US Senator, Rand Paul has commemorated another year of Festivus with his fiscal 'Airing of Grievances' in federal spending. He gives particular attention to the Homeland Security Agency budget.
“Good morning and Happy Festivus! Today there will be many, many grievances aired, almost all in good fun,”
THE FESTIVUS REPORT 2019
Happy Festivus! Another year gone already. It seems like just yesterday I was sounding the alarm over a $20 trillion debt, and now the U.S. has pushed past $23 trillion! The more things changed in 2019, the more they stayed the same. Hollywood continued going back to tried and true classics, releasing hits like The Lion King and Aladdin. And the federal government clung to old ideas such as failing to fund the government on time and spending even more taxpayer dollars. Americans rang in 2019 with a government shutdown. Democrats, perhaps bolstered by a new House majority, instantly blocked funding to stop Republican action on the border.
Read Senator Rand Paul's Festivus Report, here.
But don’t give up. I will continue to fight the wasteful spending. In the future, I will rate each waste of taxpayer dollars I cover on a scale of 1 to 5 pigs as I hand out the “Platinum Pig Awards.” Stay tuned for more about that. Meanwhile, this year, I am highlighting a whopping $50,463,462,292.35 of waste, including a study of Panamanian frog mating calls, sending low-quality textbooks to Afghan students, and a grant to fund a Peruvian Green New Deal. It must need exporting after the Senate unanimously opposed it! So, before we get to the Feats of Strength, it’s time for my Airing of (spending) Grievances! I got a lotta problems with federal spending, and now you’re gonna hear about it! In this report, you will find . . . What does government waste mean for you? What could the government have paid for instead? Spending Solutions: What has Dr. Paul been doing about the problem? Dr. Paul’s Compilation of Waste Reports o Spring Waste Report o Summer Waste Report o Fall Waste Report Keep track of Dr. Paul’s efforts to expose government waste and reform federal spending at https://www.paul.senate.gov.
Dr. Paul’s 2019 Airing of Spending Grievances
If the waste I found is: $50,463,462,292.35 And the average taxpayer pays about: ÷ $8,215.48 Then Uncle Sam WASTED the taxes of: 6,142,484 people So, what does $50,463,462,292.35 mean to you? Keep track of Dr. Paul’s efforts to expose government waste and reform federal spending at https://www.paul.senate.gov.
That’s 137% of the population of Chairman Paul’s home state of Kentucky Keep track of Dr. Paul’s efforts to expose government waste and reform federal spending at https://www.paul.senate.gov. Do you think you could you have spent $50,463,462,292.35 better than the federal government did? So, what else could $50,463,462,292.35 have bought us? Admittedly, this is a pretty bleak picture. But hope is not lost. The problem of government waste is extremely solvable ... with the right willpower. This year, I’ve been hard at work not only highlighting wasteful spending but trying to make sure Congress addresses the fiscal problems it has created for itself. You might have noticed Congress did not pass a budget this year. But I guaranteed the Senate still held a vote on my Two Pennies Plan budget in June. My plan would have balanced the budget in five years without touching Social Security or Medicare. It is a reasonable plan that requires Congress to find just two pennies out of every on-budget dollar to cut. It doesn’t even mandate where! Congress could have opted to cut five percent from one agency and even increase another agency’s budget. Later that month, Congress passed a $4.5 billion spending package intended to help address the crisis at the southern border (the same one Democrats claimed was non-existent while they were shutting down the government in January). I tried to get Congress to pay for their spending by cutting foreign aid, which, as my discoveries over the last year show, could certainly stand to be cut. As summer waned, years of bloated spending came home to roost as the U.S. reached the debt limit ... again. Congress was planning to end budget caps, a signature achievement of the Tea Party. So, to try to bring the Senate back to its senses, I offered a plan to Cut, Cap, and Balance the budget. In the fall, it was clear Congress yet again was not going to fund the government on time. So, as it often does, it resorted to Continuing Resolutions (CRs), and when it did, I was right there to present an alternative, offering an amendment in line with my Two Pennies Plan. On one of the CRs, I introduced an amendment based on my Penny Plan to Enhance Infrastructure Act (S. 2792). Instead of the U.S. borrowing more money, my plan would redirect current funding levels to provide $12.3 billion in paid-for new infrastructure spending in 2020 alone without touching Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. It has been estimated this could pay for between 2,500 and 6,200 miles of new 4-lane highways or 2,200 miles of 6-lane interstates. Or it could potentially resurface nearly 20,000 miles of existing 4-lane roads. My amendment version would have redirected just 1% of the CR into infrastructure, including fixing our drinking water infrastructure. While even the common-sense proposals recounted here were too much for the big spenders, rest assured, I will keep working hard in 2020 to solve our fiscal crisis. Congress has every tool and opportunity to solve these problems, and I am making sure my fellow legislators know it!
