Kevin Glass
Senator Tom Coburn released the Wastebook 2012 today detailing the 100 most egregious wastes of taxpayer money. The two hundred page report details waste in all manner of federal spending - from multi-billion dollar programs all the way down to a $300 grant to a small-town library for a Star Wars-themed event. It's emblematic of the waste found everywhere in the federal budget.

Coburn details a $27 million U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program for pottery classes in Morocco. The program, which has a questionable premise in the first place, was doomed due to incompetence and mismanagement. Translators with a questionable grasp of English were hired and used materials unavailable to Moroccans. The Inspector General concluded that the program was "ineffective and poorly implemented."

No sacred cow is spared in the report. Coburn notes that producing pennies has become too expensive for the government to justify. "The cost to produce a penny in 2012 is more than two times its actual value." Noting that other developed countries have discontinued their smallest forms of currency, he writes, "the United States should follow suit and stop producing it."

While the viral video of an Obama supporter claiming to have received a free phone may stretch credibility, the truth is more real than you think. There is in fact a federal program aimed at providing "free or reduced-price cell phone service," as detailed in Wastebook. The federal government is empowered to provide universal telecommunications service to Americans, and have started using cell phones rather than landlines as a means of accomplishing that.


Source: Wastebook

The cell phone program, called Lifeline, has exploded in recent years. The Lifeline program now costs taxpayers $1.5 billion annually and subsidizes the cell phone service of 16.5 million Americans - and a survey found that almost ten percent of all enrollees should not even be eligible for the program.

The National Science Foundation spent $30,000 to fund a study done by the University of Washington and Cornell University's to measure "gaydar" - the ability of people to identify sexual orientation merely by appearance. The researchers confirmed that "gaydar" exists, writing that participants were about 60% accurate when attempting to identify sexual orientation by appearance.

More from the report:

Food stamps for the deceased: The USDA Inspector General found roughly 2,000 dead people are still receiving food stamps in New York and Massachusetts combined. Additionally, its investigation revealed 7,236 people in these states are receiving duplicate benefits, while 286 are on state lists that should exclude them from receiving food stamps. These unnecessary payments amount to $1.4 million every month.

The "black liquor" loophole: Pulp and paper companies could reap a $268 million tax windfall by asserting an industrial waste byproduct of the wood-pulping process - referred to as “black liquor” - is actually an alternative fuel.

Bridge to Nowhere 2: More than ten percent of the bridges in Dayton, Ohio, are deficient as 13 cars drive over one of Dayton’s 184 deficient bridges every second. Yet, mere miles away from the city, the federal government is spending $520,000 to restore an unused bridge that is not even connected to a road or trail. Fixing Stevenson Road Covered Bridge in Greene County, Ohio, will cost $650,000.

Federal money for local roads: More than ten percent of the bridges in Dayton, Ohio, are deficient as 13 cars drive over one of Dayton’s 184 deficient bridges every second. Yet, mere miles away from the city, the federal government is spending $520,000 to restore an unused bridge that is not even connected to a road or trail... Fixing Stevenson Road Covered Bridge in Greene County, Ohio, will cost $650,000.

Millions for vineyards: In 2012, vineyards and wineries received at least $1.5 million in federal taxpayer funds to assist with their grape-growing endeavors.

Coburn turns his sharpest guns on his colleagues in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. The report chastises Congress for the high cost of merely being open despite running one of the least productive sessions in history. "The Senate cast fewer votes in 2012 thus far than any year in decades... many high school student councils have been more deliberative than the U.S. Senate. The outrageous and wasteful contents of this report were made possible by either the action or lack of action of Congress, earning it the well-deserved but unwanted distinction as the biggest waste of taxpayer money in 2012."


Kevin Glass

Kevin Glass is the Managing Editor of Townhall.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kevinwglass.