Taxes

Happy Tax Day! Here Are 6 Infuriating Ways the Government Spends Your Money

Surprised? Yeah, neither are we.

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Happy April 15, everyone! The federal government collects about $3.5 trillion in tax revenue each year, according to the White House Office of Budget and Management. Here, in no particular order, are six of the more infuriating ways that money has gone to waste.

  1. $300,000 on 391 coffee mugs

In what world do coffee mugs go for more than $750 a pop? In a special world we call the Pentagon.

To be fair, these weren't exactly normal mugs. As Reason's Zuri Davis explained in October, the specialty metal mugs can be plugged into aircraft and have the ability to reheat beverages while in flight. Unfortunately, their odd shape make them susceptible to shattering, thus necessitating replacements.

Since 2016, the Air Force has spent $326,785 on 391 of those mugs. The exorbitant cost was due to a combination of factors, including rising prices for raw materials and the fact that some of the suppliers who produced the necessary parts no longer made them. Maybe next time the Air Force should just give its crews some Red Bull.

  1. $400,000 to promote asset forfeiture…in Paraguay.

You know how various federal and local police agencies can take suspected criminals' money and other possessions, often without even obtaining a conviction? Apparently, the State Department loves the concept so much that it decided other countries need to do it as well.

Paraguay's government established an agency in charge of seizing assets back in December 2017. The U.S. government allocated $400,000 to support the new agency's "strong and sound institutional growth from the beginning and help it become effective at managing and liquidating seized and forfeited assets for the benefit of Paraguayan national interests."

Which is worse? Watching the U.S. government seize its own citizens' property, or being forced to fork over money to help a foreign government seize its people's possessions too?

  1. $13.6 million to hire two border agents

In November 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) awarded a $297 million contract to an outside company called Accenture, with the understanding that it would recruit and hire 7,500 more agents in five years. Ten months into the contract, we got a progress report: The agency had paid Accenture $13.6 million in return for two accepted job offers.

Granted, more CBP agents is not necessarily a good thing. But what a way to blow a few million bucks. Thankfully, CBP terminated the contract earlier this month.  

  1. More than $325,000 for Mike Pence's national anthem stunt

Remember back in the fall of 2017, when President Donald Trump said some mean things about NFL players who kneel during the pregame playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner"? You may also remember how Vice President Pence made a big point of leaving an Indianapolis Colts game early after several players knelt.

HuffPost calculated last year that the stunt cost taxpayers at least $325,000 once you consider Secret Service expenses, travel expenses, and the money it costs for the vice president to fly on Air Force Two. All this for nothing more than a political stunt. And why should taxpayers foot the bill for high-profile politicians to attend sporting events in the first place?

  1. $333,000 to study bars on the U.S.-Mexico border

"The U.S./Mexico border is a unique macro context for drinking, with increased alcohol availability due to the lower minimum legal drinking age in Mexico of 18 years and an increased number of venues for on premise consumption of alcohol (bars, clubs, restaurants)," according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for the 2018 fiscal year.

Is that something U.S. taxpayers should worry about? Apparently so: The NIH gave the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation $333,210 to study the phenomenon.

One of the study's goals: to determine whether "younger Mexican Americans in the border cities will be more likely to drink in public venues such as bars and clubs than at home and with family than age matched Mexican American and Whites in Valley cities."

  1. Nearly $3 million to study dance clubs

Here's another questionable NIH grant to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. In 2018, the group got $180,304 to study "the high risk behaviors…of young adults who patronize clubs."

"This project targets young, working adults who frequent clubs that feature Electronic Music Dance Events (EMDE) and engage in high risk behaviors," the grant's public health relevance statement reads. "These high risk behaviors are excessive alcohol use, drug use, physical and/or sexual aggression, and unsafe behaviors upon exiting from clubs."

It's worth wondering question why taxpayers should have to pay $180,304 for this kind of research. But the actual number is much higher—about $2.9 million since 2014, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

NEXT: The First Amendment and the Specific Preliminary Injunction

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  1. “Let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be…Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.”

    Change frightens me.