W A S T E R E P O R T S P R I N G 2 0 1 9 : W A S T E I N F U L L B L O O M BY CHAIRMAN RAND PAUL
Springtime has come again! The flowers are blooming, the leaves are slowly but surely returning to the trees, and the birds are chirping. Hope springs eternal amid all the new beginnings – but so does government waste, as it appears bureaucrats are just as intent on wasting your money as ever. Like clockwork, it is that time of year again when Congress considers the federal budget. And with budget season here, it is incumbent upon us all to remember that the United States is more than $22 trillion in debt. Despite record revenues thanks to tax reform, the federal government still managed to increase the debt by $1.2 trillion in Fiscal Year 2018 due to drastic increases in spending. But rather than address the problem, Congress plans to shirk its responsibility to tackle our fiscal crisis yet again by considering a budget that doesn’t even attempt to balance. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget agree that spending on interest on the debt will exceed defense spending in five years and cost nearly $1 trillion in just 10 short years. So here we are, standing athwart those who would waste Americans’ money, showing the American people and Congress a small fraction – just $42.6 million – of the wasteful projects on which agencies have spent their tax dollars. And we also remind Congress that when agencies have enough money to waste, they have too much money in the first place. The federal government wasted Americans’ tax dollars as it…
Bought an elementary school gym scoreboard at a 491% markup (BIA) ..... $13,000
Sent international students to college for free (State) ............................... $15,825,000
Studied the habits of online dating app users (NIH and NSF) ................. $1,200,000
Taught Lao to Laotians (USAID) ................................................................ $20,000,000
Improved the quality of TV in Moldova (State) .......................................... $2,000,000
Paid to teach social scientists how to apply for grants (NSF) ...................... $103,777
Allowed the 1033 Program to be abused (DOD) ....................................... $2,711,255
“Tested” whether social justice improves STEM education (NSF) ............ $649,773
Funded a week of summer school for grad students (NSF) ........................... $49,990
Developed 6 undergrad course units on food marketing (NIFA) ............... $128,054
_______________________ TAXPAYER DOLLARS WASTED: $42,680,849
1 The Bureau of Indian Affairs paid a 491% markup on a scoreboard for an elementary school gym Regular readers of The Waste Report know it typically highlights the many frivolous ways the federal government spends your money. This story is a little different — it shows the wasteful results of needless and costly federal rules that dictate what companies the government is allowed to do business with. In this case, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) spent $13,000, which amounted to a 491 percent markup from what retailers were charging for similar items on the open market, on a gym scoreboard for an elementary school on an Indian reservation.
1 Everyone’s Favorite Topic: Regulations! Why did Uncle Sam pay nearly five times the going rate, you ask? Because it complied with the Buy Indian Act, a law regulating how BIA acquires goods and services for reservations. Department of Interior (DOI) regulations require the BIA “to give preference to Indians whenever the use of that authority is authorized and practicable.”
2 Though the Buy Indian Act does permit purchasers to buy from non-Indian vendors under certain circumstances, the process is so laborious and time-consuming that it is, for all intents and purposes, prohibitive. “Any deviation from [the Buy Indian Act] policy,” according to the BIA, “must be approved by an authorized official and documented in the contract file, except for purchase card transactions”
3 (Emphasis theirs). This includes, according to DOI, a requirement that “[t]he purchaser must conduct market research which shows that he or she cannot reasonably expect to obtain offers from IEEs [Indian Economic Enterprises] that will be competitive in terms of price, quality, and delivery.”
4 (Even in cases where a purchase card can be used, the choice still needs to be justified.
5 ) The various steps in the deviation process, including cases where a price is obtained from an IEE but found to be “unreasonable,” are laid out in Part 1480 of the DOI Acquisition Regulation.
