Washington no stranger to whine, waste

Freedom New Mexico

It’s difficult to take Washington seriously when politicians bemoan the federal deficit, whine about underfunded agencies and whimper about budget woes. It’s all the more galling when we’re reminded how Washington uses taxpayers’ money. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has released, “The Wastebook 2010: A guide to some of the most wasteful government spending of 2010.”

He says nearly $2 million was spent last year in a federal grant to build a park and museum to display discarded junk for public viewing. The Neon Boneyard Park and Museum features more than 150 old Las Vegas neon signs, such as from the Golden Nugget.

Unnecessary? Consider that zoos in Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Florida will be graced with poetic words for zoo-goers to read, at a cost to taxpayers of $997,766. A federal grant provides snippets of poetry to “deepen public awareness of environmental issues.” The sample cited is a line from Hans Christian Andersen, whose entire works are freely available in the public domain, leaving us puzzled about what the $997,766 bought.

There’s more. The IRS paid $112 million in undeserved tax refunds to prisoners, who filed fraudulent returns. The IRS fails to screen most prisoners’ returns, “even when it knows it has no wage information for them,” the Wastebook reports. Not outrageous enough? Consider this: “(W)e identified this as a problem more than five years ago,” admitted an IRS official.

Could tax money be wasted more foolishly? The National Science Foundation sent $239,911 to Stanford University to study how Americans use the Internet to find love. The probe determined “the Internet is especially good for flirting.”

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which would make more sense as a convenience store than a federal agency, squandered $20,000 to “unravel the anonymity of a 2,500-year-old mummy.”

No federal tax waste story is complete without a “stimulus” example. The National Park Service spent $90,825 in stimulus funds to upgrade a Washington, D.C., dog park, repainting a fence, repairing a sidewalk and buying new benches and trash cans.

Not all waste was small potatoes. About $6 billion was squandered on ethanol tax credits to subsidize the fuel that’s “nearly a third less efficient than gasoline, has contributed to the increased price of corn and can cause engine damage.”

For our money, this took the cake: The National Science Foundation spent $2.3 million to study why Americans vote. That’s enough to make a taxpayer moan, whine and whimper.