Your Tax Dollars Are Hard At Work

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I have been holding this discussion on the back burning for a few months now, but it is time the see how fucked up the spending of the United States Government actually is and how it would appear there is no stopping the irrational spending anytime in the near future. I’m fairly confident when I say I do not think I will see reductions in idiotic spending in my lifetime. For decades, people have heard tales of the crazy government-funded scientific research that our tax dollars get spent on. Seemingly insane studies are often conducted in these research situations and, to the naked eye, they seem like useless wastes of money. But just how useless are these crazy research situations? While a study may look silly or useless on the surface, it’s always a good idea to take a further look at the impacts of the study and its results. In our ever-changing social, physical and technological world, there is so much left to explore that it might just take a few seemingly unorthodox measures to get us to a place of understanding. Listed below (in red) are four (4) of (out of 100,000+) my personal favorites for idiotic government funded research paid for by my tax dollars. Information was grabbed from a few lists that show only partial lists with an average assumed cost of $2,000,000,000,000 and were continuously funded during the recent government shutdown.

  • How long can a shrimp run on a treadmill?
    Really? Do we need to spend $3 million just to watch shrimps run on a treadmill? Actually, yes, if we want to begin to understand the effects of bacteria on mobility, according to National Science Foundation spokeswoman Maria Zacharias. The National Science Foundation’s page on the study explains that these tests help us better understand the effects of pollution and a crustacean’s natural immune defense system have on the survival of the species. Since the survival of the species can not only affect the environment but also the fishing and seafood industry, the study of a shrimp’s ability to run away from predators and survive when its health is compromised by human influence through pollution, is pretty important.
  • Does playing FarmVille on Facebook help people to make friends and keep them?
    FarmVille is a simulation game on Facebook that allows users to create a virtual farm, grow and harvest crops, trade and exchange seeds with other farmers. At first glance it seems ludicrous that $315,000 would be spent on attempting to study the real social aspects of an online game, but is it really? With more and more time being spent online with friends, the impact of these activities on our health, happiness and attitudes is an important concept to explore. This study happened to show that relationships that would otherwise have been “left stale” were actually built up through the game. Imagine how this information can transform the lives of people with physical and mental disabilities preventing them from taking part in real-life interaction.
  • How do you ride a bike?
    According to the Senator’s report, $300,000 was spent in 2009 helping scientists study how humans ride bicycles. Since the velocipede has been around in many forms for well over 100 years, you might think this a completely useless study. But, how often has the design of the bicycle changed over the course of that 150 or so years? The NSF report on the study notes that spending the time to study how humans ride and handle bicycles will give designers insight into ways they may improve bicycle design. This could result in bicycles that are more comfortable, encouraging increased usage, and more accessible, allowing a wider variety of individuals (including those with certain physical disabilities) the ability to utilize this healthier form of transportation. The future impact this could have on life spans, health and healthcare costs as more and more people are able to ride and get the benefits of exercise from improved bicycle engineering, can have a powerful affect on many industries and socio-economic classes.
  • Can Twitter predict the stock market?
    Twitter, an online social networking and micro blogging site allowing users to converse in 140 character blocks, has almost become a household name. Its trending topics are discussed on CNN and famous actors like Ashton Kutcher have been known to use the site to reach out to fans and spread the word about upcoming projects and events. Recently, the air maneuvers that were part of the attack which resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden were narrated live on the Twitter account of an individual who had no idea what he was witnessing. Since market movement is all about public perception of economic and news events, it makes sense then that the tweets of this vast network of relatively connected individuals might give some insight into market movement. The NSF spent $25,000 to find that in fact, “measuring the collective public mood by analyzing millions of tweets can predict the rise and fall of the stock market up to a week in advance with up to 90% accuracy.” It’s hard to argue the value in that statement.