6 These steps require navigating the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), a 1,900-page, 53-part, 312-section tome outlining the federal government’s procedures for everything from purchasing helium to processing donations of food.
7 It is unwieldy, complex, and unnecessarily burdensome. Needless to say, it is highly unlikely someone would take the time to jump through all these hoops, especially if an item is needed quickly. Of course, there is something to be said for buying from IEEs to serve Indian reservations when the prices are comparable to those on the open market. But with current regulations, IEE suppliers are not incentivized to compete with non-IEEs for the government’s business, so higher prices can be more easily charged, which in turn limits the non-governmental patrons willing to buy from IEEs. 2 Economic engineering through federal mandates, though well-intentioned, can generate unintended consequences including hampering job growth, failing to address underlying concerns, and costing the government even more money than it would otherwise spend. It’s past time to remove needless procurement regulations that harm taxpayers and private businesses alike. The State Department is spending $15,825,000.00 on free college for international students For millions of Americans, community colleges offer an affordable option for receiving a college education and gaining a competitive edge in the job market. But despite American families scrimping and saving to afford college, the State Department is using your taxes to pay the tuition of international students enrolled in American community colleges. Avid readers of The Waste Report may recall a 2015 entry in which we exposed the profligate spending of the Community College Initiative (CCI),
8 an exchange program that, according to the State Department, “provides scholarships [to students from other countries] to spend up to one academic year at U.S[.] community colleges.”
9 Since this program is so out of step with the Trump administration’s agenda, one might have expected it to have been ended by now. But one would have been wrong, because the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is still spending millions on the program — committing up to $15,825,000, to be exact, to send a total of about 390 foreign students to American community colleges across academic years 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021- 22.
10 The initiative will cover the costs of “approximately 130 program participants from approximately 12 countries, to include Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and other countries (subject to change),” according to the funding announcement, each academic year.
11 While the State Department hasn’t nailed down the countries of origin yet (and leaves itself room to make other adjustments along the way.
12 they have so far determined that the lucky students will get to enroll in one of the following areas: agriculture, applied engineering, business management and administration, early childhood education, information technology, media, public safety, or tourism and hospitality management.
13 For some reason, this list excludes several disciplines that would be valuable in many CCI students at the Alexandria, VA, campus of the Northern Virginia Community College. Photo Credit: https://blogs.nvcc.edu/cci/2017/09/21/introducing-the2017-2018-cci-program-participants/. 3 other parts of the world, such as nursing and vocational skills. At the end of the program, the participants are supposed to earn a certificate or similar credential “whenever possible.”
14 But when not possible, it’s unclear what (if anything) they will earn, since the CCI Program lasts no more than half the time it takes to complete an associate degree. And in case you were wondering, the $15,825,000 spent on this initiative would be enough to cover a full year of in-state tuition for more than 3,200 U.S. community college students.
15 The NIH and NSF are spending up to $1,200,000.00 to study online dating user habits The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “was founded in 1962 to investigate human development throughout the entire life process, with a focus on understanding disabilities and important events that occur during pregnancy,” according to their website, which also states that their “mission is to ensure that every person is born healthy and wanted, that women suffer no harmful effects from reproductive processes, and that all children have the chance to achieve their full potential for healthy and productive lives.”
16 The National Science Foundation (NSF) was created “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense...”
17 Apparently, NICHD and NSF think a good way to advance these missions is by studying dating app user habits, funded by cobbling together several grants totaling $1.2 million.
18 Some of the findings have made more headlines than others, though what they all have in common is that they have nothing to do with either the NIH’s or NSF’s purpose. Most notable was a finding published in The New York Times that “sexual desirability peaks at age 50” for men and at age 18 for women.
19 But the Times did not highlight the other findings this research unearthed, which included finding that online dating app users pursue potential mates “who are on average about 25% more desirable than themselves,” as well as finding “that the probability of receiving a response” on an app “markedly” decreases when the pursued is more desirable than the pursuer, and that dating app users exert greater effort to pursue “more desirable” mates than they do to pursue less desirable ones.
20 Another groundbreaking finding funded by these tax dollars was that the users “enact screeners (‘deal breakers’) that encode acceptability cutoffs,” such as physical distance from the user.
