Revenooer Rants: Coburn highlights wasteful spending
The annual “Wastebook” published by Senator Tom Coburn is always good for a few laughs (drowning out the sorrows of readers who find out how much of their hard earned tax dough the government wastes each year).
A few of our favorites from this year’s edition:
• National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): $125,000 — To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the debut of Superman, considered by many to be the first comic book superhero, the NEH and the National Endowment for the Arts financed the production of a documentary, “Superheroes — A Never-Ending Battle,” a little number that gobbled up not only a $125,000 NEH grant in 2013, but an additional $700,000 granted in 2010!
• Professional Golfers: $10 million — Despite generating over $900 million in revenue, the PGA Tour is a tax exempt organization which costs the government nearly $10 million in Federal revenue annually, according to Coburn.
• Gopher Protection Program: $5.25 million — Not wanting to create deleterious environmental impact from military training, the government awarded $3.5 million to Joint base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., to “preserve, restore and manage critical prairie habitat,” and another $1.75 million to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to help purchase some 21,000 acres of land to provide a home for the “Florida black bear, gopher tortoise, Florida pine snake, Pine Barrens treefrog and eastern diamondback rattlesnake.”
• Old Fashioned Portraits of Administration Officials: $300,000 — Over the last decade, federal agencies have commissioned dozens of oil paintings to immortalize their upper-level management, including purchases for nearly $300,000 in official oil portraits of senior officials, including former Energy Secretary Steven Chu (You do remember him, no?) for $20,000 and Lori B. Garver, former NASA Deputy Administrator for $23,000. Over the course of the last decade, the Pentagon has ordered more portraits than any other agency.
• Budget-busting Meals on Wheels: $60 million — According to AMTRAK’s inspector general, the publicly funded passenger rail service chalked up $72 million in food-service losses alone in FY 2012, albeit an improvement from 2006 when the railroad lost over $105 million from its dining operations!
• Federally Funded Solar Panels: $3.5 million — Seems the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire found it necessary to install $3.5 million of solar panels, funded mostly by the FAA, and even hired a consulting firm to perform a glare “study” and provide recommendations to avoid any glare problem for pilots and air traffic controllers. Not enough “studying,” we guess, as a quarter of the panels are no longer being used. Problems with the new panels were noticed almost immediately by air traffic controllers who claimed that for 45 minutes each day, glare made it difficult to oversee the airport’s runways! Operating at full capacity, the solar panels might save the airport as much as $100,000 annually in electricity costs, and only $2 million over the 25 year life of the project. Good justification for spending $3.5 million, don’t ya think?
CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISER — This article contains general information about various tax matters. You should consult your CPA regarding the implications to your own particular situation. Jeff Quinn is a shareholder in Ashley Quinn, CPAs and Consultants, Ltd., with offices in Incline Village and Reno. He may be reached at 831-7288 and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.