by Adam Andrzejewski, CEO & Founder of OpenTheBooks.com
The Pentagon admits to paying more than $1,000 for a single coffee cup! The USDA is spending millions subsidizing cricket farms to raise bugs for human consumption. The National Science Foundation has paid to put a shrimp on a treadmill to see how long it can run. These egregious examples of federal waste are just the tip of the iceberg.
In both The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, we published an open letter to President Donald Trump, encouraging him to wage a nonpartisan war on waste using a three-pronged attack: 1. Post all White House expenditures; 2. Cut agency waste; and 3. Report progress to the public.
Under the previous two administrations, the federal debt has tripled. The $5.8 trillion debt total at the beginning of the Bush Administration exploded to $19.9 trillion by the end of the Obama Administration.
Despite this alarming growth, the government has not stopped wasting taxpayer dollars. According to data released by the U.S. Treasury, the federal debt increased by nearly $1.3 trillion in 2018 surpassing $21.5 trillion overall. The federal debt at this moment would cost each working American $138,330. Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com found waste, fraud, corruption, and taxpayer abuse everywhere.
Where’s the Pork?
We uncovered a $1.5 million grant funding sex education for California prostitutes. Taxpayers funded a $1 million study to learn “where it hurts the most to be stung by a bee.” Another $1 million grant prepared religions for the discovery of extra-terrestrial life. We found NASA spent $2.5 million to produce “Space Racers,” an animated children’s cartoon. The American taxpayer paid for a $9.2 million grant to the private airport on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
The federal government doled out more than $600 billion in grants last year. The average grant exceeded $1 million. Pork-barrel grant-making is bipartisan. In the fifty congressional districts receiving the most grants, Democrats represent 27 districts and Republicans represent 23 districts. In the top ten districts, it’s evenly split between Republican and Democratic members of Congress.
Even America’s most elite universities and successful corporations received taxpayer subsidies. In a six-year period, the eight Ivy League schools received $22 billion in federal grants — despite having $120 billion amassed in their endowments. In the last three years, Fortune 100 companies received $3.2 billion in grants. Boeing cannot argue it needed the $774 million in federal grants while reporting nearly $100 billion in annual revenue.
The system is rigged for the benefit of the well-connected who feel entitled to your tax dollars.
Highly Compensated Bureaucracy
The swamp is expensive. The federal government disclosed 2 million employees costing taxpayers $136 billion in payroll expenses. The federal government pays its disclosed workforce $1.1 million per minute, $65.6 million per hour, and more than half of a billion dollars per day.
We found more than 400,000 federal employees got more than $100,000 in compensation each. At 78 U.S. federal agencies, the average employee made a six-figure salary.
These bureaucrats also receive bonuses. More than one million federal employees received bonuses last year costing taxpayers $1.5 billion. The largest bonus did not go to a doctor researching a cure for cancer or a scientist at NASA. Instead, the largest federal bonus went to a human resources director who is in charge of processing payroll at a small agency called Presidio Trust in San Francisco. The bonus exceeded $141,000!
Cash compensation is only part of the true taxpayer cost. After just three years, a federal civil servant can receive 43 days of paid time off – that’s 10 holidays, 13 sick days, and 20 vacation days. We estimate this benefit package costs $22.6 billion annually.
Use-It-Or-Lose-It Spending Frenzy
During the final week of the fiscal year, federal agencies scrambled to spend $50 billion. If they didn’t use it this year, they’d lose it for the next year. It’s a massive shop-till-you-drop spending spree funded by the American taxpayer.
We found the State Department closed out its end-of-year booze budget, buying wine and whiskey gifts for dignitaries at a cost of $150,000. The U.S. Army spent $6,600 on fidget spinners, $35,000 on an arcade machine, and $62,000 on snowboards and paddleboards. The Department of Veterans Affairs spent $20,000 on shuffleboards.
Our auditors found roughly one out of every nine dollars in federal contracts disclosed by the executive and military agencies was spent during the last week of the fiscal year. Eight departments including Defense, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, State, Justice, International Aid, and the General Services Administration, each spent more than $1 billion in their last-minute binge.
Over this seven-day period, federal agencies became self-promotion machines, purchasing $110 million in advertising and public relations contracts. While sick veterans still wait longer than 30 days to see a doctor, the VA spent millions on advertising.
The federal agencies embarked on a one-week arms race, costing taxpayers $400 million as they stocked up on bombs ($151 million), guns ($145 million), body armor ($45 million), bulk explosives ($30 million), and grenades ($5 million).
Time to Clean Up the Swamp
President Trump does not need congressional approval to ignite a war on waste. As the commander-in-chief, Trump can address the federal waste with a three-pronged attack.
The first step is transparency. Trump should post White House expenditures online in real time and direct every executive branch department, agency, and office to do the same. Transparency is a revolution.
Second, Trump should cut White House expenditures by 10 percent and mandate every branch department, agency, and office in his administration to cut spending by five percent. These are modest goals.
Finally, it’s imperative that Trump personally reports to the public the monthly progress or lack of progress in detail. We encourage him to use Twitter.
Public executives at every level of government across America could use this three-step approach to attack wasteful spending — and they should. Economic sanity is important to the long-term survival of this great country as our founders envisioned it.
It’s time to declare War on Waste. Join the transparency revolution.