21 There is no reason research like this should receive federal funding. In truth, the only suitable financiers would be dating app companies themselves. It is silly to pretend this study has anything to do with reproductive and childhood development, “public health” or “science promotion” more generally. NIH and NSF grant review panels would do the taxpayers a favor by following a strategy 4 of dating app users: only swipe left on the most attractive proposals. USAID is spending $20,000,000.00 to teach Lao to Laotians If we told you the U.S. government was spending money to address illiteracy in the United States, you might not object. But what if we were to tell you the U.S. is spending $20 million teaching Laotians their own language? Well, that’s exactly what USAID is doing, committing 20 million American taxpayer dollars to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, a communist nation controlled by one party, in pursuit of (according to USAID): 1.) “Improved Lao reading ability for non-Lao speakers and vulnerable students,” 2.) “Improved classroom instruction through enhanced teacher competencies and resources to meet needs of target children,” and 3.) “Strengthened community engagement to provide a conducive learning environment for improved reading skills, particularly for nonLao speaking and vulnerable communities.”
22 The USAID outpost in Bangkok, Thailand, has opted to focus the agency’s efforts on, as it says, “children in the preprimary education (pre-primary classrooms attached to primary schools), and in early grade classrooms through grade 2 with monitoring of children in grade 3 to see if interventions are successful.”
23 USAID says, “[w]ith limited funding” (though since when is a $20 million award “limited funding?”), it will concentrate “on a selected number of communities.”
24 USAID also points out that a portion of Laotians are not native Lao speakers and do find it difficult to “learn the national curriculum provided in the textbooks and learning materials.”
25 Granted, these are serious concerns. But, for some reason, the U.S. government has deemed it appropriate to spend your tax dollars on tackling another country’s issues with education even though, despite all the government funds poured in at home, reading proficiency here shows a lot of room for improvement. “More than 36 million adults in the United States cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third grade level,” literacy advocates note.
26 In New Jersey alone, which has only a slightly larger population than Laos,
28 a report showed that “17% of adults lack basic literacy skills.” 29 In 2015, the Organisation [sic] for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found the mean U.S. reading score was second tier, “not significantly different from the OECD average,” and a point lower than the three-year trend.
30 The U.S. ranks 22nd in literacy globally, tied with Taiwan, and trails far behind the top five: Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, Finland, and Ireland.
31 In other words, even after millions upon millions of dollars, the government can’t seem to teach English to American kids, but thinks it can use millions more of your money to teach Lao to Laotian kids. 5 The State Department is spending $2,000,000.00 to improve TV programming in Moldova There is widespread international agreement that the Moldovan television industry is not internationally competitive. But apparently the State Department has determined it is worth saving, because it is devoting $2 million of taxpayers’ money to the effort. Why the State Department would use American tax dollars to support direct competition with an American industry is beyond us. Nevertheless, it is spending $2 million to “increase the quality and quantity of locally produced content on Moldovan television through coproductions that expand investment and employment in the media space,” according to a State Department funding notice.
32 Countering Russian TV Influence In theory, the grant is designed in part to counterbalance Russian-produced television content shown in Moldova. According to the State Department, “entertainment content rebroadcast and/or repackaged from the Russian Federation continues to maintain a dominant local position, given its low costs and high quality, when contrasted against primarily low-quality domestic production of entertainment programs. ...”
33 Citing a 2017 report from the Independent Press Association (IPA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported in February 2018 that the “Russian media ‘broadcast propaganda messages and constantly manipulate public opinion’ both in its informational and entertainment programming.”
34 Their article was written in context of a then-recent development in Moldova. On January 10, 2018, more than five months before the deadline for this grant application,
35 Andrian Candu, acting president of Moldova at the time, approved a law “ban[ning] most television and radio programs not produced in the European Union, the US, or Canada, or by the states that have not ratified the European Convention on Transborder Television,” 36 according to a news report. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has also reported the move “effectively bans the rebroadcasting in Moldova of Russian television programs on news, analysis, politics, and military issues.”
