One thing the federal government is very good at is spending your money. The current national debt of over $16 trillion proves the government can spend all you have and more. The deficit this fiscal year will exceed $1 trillion with projected annual deficits exceeding that amount for as far as the eye can see.
With that kind of exploding debt, you might think your representatives in Washington appreciate the need to crack down on wasteful spending. As this article will demonstrate, that's wishful thinking. One recent example was an $800,000 Las Vegas party thrown by the General Services Administration to "streamline the administrative work of the federal government." While this extravagant waste of taxpayer money made news headlines everywhere, most do not. In February we showed you seven ways the U.S. Government wasted money in 2011; here are five more examples of how your money was squandered in 2012.
$350,000 - Golfers Need to Imagine a Bigger Hole
Purdue University research used part of a National Science Foundation grant to study the benefits of using your imagination while putting. They used 36 golfers and positioned them on a green with two holes of different sizes, with circles surrounding each hole projected from above. By altering the size of the surrounding circles, the size of the holes appeared to change due to an optical illusion.
Those who putted toward the hole that appeared to be bigger than it actually was, scored more putts than those who perceived a hole that was smaller than it actually was. The conclusion of the study was that golfers should use their imaginations to visualize a bigger hole, to more easily to sink a putt.
$667,000 - Watching TV Reruns Makes You Feel Good
Researchers used part of a National Institutes of Health grant to analyze the benefits of reconnecting with familiar television characters from the past. While the grant was originally targeted for intimate partner violence and alcohol abuse treatment, that didn't stop the researchers from studying the impact of the "familiar fictional worlds" created by your favorite shows from the past.
The study concluded that reruns allow viewers to reenergize their relationships with pseudo-friends whom they are already comfortable with. This interaction led to a boost in mood and energy levels over the short term.
$940,000 - Sexual Attraction of Fruit Flies
A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that the production of pheromones in female fruit flies declines over time. As a result, male fruit flies are more attracted to younger female fruit flies than they are to older ones.
Male flies were put into a dark chamber that contained an old female and young female fly. Even in total darkness, the male flies were more attracted to the young females and attempted to mate with them far more often. Researchers were excited about the possibility that this attraction phenomenon might exist in other species.
$300,000 - How to Live in Another Galaxy
With money from the Department of Defense, the 100-Year Starship organization held a symposium to discuss how to design a spaceship that could travel to another solar system by the end of this century. They concluded that the craft would likely be powered by a "warp bubble," but that it would take tens of billions of dollars to produce. They also recognized that interstellar travel might take thousands of years, creating an obvious problem for humans who typically live less than a hundred years. That would necessitate faster spaceships or manipulation of the time continuum.
Also discussed were the clothing one would wear and how to govern, feed, entertain and care for humans living more than 6 trillion miles away. This symposium could easily be mistaken for a Star Trek Convention, since television series stars Nichelle Nichols and Levar Burton both made special appearances.
$70 million - When Money Costs More Than It's Worth
This year, the cost of producing one penny is 2.4 cents. Rising commodity and production costs will drive the cost of producing 5 billion pennies to about $120 million. It doesn't end there. A nickel now costs more than a dime to produce, with a production cost of 11 cents. The Treasury Department takes an immediate loss of over 50% when it sells these coins to the Federal Reserve.
Increasing demand for copper and zinc has forced Treasury secretary Geithner to propose the use of steel alloy to replace the more expensive metals. This change requires congressional approval, but it doesn't address the diminishing use of the penny due to decades of inflation. Perhaps the government should consider abolishing the penny altogether.
The Bottom Line
With a downgraded credit rating and a ballooning debt, can U.S. taxpayers afford to pay for wasteful spending like this? While politicians continue to publicly voice their outrage over government waste, behind the scenes they continue to angle for more lucrative earmarks for their home districts.
To balance the budget, the first priority should be to eliminate unnecessary spending. This list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to frivolous spending that fails to further any national priorities.