    1. Still no edit button, I see.

      1. Yeah. Typical. Change the form (make it worse) while leaving out essential features that other sites have had for 5 years. Wait. Did Reason PAY for this? Can we have an article “6 Stupid Things Reason Spent Money On”?
        As for the story – yes, the government blows lots of cash on stupid stuff. But I detect a bit of misdirection here. On Story #1, $750 is an absurd amount to pay for coffee mugs – but IIRC, the main purpose was to ensure they were spill-proofed for use on board aircraft. That still doesn’t justify the initial cost, but the story I’d read indicated that the mugs were purchased to replace those with broken handles. Still not a good result. But the central point was that some military guys were 3D printing new handles for about $3 and recycling the old mugs. So maybe things are getting better?
        The highlight of story #3 should be that stupid contracts are being cut – under Trump.
        #4 is sourced from Huffpost which is an intrinsically unreliable source. Note they didn’t publish the itemized list (which probably included the cost of having Pence’s underwear washed). I’ve read other articles that basically debunk most of these charges.
        #5 is actually very instructive. Note that the text says, “One of the study’s goals: to determine…” Put in proper context, if I had a $1 trillion program that determined how to eliminate cancer, vanquish world poverty, ensure world peace and reduce roadside garbage, Reason might report that as a “$1 Trillion Roadside Garbage Program”.
        Of course, I’m not justifying any of the spending – I’m just pointing out the shady reporting.

  2. The best thing about the media sowing discontent about taxes this year is that more and more Americans will realize that taxes are too high and want more cuts.

    Many/Most Americans got a lower tax bracket and a higher standard deductions, so they paid less in tax for 2018. Lies from the media notwithstanding.

    1. Sounds good, but I doubt it will work in practice. I read an article at CNN this morning that blames the tax cuts for anything and everything wrong in the world. There are so many things wrong in that article, that I won’t try to dispel them here, but keep in mind that roughly 40% of the electorate believe this big government garbage.

      My favorite gem:

      Still, mounting debt makes conversations around future expenditures more difficult. Lawmakers have choked on passing a large infrastructure package, for example, because there’s no plan to pay for it.

      The author is basically saying… how can we spend on all of our pet projects if we’re in debt!?!?!? Well… isn’t that kind of the point, Einstein?

      1. A good part of the electorate is more caught up on who isn’t paying their fair share than worrying about what money is being spent on.

        To be fair, the Cherry picked items in this article are bad (like the study of feminism and icebergs), but the total $$$ is pretty small to try and start a revolution.

        1. The idea that CNN promotes in the article I linked that the tax code should somehow promote income equality is just absurd. But you’re right, roughly 40% of the electorate bleats along with that talking point. Like other class warfare tactics it appeals to our natural us vs them mentality, and posits that only government can provide a solution to the very wrong that they themselves made up.

          It’s interesting that they go after the most progressive tax we have (income) as if to say it’s never progressive enough. I wonder why they don’t talk about the regressiveness of other forms of taxes, like excise taxes for instance?

        2. Agreed, and if anyone wants to have a legitimate reason to rage, consider these: Remember the IRS targeting conservative and libertarian groups under Lois Learner? Guess who’s paying for it? We, the taxpayer! How about aid to dependent dictators and the border wall? The USDA’s torture and killing of kittens? (The KITTEN Act would prevent this) (I recognize not all will agree with this last one- but this is to me unconscionable-)$1.5 Billion to abortion providers (Planned Parenthood and their ilk) Planned Parenthood is the worst of these because they have been caught in a variety of crimes, including cover-up of women’s deaths and not providing proper care to women in an emergency. These are what enrage me, and why I hate April 15.

  3. $10+ billion “aid” to Central American shithole countries and Mexico?

  4. HuffPost calculated last year that the stunt cost taxpayers at least $325,000 once you consider Secret Service expenses, travel expenses, and the money it costs for the vice president to fly on Air Force Two. All this for nothing more than a political stunt. And why should taxpayers foot the bill for high-profile politicians to attend sporting events in the first place?

    Remember when it was decided that national sports falls under the Commerce Clause? Pence is VP of that federal government and we give the VP Secret Service protection which costs money.

    Remember when Joe Seyton complained about all the taxpayer money spent on law enforcement for sporting events, every time there is a major game?

    1. Remember when the US Border Patrol had to spend millions more to handle the massive influx of illegals and ‘asylum’ seekers that the media (Reason included) encouraged to flood the ICE system since Trump has taken office?

    2. Remember when all these Socialists running for President as Democrats get some kind of police security during their campaigns and the Final Four get Secret Service protection, which costs taxpayers millions?

    3. Remember when some Reason staff demanded that a Colorado baker bake a cake for a gay couple in Colorado and supported the Colorado state agency defend their unconstitutional actions in all the court actions to the SCOTUS, which cost taxpayers millions?