But the money isn’t just thrown at stupid research, they spread your wealth everywhere as if it were fertilizer to promote and stimulate growth in areas which are otherwise meant to remain barren. If you want to get paid for doing something stupid, just turn to the U.S. government.  The U.S. government is paying researchers to play video games, it is paying researchers to study the effects of cocaine on Japanese quail and it has spent millions of dollars to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly.  The amount of money that the government wastes is absolutely horrifying.  Do you remember all of that political wrangling over the debt ceiling deal?  Do you remember how our politicians told us that there were cutting spending as much as they possibly could?  Well, it was all a giant lie.  As you will see below, the U.S. government is spending money on some of the most stupid things imaginable.  What makes all of this even worse is that we are going into enormous amounts of debt in order to pay for all of this.  We are borrowing billions of dollars a day in order to pay for stupid stuff that no government on earth should ever be paying for.  Trust me, you are going to find it hard to believe some of the stuff in this list.  It is almost inconceivable what our politicians are doing with our tax dollars. This list isn’t in a particular order of importance, it is, however, a cross-section of how the U.S. Government pisses my money facing into the wind. Follow the imbedded links to the entire event of spending our money.

  1. The U.S. government is spent $750,000 on a new soccer field for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.
  2.  The Obama administration plans to spend between 16 and 20 million dollars helping students from Indonesia get master’s degrees.
  3.  If you can believe it, the U.S. government has spent $175,587 “to determine if cocaine makes Japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior”.
  4.  The U.S. government spent $200,000 on “a tattoo removal program” in Mission Hills, California.
  5.  The federal government has shelled out $3 million to researchers at the University of California at Irvine to fund their research on video games such as World of Warcraft.  Wouldn’t we all love to have a “research job” like that?
  6. Fannie Mae is about to ask the federal government for another $4.6 billion bailout, and it will almost certainly get it.
  7. The U.S. Department of Agriculture once gave researchers at the University of New Hampshire $700,000 to study methane gas emissions from dairy cows.
  8. According to USA Today, 13 different government agencies “fund 209 different science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs — and 173 of those programs overlap with at least one other program.”
  9. A total of $615,000 was given to the University of California at Santa Cruz to digitize photos, T-shirts and concert tickets belonging to the Grateful Dead.
  10. China lends us more money than any other foreign nation, but that didn’t stop our government from spending 17.8 million dollars on social and environmental programs for China.
  11. The U.S. government once spent 2.6 million dollars to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly.
  12. One professor at Stanford University was given $239,100 to study how Americans use the Internet to find love.
  13. The U.S. Postal Service spent $13,500 on a single dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
  14. The National Science Foundation once spent $216,000 to study whether or not politicians “gain or lose support by taking ambiguous positions”.
  15. A total of $1.8 million was spent on a “museum of neon signs” in Las Vegas, Nevada.
  16. The federal government spends 25 billion dollars a year maintaining federal buildings that are either unused or totally vacant.
  17. U.S. farmers are given a total of $2 billion each year for not farming their land.
  18. The U.S. government handed one Tennessee library $5,000 for the purpose of hosting a series of video game parties.
  19. One professor at Dartmouth University was given $137,530 to create a “recession-themed” video game entitled “Layoff”.
  20. According to the Heritage Foundation, the U.S. military spent “$998,798 shipping two 19-cent washers from South Carolina to Texas and $293,451 sending an 89-cent washer from South Carolina to Florida”.
  21. The U.S. Department of Agriculture once shelled out $30,000 to a group of farmers to develop a tourist-friendly database of farms that host guests for overnight “haycations”.
  22. The National Institutes of Health paid researchers $400,000 to find out why gay men in Argentina engage in risky sexual behavior when they are drunk.
  23. The National Institutes of Health also once spent $442,340 to study the behavior of male prostitutes in Vietnam.
  24. The National Institutes of Health loves to spend our tax money on really bizarre things.  The NIH once spent $800,000 in “stimulus funds” to study the impact of a “genital-washing program” on men in South Africa.
  25. The U.S. government spent $100,000 on a “Celebrity Chef Fruit Promotion Road Show in Indonesia”.

Any politician, government employee, or any other ass-hat that claims that there is not a lot of irrisponsible spending that can be cut out of the federal budget is lying to you. But this shouldn’t alarm the American public since we already know that the U.S. Government thinks the people of the United States of America or too stupid to see through all the deceit. The U.S. Government has accumulated the biggest debt in the history of the world and they are adding to it at a rate of about 150 million dollars an hour. Our politicians strut around as if they are the smartest and wisest leaders in the history of the world, but the truth is that someday people will look back in horror at the decline of our once great society. The federal government needs to stop spending so much money on stupid things and needs to stop pushing our national debt to nightmarish new levels. Unfortunately, the corruption in Washington D.C. is so deep and so pervasive that it is going to be almost impossible to turn it around.