37 So the Moldovan government is already moving to counteract certain Russian influence — without any need for help from the U.S. State Department. A Priority for American Taxpayers? With our national debt now exceeding $22 trillion, and many domestic needs to Animal welfare activist appearing on Moldova's stateowned network, Moldova 1. Photo Credit: https://megliovivere.com/2018/07/31/appearing-onmoldovan-tv/. 6 consider, it simply makes no sense to spend American tax dollars on this project, especially since the State Department isn’t just planning to support Moldovan programming; it’s seeking to build the Moldovan domestic TV industry from the ground up. The U.S. Embassy in Moldova acknowledges that the Moldovan TV sector isn’t viable on its own, with the Embassy noting the goal of the $2 million grant as being “to create an environment in the creative television content industry which will allow Moldova’s creative content industry to mature to a level where it can be sustainable. Ideally,” it continues, “Moldovan production companies would have the capacity to conceive, produce, and distribute high-quality programming and formats within Moldova and abroad.”
38 Ultimately, this fool’s errand certainly has the makings of a great TV show — one that could be a comedy or a tragedy. We’ll have to stay tuned to find out. The National Science Foundation spent $103,777.00 to teach social scientists how to apply for grants In fiscal year 2017, the National Science Foundation awarded $6.2 billion in funding for various proposals.
39 As part of its review process, the NSF rates proposals on a scale from zero to five.
40 But the NSF must think the quality of the proposals can be improved, because that year it issued a $103,777 grant to the University of Mississippi to teach “early-career PhDs” how to apply for grants.41 Working college professors, for whom the classes are designed,
42 must be knocking down doors, asking to be taught how to write grant proposals, right? That’s why NSF approved this expenditure? Wrong. The NSF is clear the “Summer Course on Grant Writing in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SCG)” is being provided to “early-career scientists who ... will be recruited to participate.”
43 The NSF award abstract states the course’s focus as being on “the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences with mentorship and training in grant writing.”
44 Aims include giving participants “a brief appreciation of research design …,” along with “help[ing] [them] locate NSF and other federal research support” agencies, “improv[ing] [their] ability to develop and write a scientifically well-conceived research proposal,” and “promot[ing] the spread of appropriate, robust scientific research in the SBE sciences in underrepresented communities…,” according to the abstract.
45 Just in this edition, The Waste Report has once again documented instances of government waste through NSF grants. As we say elsewhere, this is simply out of our desire to see the NSF better use the money Americans work hard to earn. We’re not so sure it inspires greater confidence for taxpayers to hear the NSF, with such a track record, is using more of their money to fund training in how to … get even more of their money from the NSF. One can only hope that at some point during the program, these social scientists will learn how to be frugal with the taxpayers’ money. 7 The Pentagon sent $2,711,255 in surplus military gear to police in Thetford Township, Michigan (pop. <7,000) Put yourself in the shoes of a police officer for a moment. What would you need to do your job? Perhaps a pistol, a bullet-proof vest, or a squad car? The chief of police of Thetford Township, Michigan, seems to have had a more expansive wish list. Ultimately, a department that serves a population of fewer than 7,000 people
46 received $2,711,255 worth of surplus military equipment from the Department of Defense (DOD), according to the Genesee County sheriff.
47 And that stunning figure is only part of the story. So how did such a small town manage to amass a small fortune in materiel from DOD? The 1033 Program Those seeking answers need only look to the DOD’s 1033 program. The program allows registered law enforcement agencies to receive surplus military supplies “for bona fide law enforcement purposes that assist in their arrest and apprehension mission,” according to the DOD’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).
48 The DLA reports that “[o]ver 8,000 federal and state law enforcement agencies from all 50 states and the U.S. territories participate in the program.”
49 It also notes these agencies must place specific requests, justify them, and get approval from the State Coordinator and Law Enforcement Support Office.
50 Somehow, despite the requirement that 1033 requisitions serve “bona fide law enforcement purposes,” Thetford Township PD managed to accrue nearly 4,000 items from the program,
51 including: Four mine detector sets
52 Three hydroseeders
53 Two parachutes
54 A bounce house
55 A rock-climbing wall
56 A 7-ton forktruck
59 Dive boots
60 1,000 kitchen items
61 A tractor
62 A riding lawnmower
63 The Pentagon must be facing some unusual challenges if it needs hydroseeders, “kitchen items,” a riding lawnmower, and a bounce house to defeat our nation’s adversaries. And who knew that these were vital tools of domestic law enforcement, too?
he trick. 49 According to the grant notice, the State Department is paying “for two organizations to plan, organize, and implement local