Real Clear Policy: #WasteOfTheDay Week 14 67_WOTD_week_14

May 21, 2021 10:28 AM





Convicted Former Congressman Still Draws Estimated $1 Million Federal Lifetime Pension

May 17, 2021


After being sentenced to 10 years in prison for a 23-count conviction for racketeering, fraud and other corruption charges, disgraced former Congressman Chaka Fattah was released from prison last July after about one year.

But the icing on this crooked cake is that Fattah is collecting a taxpayer-funded pension. The estimated pension is at least $55,000 per year. Fattah is only 64 years old, so his estimated lifetime pension is $1 million.

The reason we must take an educated guess? Congressional pensions are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Fattah, a Democrat formerly representing Pennsylvania’s second congressional district, was found guilty in June 2016.

But a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in McDonnell v. United States a few days later changed the legal definition of bribery to exclude "pay for access” and Fattah appealed his conviction, placing his sentencing on hold.

He was sentenced on Dec. 12, 2016 to 10 years in prison and he reported to Federal Correctional Institution, McKean on Jan. 25, 2017.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia remanded for new sentencing and Fattah was again sentenced to 10 years on July 12, 2019.

So why is he out of prison?

It is unclear but the Federal Bureau of Prisons database shows he is in a residential reentry center in Philadelphia. And Fattah’s Twitter account shows that he launched a business while still “serving” his sentence, with his bio saying he’s President/CEO of Fattah Neuroscience Global Advisors - Catalysts in Uplifting Brain Research.

That’s as he continues to collect his pension, as no member of Congress has ever been stripped of their pension.

After Congress tightened ethics laws, convicted members of Congress were supposed to lose federal pensions. However, the law was riddled with loopholes, leaving convicted felons to collect taxpayer-funded pensions.



Unpaid Federal Student Loans Top $435 Billion

May 18, 2021


As President Joe Biden considers forgiving $10,000 in student debt per borrower and ending tuition for many students at public colleges, it is worth noting that college graduates already have not paid $435 billion back to the federal government.

That’s right, of the government’s $1.4 trillion student loan portfolio, almost one-third is unpaid.

That $435 billion is compared to the $535 billion that private lenders lost on subprime mortgages during the 2008 financial crisis.

The figure comes from FI Consulting, hired by the Department of Education, and whose work was checked by accounting firm Deloitte, and is a total of losses over the life of the loans in the federal government’s portfolio.

People in income-based repayment programs pay the loans based on how much they earn, and the government forgives loans that haven’t been paid back after 10, 20 or 25 years.

The findings estimated that on average, borrowers in income-driven repayment plans will repay 51 percent of their loans, while those in other repayment plans will repay 80 percent.

As the debate over implementing free college tuition and canceling student debt continues, policy experts, journalists and the public should keep this $435 billion figure in mind.


Feds Spent $300,000 on Virtual Reality Penguin Study

May 19, 2021


How does $300,000 to study penguins through a virtual reality experience sound?

That is what the University of Wisconsin got from the National Science Foundation in 2020 for Arctic and Antarctic research.

The $300,000 grant provides for a project called “Becoming Joey: Promoting Informal Learning Through Embodiment in an Adélie Penguin Virtual Reality Experience.”

To better understand the polar regions, the virtual reality research is “to encourage and support basic research that is best conducted in or can only be conducted in the Arctic and Antarctic.”

The goal is to understand the natural phenomena in the Antarctic and Arctic regions and their role in global systems, according to the grant summary.

The funding helps pay for postdoctoral fellowships in polar regions research, as well as undergraduate student research, laboratory equipment and for research opportunities for women, minority, and disabled scientists and engineers.

The Adélie penguin is found only on the Antarctic continent and is the smallest of the species of penguins found there.

French Antarctic explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville discovered the birds in 1840 and named them after his wife, Adéle.

The small black-and-white tuxedoed little fellas may be cute but $300,000 for virtual reality? It's for the birds.



NASA Spent $1 Million “To Prepare the Nation’s Religions for The Discovery of Extra-Terrestrial Life”

May 20, 2021


Throwback Thursday! 

Scientists have been discovering planets outside of our own solar system numbering in the thousands and counting, and quite a few are Earth-size exoplanets with a “habitable” zone.

Which makes spending $1.1 million to prepare religious people for the possibility that there is extraterrestrial life out there a good investment, right?

That’s how much money National Aeronautics and Space Administration gave to the Center for Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey in 2015 to research “the societal implications of astrobiology,” the study of life in the universe.

NASA enlisted these theologians to answer the question of how the world’s religions would respond if extraterrestrial life were discovered.

Susan Schneider, an associate professor of philosophy and cognitive science at the University of Connecticut, worked on the study and told the Center in an interview, “The richest issue, for me, involves the question: what would be the impact of discovering life elsewhere in the universe?

To answer this question, we must consider different cases: a situation in which we find microbial life on a planet near us, like Mars, and it is related to life on Earth; a situation where we find microbial life unrelated to life on Earth; and finding alien intelligence.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation asked NASA to revoke the funding, arguing the grant was unconstitutional, violating the separation of state and church by giving government funds to religious research.

Whether a constitutional violation or not, the grant raises the question: should government have funded a study on whether Christians freak out upon finding that little green men exist?

A Catholic priest said it best, “There will just be more to love.” (Could have saved taxpayers $1 million!)


$38.5 Million for the Farmers Market Promotion Program

May 21, 2021


As the weather grows warmer, people will head back to their local farmers market for fresh produce, eggs, cheese, pies and other locally grown and made food. So why not throw $38.5 million at the neighborhood productions?

That is how much the U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving to 100 farmers markets for its Farmers Market Promotion Program.

The awards will be between $50,000 and $750,000 and be used to “develop, coordinate, and expand direct producer-to-consumer markets to help increase access to and availability of locally and regionally produced agricultural products,” according to the grant summary.

The funding will support promoting the farmers markets, which are aimed at getting products directly to consumers without middlemen. The grant includes funding for developing marketing strategies for the farmers markets, roadside stands and similar activities.

It includes adapting to changing technology, promoting new business opportunities and marketing strategies to reduce on-farm food waste, according to the grant description.

The funds can also be used to help cover expenses for getting food safety certification, as well as investing in improvements to food safety practices and equipment.

That all sounds nice — who doesn't love a good fresh piece of fruit?

But $38.5 million is a lot of money to spend on marketing and improving sales for these for-profit businesses who sell their goods at a premium rate.

The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at

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