Need more to digest? In 2012 a top 10 list of ways the U.S. Government wastes money, here is a regurgitation of that insightful list of waste.

  • 1. There’s an app for that 
    So many wasteful programs, I hardly know where to begin! How about with $100,000 in prizes offered by the Department of Energy to develop an energy app that would help users track their energy usage in their home. It’s a novel idea as our energy resources are finite and the DOE has pushed both consumers and businesses to utilize the available green energy subsidies available to them. However, there’s just one slight problem with the DOE contest: Apps that do this already exist — at least five of them to be exact. Perhaps someone should invest in an app that tracks apps for the DOE?
  • 2. Alms for the rich 
    Just because you made $66 billion in net revenue doesn’t mean you won’t take a handout when one is offered… right PepsiCo.  (NYSE: PEP  ) ? According to Coburn’s report, Pepsi and Theo Muller Group are teaming up to open a yogurt manufacturing facility at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in New York. Unable to use the supplied municipal water in the yogurt-making process, or the $4.2 billion in cash on its balance sheet, Pepsi gladly accepted slightly more than $1.3 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce to build a new aquifer-direct water supply system, a new road leading to the plant, and to improve the parks’ wastewater capacity.
  • 3. RoboSquirrel 
    Researchers at San Diego State University and the University of California Davis spent a portion of a $325,000 National Science Foundation grant to construct a robot squirrel to answer the question of why rattlesnakes rarely attack squirrels that wag their tails. Using a taxidermied squirrel that is housed with other squirrels so as to smell realistic, and coupled with heating wires in its tail and body, researches marched RoboSquirrel into the lion’s den, or should I say snakes’ garden, and determined that a heated and wagging tail does indeed play into their defense mechanism. According to researchers, RoboSquirrel 2.0 and RoboKangaroo are in the works. As for me, I can’t wait for RobotChicken!
  • 4. From arts and crafts to World of Warcraft 
    For those of you that thought your grandparents spent the entire day quilting or quietly reading, think again. A research team in North Carolina used $1.2 million from a National Science Foundation grant to study 39 individuals, aged 60 to 77, to see how their cognitive function responded after playing Activision Blizzard‘s  (Nasdaq: ATVI  World of Warcraft for two hours every day for two straight weeks. The results showed no improvement for those who tested with high levels of cognitive function prior to the test, however some improvement was noted for those who tested with lower cognitive function. I guess we can tell Eli Lilly  (NYSE: LLY  )  to move over as we no longer will be needing solanezumab or any of its other Alzheimer’s treatments for further testing as long as we have World of Warcraft.
  • 5. Red planet pâté  
    Don’t let the small fact that NASA has absolutely no manned fleet at the moment stop you from thinking that it isn’t actively spending money on potentially fruitless programs. Take for instance the nearly $1 million spent annually on developing a so-called “Mars menu.” In order to stave off food monotony, researchers spend roughly $1 million each year to have test subjects simulate space conditions and rate the food being tested based on taste, their overall health, and the mood it puts them in. The only problem is that the first manned mission to Mars is likely two decades away at the earliest.
  • 6. Because I’m the wiz! 
    Michigan State Police, in an effort to deter drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel of a car, apportioned $10,000 in federal funds to purchase 400 talking urinal cakes from a Maryland-based company called Wizmark. The urinal cakes, when activated by a motion sensor, would encourage users at local bars to consider getting a cab if intoxicated and, of course, remind them to wash their hands! As Sen. Coburn’s report points out, for around $100 on Amazon.com  (Nasdaq: AMZN  )  Michigan State Police could have acquired breathalyzers that they could have instead passed out to local bar owners instead of the urinal cakes. When will people learn that everything is cheaper on Amazon?
  • 7. Shoot first and ask questions later 
    The Missile Defense Agency really, really likes to build things. According to Waste Book, the MDA has not once, but twice, begun the build-out of interceptor missiles without first finishing the research and testing that should have been completed prior to their construction. Not surprisingly, delays, failures, and system upgrades were needed to both generations of missiles, which have cost taxpayers at least $1 billion and caused costs on the project to soar fourfold.
  • 8. Miniature golf yields a maximum confidence boost 
    Not to be outdone by RoboSquirrel, researchers at Purdue University in Indiana used part of a $350,000 National Science Foundation grant to examine the benefit golfers might gain if they used their imagination better. Researchers placed 36 participants in front of two different-sized golf holes and used optical illusions to make them appear bigger or smaller than they actually were. The findings showed that those who putted toward the smaller hole but perceived it to be bigger were more successful than those who perceived it to be smaller than its actual size.
  • 9. Ship mates? 
    It’s a great thing that our Navy is manned by some fantastic men and women overseas, because its leaders in Washington aren’t making it easy for future generations. In late 2010, the U.S. Navy split what could amount to $37 billion in contracts to build 55 new littoral (near-shore) combat ships between two companies, Lockheed Martin  (NYSE: LMT  )  and Austal USA. While the thinking here is that two companies could build these ships twice as fast, they somehow failed to grasp that the defense systems, design, and software used on each ship would be different; meaning that crewmembers can’t simply be transferred from one ship to another without being retrained. This “boo-boo” is slated to cost taxpayers a minimum of $148 million.
  • 10. What’s the buzz about? 
    Let’s end on a strong note, like a $939,771 experiment funded by the National Institutes of Health in Michigan and Texas that tested fruit flies to discover that male fruit flies are more attracted to younger female fruit flies than older ones. According to researchers, a hormone that female fruit flies produce wanes over time, which makes male fruit flies less attracted to them despite researchers’ countless efforts to test this theory even in the dark. The scary news is that this testing may soon be expanded beyond just fruit flies.

