Between 1975 and 1988, Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Sen. William Proxmire bestowed 168 “Golden Fleece” Awards for the most striking examples of federal waste and nonsensical spending.
The Federal Aviation Administration won Proxmire’s award in 1975 for spending $57,800 ($289,209 inflation adjusted) to study the measurements of 432 airline stewardesses, including the “distance from knee to knee while sitting” and measuring the “length of the buttocks.”
In 1978, the National Institute of Mental Health was showcased for its $97,000 ($400,489 inflation adjusted) study on the activities inside a Peruvian brothel, where the researchers said repeated visits were made in the interests of accuracy.
While Proxmire’s awards should have served as a warning of the excesses and frivolities of the administrative state, federal waste of taxpayer money has only become more egregious.
For example: The Pentagon admitted to paying $1,200 for a single coffee cup. Cornell University received a $1 million federal grant for a study titled, “Where It Hurts The Most To Be Stung By A Bee.” NASA gave a $1 million grant to “prepare the nation’s religions for the discovery of extraterrestrial life.”
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.comhave compiled thousands of these cases. Some recent examples include:
In 2020, up to 44 million Americans lost their jobs when politicians shut down the economy to “flatten the curve.” Congress provided up to $860 billion in unemployment relief. ID.me, a service that tries to prevent unemployment fraud, says criminals, con artists and crime syndicates may have stolen up to $400 billion through fraudulent claims.
Then, there’s the aid intended for struggling mom and pop businesses that ended up in the hands of the country’s richest people and institutions.
Hollywood elites received millions of dollars in first-round coronavirus relief funding through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute received $3 million. Kanye West’s sneaker company got $2.4 million, and two private companies owned by Francis Ford Coppola received a total of $8.5 million.
The eight Ivy League colleges received $168 million in COVID-19 aid, on top of nearly $42 billion in taxpayer subsidies, special tax breaks and direct federal payments over a recent six-year period. The Ivies have a collective $144 billion endowment.
And here is “Hamilton” — the award-winning mega-hit that grossed $1 billion worldwide. “Hamilton” applied for $50 million in federal grants to cover the operations of shuttered venues — and received $30 million so far.
But it wasn’t just America’s rich that gamed the system, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) got some too. The list included 125 major companies in the defense, aerospace, automotive and pharmaceutical industries that are based in America but owned or invested in by the CCP. The firms received up to $419 million in first-round PPP funding.
The big-time coronavirus bucks didn’t stop in 2020. In March 2021, Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which included $350 billion to bailouts the states and 30,000 local governments. We found that the top 50 richest places in America received$100 million in congressional bailouts.
Atherton, California, the wealthiest city in America with an average household income of $525,000, received $1.3 million, Scarsdale, New York — the richest place on the East Coast — was “subsidized” for $2 million.
Right here in Illinois, five rich communities located on the North Shore received $12.1 million in “rescue” act funding including Glencoe ($1.1 million), Winnetka ($1.5 million), Lake Forest ($2.4 million), Wilmette ($3.3 million) and Highland Park ($3.6 million).
And there was plenty of non-coronavirus related extravagances as well this year. The additional federal holiday of Juneteenth cost taxpayers nearly an extra $1 billion in federal employee paid time off (PTO). The average federal bureaucrat now receives 44 days of PTO each year: 11 holidays, 13 sick days and 20 vacation days — nearly nine weeks. Is this France?
The money train is not stopping. The Biden administration has proposed $6 trillion in government spending for fiscal year 2022.
And don’t count on many of the newly elected Republican members of Congress to try slowing it down. After running as fiscal conservatives, 23 freshmen voted to join Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposal to bring back earmarks — pet projects dished by leadership to legally bribe members for votes.
Pelosi just stuffed $370 million in earmarks for those Republican freshmen inside the new infrastructure bill. It’s another example of why the late U.S. Sen. Dr. Tom Coburn described earmarks as the “currency of corruption in Congress.”
Under the last three administrations, our national debt exploded from $5.8 trillion at the beginning of the Bush administration to $19.9 trillion at the end of the Obama administration and then $28 trillion at the end of the Trump administration. More than a shocking quadruple since 2001.
If history is any guide, our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com will have a target-rich environment to shine a white-hot spotlight on waste, fraud, corruption and taxpayer abuse.
Adam Andrzejewski is the CEO/Founder of OpenTheBooks.com.