      1. oooh, I member!

    4. Remember when some Reason staff went against Trump’s 2018 budget plan to cut $800 billion?

      2018 Trump budget: Trump Wants $800 Billion, 10-Year Cut in Entitlement Programs

      1. Wow, 80 billion a year. That’s almost a 2% cut! We would have been doomed.

      2. You forgot remember when the Democrat were going to fly to Puerto rico

  5. Uh… so, how do I tell which article is the morning thread where I get to engage with sock-puppet trolls as if they were real people and waste my time trying to argue with a brick wall? Inquiring minds want to know…

    1. That describes every thread on Reason. Please be more specific.

  6. All the more reason to cheat on your taxes….deny the thieves their unjust plunder…

  7. Complaining about Mike Pence’s travel on one occasion is very petty.

    Presidents and Vice Presidents travel. I don’t think even Reason is against them traveling or against them having security. One trip isn’t the problem.

    Do you want to communicate a principle, or do you want to communicate that people like you are petty and churlish?

    1. Not only that, but I doubt the increase in spending due to a particular trip is accounted for properly by HuffPo. Figuring that as extra Secret Service etc. cost is like the “accounting” that says a certain criminal act caused an accidental death when police or firemen on the way ran over somebody.

  8. […] In case you aren’t sufficiently infuriated by the amount of taxes you pay, Joe Setyon can help. […]

  9. asset forfeiture in the third world. government is awesome!

  10. I’d like to know how Peru requires a grant to get asset forfeiture going, when the latter brings in money.

  11. “$300,000 on 391 coffee mugs, $400,000 to promote asset forfeiture…in Paraguay, $13.6 million to hire two border agents, More than $325,000 for Mike Pence’s national anthem stunt, $333,000 to study bars on the U.S.-Mexico border and Nearly $3 million to study dance clubs.”

    Money well spent.
    I can’t wait until the powers that be start spending money on hedgehog mating habits.

  12. Unfortunately, publishing crazy lists of some weird things government wastes ridiculous amounts of money on tends to distract from all the everyday ‘normal’ (and destructive) things government does with the wheelbarrows of money we are coerced into forking over. The above items are meant symbolically as the very tip of very very large and dirty iceberg.

  13. Even if Accenture had delivered on its contract, isn’t $39,600 per new-hire agent an exorbitant finder’s fee? Isn’t there a military-to-CBP job pipeline that should reduce this to a couple thousand, max?

  14. […] “Happy Tax Day! Here Are 6 Infuriating Ways the Government Spends Your Money,” by Joe Setyon […]

  15. According to the Congressional Research Service, in 2016, US taxpayers gave roughly $49 billion in foreign welfare to foreign freeloaders.

    It’s bad enough US taxpayers have to give money to American freeloaders, but to give about $49 Billion to foreign moochers is insane and immoral.

  16. thanks for sharing Happy Tax Day! Here Are 6 Infuriating Ways the Government Spends Your Money

  17. There’s something even more ridiculous on the last one about dance music. The people studying that don’t even know what it’s called. The genre is EDM—Electronic Dance Music. So why would they call the events EMDE. That grant should’ve been thrown out not just because it’s a stupid study but also because they don’t even know what they’re studying.

  18. 300K here, 300K there — these aren’t even chicken feed, they’re louse feed.

    The FedGov is spending over 11 billion dollars EVERY DAY. Focus on the big stuff.

  19. Blah. First quoting the Huffington Post of hotair lowers all credibility.

    Second, these numbers are rounding errors in a 4 trillion dollar budget.

    Oh no we spent 0.000000078 % of the budget on coffee mugs!

    (Yes, the government wastes and it adds up. But these are just random things here.)

  20. […] past, conservatives have also used this occasion to rally against Big Government, or to write listicles chronicling “six of the more infuriating ways that [tax] money has gone to […]

  21. […] past, conservatives have also used this occasion to rally against Big Government, or to write listicles chronicling “six of the more infuriating ways that [tax] money has gone to […]

  22. […] past, conservatives have also used this occasion to rally against Big Government, or to write listicles chronicling “six of the more infuriating ways that [tax] money has gone to […]

  23. […] have also used this occasion to rally against Big Government, or to write listicles chronicling “six of the more infuriating ways that [tax] money has gone to […]

  24. […] “Happy Tax Day! Here Are 6 Infuriating Ways the Government Spends Your Money,” by Joe Setyon […]

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