So, there y’all go. And, I only scratched the surface here. Makes me want to look into other public information for other countries in the world. I wonder where the United States ranks in wasting taxpayer money. It’s easy to find defense budget spending but I am wondering if there is a comparative list globally on frivelless spending. For fun, visit U,S, Debt Clock to see how out of control the pending is.

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U.S. Government Shut Down

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I know everyone out there has been hearing about the shutdown and here is a look at how a shutdown will work, which parts of the government will close, and which parts of the economy might be affected. So, lets look at what services are going to be affected by the government shutdown as of 01 October 2013. This is only a partial list with short descriptions of each area affected. If you would like more information then I highly recommend doing an internet search or contact your Congressman because asking me won’t yield any more information beyond what you read here. I just thought I would share the information I have read and found with all of you. This is, of course, only about 10% of the information one can find and there is much more “commentary” to be sought out and read. Now that I have went out and read a multitude of information I can tell y’all that I’m real disappointed in our Government and the games they play. Everything the Government does affects you and I at some level or another. Based on that alone it makes me wonder why the American people are treated like dirt when the Government can’t play well together. I hold no political party near and dear to my heart and don’t write this post with a slant towards or away from any particular side. I write this post as an American citizen, a taxpayer, and a father. My concerns go beyond either side wanting to take their toys and go home, my concerns are here because stupid shit like this make us as a country vulnerable and really makes us look stupid in the world’s eye. I know what the world thinks of the United States of America means very little to most people, but I still care.

Federal Employees

  • About 800,000 federal employees are not furloughed and will not be paid. Already hit hard by several unpaid furlough days caused by sequestration this year some workers have begun lobbying to receive back pay in the event of a shutdown. While Congress agreed to retroactively pay them during previous shutdowns, the fractured nature of this Congress makes such a step unlikely.

U.S. Military

  • The military’s 1.4 million active-duty personnel will stay on duty, but their paychecks initially faced a threat of delay. Amid the division, the House passed – and Obama signed – a bill to ensure their checks would still be delivered on time. “You and your families deserve better than the dysfunction we’re seeing in Congress,” Obama said.
  • About half of the Defense Department’s civilian employees are furloughed.

Public Health

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are facing a reduced ability to detect and investigate disease outbreaks. The annual influenza program – the one that tracks the flu and helps people get flu shots – has been shut down. The CDC has also stopped offering its usual assistance to state and local authorities, who rely on the agency for help in tracking unusual outbreaks.
  • The National Institutes of Health will continue to treat patients at its hospital center, but no new clinical trials will begin.

Animals

  • None of our live animal cams will broadcast during the shutdown. The cams require federal resources, primarily staff, to run and broadcast. — National Zoo (October 1, 2013)
  • The animals at the National Zoo are being cared for, but the zoo, like all Smithsonian museums, is closed to the public. The live animal cams have been shut down. That’s right, Congress’ inability to reach a deal means no more panda cam, America.

