Tag Archives: government waste

There Is Nothing Left to Cut

Headline: “Town Spends $1,000 on Rubber Chickens

And that’s not all:

[Cicero, Illinois] Town President Larry Dominick’s administration has also spent nearly $600,000 on promotional items, including mouse pads and ice cream scoops, from You & Me.

Hanania said he expects proceeds from the Houby Day festival to pay the bill for the chickens.

“It is what it is. We’re not hiding it. We’re trying to be aboveboard,” he said.

His transparency is laudable. But he forgets about opportunity costs. Rubber chickens aren’t exactly revenue magnets. They are unlikely to add more than their cost to Cicero, Illinois’s town coffers. Meanwhile, those thousand dollars could have been put to some better use — schools, police or fire protection, fixing potholes, you name it. Surely those things are more desirable than 250 rubber chickens.

$16 Muffins a Hoax?

The Justice Department’s auditors have been getting a lot of press lately. They found that the department paid $16 each for muffins at a recent event in Washington. At another event in San Francisco, the department spent $76 per person on lunch.

According to the Hilton hotel chain, which hosted the DC muffin event, the auditors didn’t read the invoice very carefully:

Hilton Worldwide, which manages and franchises hotels including the Capital Hilton where the conference took place, says the price included not only breakfast baked goods but also fresh fruit, coffee, tea, soft drinks, tax and tips. It says the report misinterpreted its invoices, which often use shorthand and don’t reflect the full menu provided.

So it appears that part of the story has been exaggerated. The $76-per-person lunch in San Francisco, also held at a Hilton, included “slow-cooked Berkshire pork carnitas, hearts-of-romaine salad — and coffee at $8.24 a cup.” That one still looks dodgy. A bit fancy for a government conference. But the muffins do seem to have been blown out of proportion.

In related news, after an assistant told Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that the muffins didn’t actually cost $16, he was reportedly overheard muttering to himself, “soon…”

Money for Nothing

A man collected 12 years of salary and benefits from his government job in Norfolk, Virginia. Nothing unusual about that… except that he “had not reported to work in years.”

Yes, this is an outrage. But maybe the world would be a better place if more government employees took that approach to their jobs.

You Can’t Make This Up

$150,045 of stimulus money is being spent to restore a bridge that doesn’t connect to any roads and ends in an 8-foot drop.

Stimulus backers claim that the project created 1.9 jobs. That’s $78,971.05 per job created. That’s not a very good deal. Especially considering that no jobs were created on net, because that $150,000 was taken away from somewhere else in the economy.

Without the stimulus, that money would have been spent in other ways. Given that most jobs cost less than $78,971 to create, it may well be that the bridge restoration project meant fewer jobs were created than if the government had just left the money where it was originally — your pocket.

Friday Regulation Roundup

Postal Service pays incompetent employees over $20 per hour to not work. They can’t be fired because of union rules. So they come to the office and take naps, play cards, and fill out coloring books. And get paid for it.

-It is apparently against regulations to sell burgers and porn together without a permit.

NSF funds research to identify star soccer players.

Illinois high school administrator had $885,327 salary; retires with $601,978 annual taxpayer-funded pension. Total value of the pension? More than $26 million. Watch your back, Greece. America is right behind you.

-Ever want to have a web chat with the federal government about combustible dust? Here’s your chance.

Arizona spends $1,250,000 to save 250 squirrels. That’s $5,000 per squirrel.

How Wisely Is Stimulus Money Being Spent?

Not at all, to be honest. For starters, the very notion of stimulus violates basic economics. Taking money out of the economy and then putting it back in has no net effect. But it gets worse. Much worse.

When that money is put back into the economy, it goes to the weirdest places — $3.4 million is going to Florida to build a tunnel under U.S. Highway 27, so turtles can cross safely. A fish hatchery in South Dakota is getting $20,000 for new light fixtures. $50,000 is being spent to resurface a tennis court in Bozeman, Montana.

And so on.

These boondoggles aren’t getting nearly enough press. To help fill the vacuum, the good folks at Citizens Against Government Waste have put up a new website, MyWastedTaxDollars.org. Click on over and check it out. The best feature is an interactive map that shows just how unwisely stimulus funds are being spent all over the country.

Stimulus is worse than a zero-sum game. It is actively harmful. It is government saying that it knows how to spend your money better than you do; stimulus is the ultimate act of hubris. Kudos to CAGW and MyWastedTaxDollars.org for providing hundreds of examples of why government hubris should be replaced with government humility.

Regulation of the Day 119: Bake Sales

New York City’s public schools spent $18,365 per student in the 2007-2008 school year. That spending has been growing at more than double the rate of inflation over the last decade. That’s a lot of money. But since it isn’t spent very wisely, nowhere near that amount actually reaches the classroom.

Instead of firing teachers for incompetence (and sometimes worse), the district re-assigns bad teachers to “rubber rooms,” where they do nothing except receive their full salary. Maybe play Scrabble or surf the Internet. But mainly sit around and get paid.

Average teacher pay in New York City is approaching $70,000. There are about 700 teachers in rubber rooms. Assuming the rubber room teachers draw roughly average salaries, we’re talking about as much as $50 million that never makes it to the classroom from rubber rooms alone. That’s nearly $50 per student right there.

To make up for some of the money that gets lost in rubber rooms and central offices, schools often have fundraising events like bake sales.

Well, not anymore. At least not bake sales. Those are basically banned in New York City. Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s Department of Education worry that bake sales contribute to child obesity.

Bake sales are technically still legal. But only approved foods can be sold. And only at approved times. And never before the end of lunch hour. And you have to keep detailed records. And so on.

Complying with all the rules is just too difficult for a school basketball team raising money for a new scoreboard, or to cover the cost of traveling to a tournament.

Anything goes after 6:00 pm, food-wise. But hardly anybody stays in school that late. PTAs are given a longer leash. But even they cannot hold more than one bake sale per month.

(Hat tip: Fran Smith)