Los Angeles Is Sitting on $1B for Water Storage
April 10, 2023
As the West faces extended droughts and water shortages, Los Angeles officials thought they would get ahead of the curve by investing about $1 billion into water storage solutions. Now, four years later, the droughts are intensifying while that money sits unspent, according to the according to The New York Times.
The Times reports that California used to have a state-of-the-art flood control system, with dams and channels to control flooding from heavy storms. However, more frequent and intense droughts are creating a greater demand for stored water, but the systems are not designed to hold back much water, meaning tens of billions of gallons are flowing back into the Pacific Ocean.
To remedy this, LA County began collecting money to increase the storage capacity of their flood control systems. Over four years, it has collected around $1 billion, but has yet to spend most of it.
Regarding the slow pace of expenditures and lack of plans, the Times writes that, “The era of great dam building passed long ago, owing largely to the multifronted environmental wars California is fighting and the county has been slow to adopt alternatives.”
Now, bureaucrats are proposing spending $300 million per year on hundreds of small water capture projects that, in 30 to 50 years, could hold as much water as just building a new mountain dam. Experts are already warning, however, that this “greener” approach “will be expensive and may deliver less than expected,” despite the project not even starting yet.
LA County could use its taxpayers’ money to improve the quality of life of its citizens, but thanks to a strong environmental lobby and a slow-moving bureaucracy, residents are left with less money and less water.
National Science Foundation Spent $5.7M to Combat Disinformation
April 11, 2023
After this column reported that the State Department was funding nonprofits that target “disinformation” and that have tried to censor American news outlets, we now know that the National Science Foundation has also funded $5.7 million in grants to target disinformation about elections and Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy.
Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar and law professor at George Washington University, uncovered the two NSF grants from 2021 and 2022.
The first, from 2021 was worth $750,000 and was awarded to the University of Wisconsin system to understand and address, “skepticism regarding the integrity of U.S. elections and hesitancy related to COVID-19 vaccines” by developing a “three-step method to identify, test, and correct real-world instances of these forms of online misinformation.”
Then, in 2022, those same researchers at the University of Wisconsin system received a raise. This new grant was worth $5 million. This time the purpose was for a special project called “Course Correct — Precision Guidance Against Misinformation” that would be “a flexible and dynamic digital dashboard that will help end users such as journalists to (1) identify trending misinformation networks on social media platforms … (2) strategically correct misinformation … (3) test the effectiveness of corrections in real time.”
Of course, what constitutes disinformation or skepticism is subjective, and models like this pose serious threats to free speech and free press. The idea that the U.S. government would directly fund this project is chilling, especially from a scientific agency that should understand the value of open debate and disagreement to get to the truth.
U.S. Fiscal Path “Unsustainable” with $39T in Liabilities
April 12, 2023
The U.S. holds $39 trillion in liabilities while only having $4.9 trillion in assets, leading the Department of the Treasury to say "the current fiscal path is unsustainable,” according to a recent report.
The extensive report contains detailed financial information on the state of U.S. finances. There is a section titled “An Unsustainable Fiscal Path,” that explains that “a sustainable fiscal policy is defined as one where the ratio of debt held by the public to GDP (the debt-to-GDP ratio) is stable or declining over the long term.”
The U.S. has a rapidly-increasing debt-to-GDP ratio, along with ballooning mandatory spending on programs like Medicare and Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance, driving up costs without substantial increases in revenue. These programs are projected to be depleted by 2028 and 2035, respectively.
On the balance sheet, the report shows the U.S. has assets of $4.9 trillion, which include cash, monetary assets, inventory and property, and loans receivable. On the liabilities side, however, the U.S. has $39 trillion in liabilities, which include $24.3 trillion worth of federal debt and interest payable, $12.8 trillion in federal employee and veteran benefits payable, and $1.8 trillion in other liabilities.
This is only one of many measures that show how much financial trouble the U.S. is in, and more people from both sides of the aisle are beginning to issue dire warnings that our current spending habits need to drastically change.
Throwback Thursday: Air Force Went All In on Souvenir Playing Cards
April 13, 2023
In 1987, the U.S. Air Force, likely at the direction of the Executive Office of the President, spent $59,000 – over $156,000 in 2023 dollars – on decks of playing cards that were given away as souvenirs on Air Force Two, the vice president’s plane.
Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, awarded the Air Force his Golden Fleece Award for this silly waste of taxpayers’ dollars.
According to Proxmire, the vice president and his staff were allowed to distribute these fancy playing cards, decked out with the Vice Presidential Seal, to guests on official flights. This practice had been going on for some time, with expenditures for cards dating back 20 years, and costing $59,000 since it started.
These commemorative keepsakes were, “bronzed with the current Vice Presidential Seal, black on gold on the back of all cards, with 'Welcome Aboard Air Force Two' printed in gold on the back of all cards… Jokers to include images of Capitol Building on face, deck in light blue velour case …Vice Presidential seal in gold,” according to a description from the Air Force’s bid request.
These decks cost about $10,000 per year, and that doesn’t include the other fancy souvenirs given away on both Air Force One and Air Force Two.
Frivolous luxury souvenirs for privileged guests shouldn’t be financed on the backs of taxpayers. If the president and vice president want to provide these trinkets for their guests, they could always buy them with their own salary.
As Proxmire humorously notes, “I’ve seen a lot of card tricks, but this one beats them all. This is one case where somebody needs to play a trump card for the taxpayers.”
Florida Mayor Resigns Over $250M Budget Shortfall
April 14, 2023
Mayor Frank Hibbard of Clearwater, Florida, resigned his position during a budget meeting after a series of reckless spending proposals that were set to leave Clearwater with over a $250 million budget shortfall, according to Fox News.
This includes spending $90 million to construct a new city hall and municipal building — more than double the initial price tag of $40 million.
Hibbard, a full-time financial advisor and wealth manager, cautioned his colleagues at a recent budget meeting that, “I'm concerned where the city is going because this is simple math and we're not doing very well on the test.” After his emphatic warning, he resigned.
Despite the city being in an already precarious financial position with a projected budget shortfall of about $250 million, city council members continued to vote for more spending.
The now-former-mayor was the only one on the council to vote against the construction project, with every other council member voting to increase the deficit by another $90 million.
Members of the Clearwater City Council have dismissed his concerns, with a council member telling Fox, the budget meeting Hibbard stormed out of was allegedly “to give direction to staff about budget priorities,” and not a formal vote to allocate funds.
Either way, every council member agreed to spend $90 million, which means the proposal will almost certainly pass when it comes to a vote.
Hibbard leaves localities and towns with wise words of warning: “Local government and government in general needs to be very careful with their resources and also be more creative in the way we solve problems.”
Governments everywhere should heed his advice.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.