Science

  • NASA will furlough almost all of its employees, though it will continue to keep workers at Mission Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space Station, where two Americans and four others are deployed. The National Weather Service will keep forecasting weather and issuing warnings, and the National Hurricane Center will continue to track storms.

Travel

  • Federal air traffic controllers will remain on the job and airport screeners will keep funneling passengers through security checkpoints, though some airports have warned of delays at security. Federal inspectors will continue enforcing safety rules.
  • The State Department will continue processing foreign applications for visas and US applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas will continue to provide services to American citizens.

Courts

  • Federal courts will continue operating normally for about 10 business days after the start of a shutdown, roughly until the middle of October. If the shutdown continues, the judiciary would have to begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential. But cases will continue to be heard.
  • The US supreme court is scheduled to begin its new term on October 7. In previous government shutdowns, it continued to operate as normal.

Mail

  • Deliveries will continue as usual because the US Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. It relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running.

District of Columbia

  • The city, which does not have autonomy over its own budget, briefly flirted with the idea of using the potential shutdown to make a stand when mayor Vince Gray moved to designate all city employees “essential,” thereby avoiding the cuts in services like libraries that were expected. Some District politicians were willing to go so far as to get arrested over the show of defiance, but on Friday the city’s lawyers approved using a $144m contingency fund to make up the difference when the federal government funds dry up.
  • Weddings, however, are on hold in the city.

Homeland Security

  • The majority of the Department of Homeland Security’s employees will stay on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country’s borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers. US Citizenship and Immigration Services employees will continue to process green card applications.

Veteran’s Services

  • Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue because lawmakers approve money one year in advance for the VA’s health programs. Veterans will still be able to visit hospitals for inpatient care, get mental health counseling at vet centers or get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics. Operators will still staff the crisis hotline and claims workers will still process payments to cover disability and pension benefits.
  • But those veterans appealing the denial of disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will have to wait longer for a decision because the board will not issue any decisions during a shutdown.
  • Some key benefits will continue and the VA hospitals will remained open. But many services will be disrupted. The Veterans Benefits Administration will be unable to process education and rehabilitation benefits. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals will be unable to hold hearings.
  • What’s more, if the shutdown lasts for more than two or three weeks, the Department of Veterans Affairs has said that it may not have enough money to pay disability claims and pension payments. That could affect some 3.6 million veterans.

Housing

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development will not be able to provide local housing authorities with additional money for housing vouchers. The nation’s 3,300 public housing authorities will also stop receiving payments, although most of these agencies have enough cash on hand to provide rental assistance through the end of October.

Immigration

  • The Department of Homeland Security will no longer operate its E-Verify program, which means that businesses will not be able to check on the legal immigration status of prospective employees during the shutdown.

Law Enforcement

  • Although agencies like the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency will continue their operations, the Justice Department will suspend many civil cases for as long as the government is shut down.

Parks & Museums

  • The National Park Service will close more than 400 national parks and museums, including Yosemite National Park in California, Alcatraz in San Francisco, and the Statue of Liberty in New York. The last time this happened during the 1995-96 shutdown, some 7 million visitors were turned away. (One big exception was the south rim of the Grand Canyon, which stayed open only because Arizona agreed to pick up the tab.)

Regulatory Agencies

  • The Environmental Protection Agency will close down almost entirely during a shutdown, save for operations around Superfund sites. Many of the Labor Department’s regulatory offices will close, including the Wage and Hour Division and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (The Mine Safety and Health Administration will, however, stay open.)

Financial Regulators

  • The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees the vast U.S. derivatives market, will largely shut down. A few financial regulators, however, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, will remain open.

Social Security

  • The Social Security Administration will retain enough staff to make sure the checks keep going out. But the agency won’t have enough employees to do things like help recipients replace their benefit cards or schedule new hearings for disability cases.

Visas & Passports

  • The State Department says it will keep most passport agencies and consular operations open so long as it has the funds to do so, although some activities might be interrupted. (For instance, “if a passport agency is located in a government building affected by a lapse in appropriations, the facility may become unsupported.”)

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Parts of the information gathered and re-used here today came from The Guardian and was used without their permission. Other parts of information were gathered and re-used today here from the Washington Post and was used without their permission. The pictures were borrowed from the internet using a Google search. As far as everything else, well, I guess that all belongs to yours truly.