are entitled to meals, liquor, hotel, and taxicab services at government expense. They are also permitted automobile reimbursements and the use of military aircraft. Whether travelling or at home, Members are entitled to the use of military facilities and commissaries, and have access to golf, tennis and other recreational facilities for themselves and their families.

* Members of Congress get special discounts at government-owned vacation cabins and homes at a variety of locations, including exotic Caribbean islands.

* Members and their staffs have access to discount shopping in low-cost House and Senate stores - stores that do not charge sales tax. Americans pay over $1 million per year to finance these stores, but are not permitted to shop there.

* Twelve leaders of Congress have a special expense account totalling $141,000. They are not required to account for expenditures from this fund.

Information from National Center for Public Policy Research

National Policy Analysis paper No. 75 by Amy Moritz

Issue Date: February 14, 1992

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Talking Points on the Economy: Boondoggles #2

(A publication of The National Center for Public Policy Research)

Government Junkets

Thirty-three House members, spouses and aides spent five days and four nights in Barbados in April 1990, at an estimated cost to the American taxpayer of $42,000. Congressman Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL), who chairs the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, led the delegation. According to ABC news' "Prime Time" live, the lawmakers spent only seven hours of the five-day trip on official business and the rest of the time on leisure activities. Among the expenses picked up by the taxpayer: "$689 worth of beer, Chevas Regal scotch, ... and liqueurs for the delegation's personal consumption"; and golf course "green fees."

A delegation of 100 people, including members of Congress, their spouses and staffers, were to attend the prestigious Paris international airshow this June at an estimated cost of $1 million. The trip was cancelled, but only after the junket was exposed in the press.

In March, Representative Les Aspin (D-WI), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, began an 11-day taxpayer-funded trip through the Middle East accompanied by his girlfriend. He and his girlfriend flew to the region aboard a C-20 jet (the same type of military aircraft used by White House Chief of Staff John Sununu), costing close to $4,000 an hour to operate.

House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) took a week-long trip to Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and Poland with his wife and daughter in June 1990. They flew aboard a C-137 jet, which flies with an 11-person crew and costs between $7,100 and $10,200 per hour to run.

White House Chief of Staff John Sununu took 77 trips on military planes during his first 27 months in office, costing over $600,000. Among Sununu's trips: two visits to Boston for dentist appointments (for which he reimbursed the government only $900 of the $14,000 tab); a trip to Florida to see his parents; and two trips to ski resorts.

Information from Washington Times (4/24/91, 5/3/91 and 5/6/91), the Washington Post (5/3/91) and Human Events (11/10/90).

Issue Date: June 20, 1991

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Talking Points on the Economy: Boondoggles #1

(A publication of The National Center for Public Policy Research)

Painless Cuts Congress Ignored

Last fall, President Bush and Members of Congress approved a budget that included over $140 billion in new taxes over a five-year period. Congressional leaders argued that meaningful reductions in the federal budget deficit would be impossible without new revenues. But a glance at some of the items included in that budget puts that claim in doubt:

* $326 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (supports television stations most people only see when changing channels).

* $1.5 billion for the Roosevelt-era Rural Electrification Administration's loan program. After over four decades, surely the REA has fulfilled its mission of electrifying rural America. If it hasn't, it should be abolished for gross inefficiency anyway.

* $175 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, which provided funds for such "works of art as "Piss Pope," and image of Pope John Paul II submerged in urine.

* $2.8 million for wood utilization research.

* $274 million for the Small Business Administration (which secured loans for only.12 percent of the nation's 19 million small businesses).

* $326.9 million for the Bonneville Power Administration.

* $3.8 million for a Poultry Center of Excellence in Arkansas (taxpayers are sure to call "foul!")

* $3.6 million for an urban gardening program.

* $337.4 million for the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Fund (President Bush had originally proposed termination of this program).

* $327 million for the Legal Services Corporation.

* $3.3 million for swine health protection (talk about pork barrel spending).

* $2.5 billion in agricultural credits to the Soviet Union. Although this item was not in last fall's budget, the taxpayers are nonetheless liable.

Information on the budget from Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 795 by Scott Hodge and Heritatge Foundation Backgrounder No. 803 by Robert Knight.

Issue Date: June 14, 1991

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