It turns out September, not April, may be federal taxpayers’ worst nightmare.
The end of the government’s fiscal year usually brings an orgy of spending as agencies look at their budgets, see extra cash lying around, and figure they’d better use it all up or risk getting cut in the future.
The "use it or lose it" mentality explains why the Defense Department shelled out $9,241 on a Wexford leather chair, $2.3 million on crab and another $2.3 million on lobster tails in September, according to a study released Thursday by OpenTheBooks.
All told, taxpayers shelled out $97 billion on contracts in September — including a staggering $53 billion in the final week, or more than the entire month of August.
"In the final month of the fiscal year, federal agencies scramble to spend what’s left in their annual budget; agencies worry spending less than their budget allows might prompt Congress to appropriate less money in the next fiscal year," the report said. "To avoid this, federal agencies choose to embark on an annual shopping spree rather than admit they can operate on less."
OpenTheBooks provided The Washington Times with an advance copy of the report, which has just been made public.
As might be expected, the Defense Department was the biggest spender, and the most money went to big-ticket necessities like fixed-wing aircraft.
But there were also the lobster tail and crab, $163,636 spent on paint brushes and $7.6 million on workout equipment — including ski equipment - for "adults and junior" - that was shipped to Misawa Air Base in Japan.
The lobster tail purchases in September were a bit more than 10 percent of what the federal government spent the entire year, suggesting only a slightly elevated rate of spending on that delicacy.
But more than a third of the $721,661 agencies spent on pianos came in September.
And while taxpayers bought $1.6 million worth of golf carts in fiscal year 2018, 42 percent of that was spent in the last four weeks. The same with the government’s bill for china tableware, OpenTheBooks’ founder and CEO Adam Andrzejewski said
The data shows the final-month binge is getting worse. Last year’s $97 billion marks a 16 percent increase from 2017, and a 39 percent increase from 2015.
"As the national debt surpasses $22 trillion, it’s time to end Washington’s use-it-or-lose-it spending culture," Mr. Andrzejewski said. "Ending this wasteful phenomenon would go a long way toward generating big savings and winning the public’s trust."
No aspect of government seemed immune from the urge to binge.
President Trump’s executive office blew through $26.8 million, the report found — up from $24.9 million in 2017.
As the large Defense Department share of spending indicates, a lot of the contract spending was with companies noted for their expertise in weapons and intelligence technology.
The report showed Lockheed Martin was the single largest recipient of cash in the final month, raking in $8.7 billion. It was followed by Boeing ($5.1 billion), Raytheon ($3.3 billion) while Northrup Grumman was paid $1.7 billion that month, figures showed.
Many of the smaller purchases might have raised taxpayers’ eyebrows.
For example, federal agencies spent $490.6 million on furniture in the month, including the Defense Department’s $9,341 Wexford chair.
Taxpayers also splurged on one federal agency’s $11,800 tournament level foosball table, records showed.