Rand Paul Lists the ‘Festivus’ Worst Government Waste of 2019

Our debt numbers are bad. Congress increased the debt by $1.2 trillion in 2018. The country is now more than 22 trillion in debt. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Congress spent $4.4 trillion in FY2019, 8 percent more than the year before.

Here’s one example. The Bureau of Indian Affairs spent $13,000, a 491% markup from the free market value, on a scoreboard for an elementary school gym. That agency is required to favor Native Americans in purchasing goods and services. But not if the price is unreasonable.

Every year, government waste seems to get worse. Fortunately, watch dog organizations and individuals expose this waste. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) has issued a list of some of the worst waste in 2019. He named it “Festivus” after the fake anti-Christmas holiday made up by the TV show Seinfield, where everyone airs their grievances.

Paul’s list of government waste in 2019 only covers $42.6 million of the massive spending. Here is what’s in it.

Massive Waste by the NIH and NSF

The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation spent $1.2 million studying the habits of online data app users. A spending project by the NSF “tested” whether social justice improves STEM education, at a cost of $649,773.

The NSF spent $649,773 to see if STEM majors benefit from a program on social justice. It finances 16 need-based scholarships of up to $8,000 per year for four years. But the students are already required to take social justice curriculum and most colleges track their progress after graduation.

The NSF spent $649,773 to see if STEM majors benefit from a program on social justice.

The NSF spent $103,777 to teach “early-career PhDs” how to apply for grants. The same agency spent $49,990 on one week of summer school for graduate students. The six-day course includes social events … [to] enable students to develop their networking skills.”

The NSF also spent close to half a million dollars in a grant to study the mating call of the male tungara frog of Panama. Why? To analyze the effects of urbanization.

The NIH is spending $708,466 on research in London that involves hooking zebrafish on nicotine. It spent over $4 million studying the connection between drinking alcohol and ending up in the emergency room. Couldn’t they just have called the local hospital?

The Pentagon sent $2.7 million in surplus military gear to police in Thetford, Michigan. The town has less than 7,000 people. The list of items includes a bounce house, a tractor, hydroseeders and … parachutes. Parachutes?

USAID Paying for Foreign Education

A lot of money goes to other countries. With what benefit to America? That’s not clear.

USAID spent $20 million teaching the Laos language to people in the communist country of Laos. It’s one thing to provide aid to people who are starving. But providing education assistance? Similarly, the agency spent up to $16 million to improve the quality of Egyptian schooling. Another $33 million went to supplying textbooks to Afghan students. Many of the books are subpar or sitting in warehouses.

The agency also agreed to spend up to $10 million to promote “green growth” in Peru. Another $22 million went to bring Serbian cheese up to international standards.

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The National Institute of Food and Agriculture spent $128,054 on six undergraduate food marketing course modules. The grant was given to St. Joseph’s University to include social justice education to address the needs of people living in urban “food deserts.” Bringing higher quality food to these places makes a negligible difference. People are going to choose to eat what they want to eat.

The Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration spent over $2 billion trying to transform an abandoned mental hospital into a new DHS headquarters. Problems arose because the site is built on a slope in parts. There were also extra steps that had to be taken since the site is a historical landmark. The agencies could have found far cheaper buildings.

Foreign Aid

The State Department supported the Moldovan television industry with $2 million in order to counter the influence of Russian media. But the Moldovan government is already taking steps to reduce Russian influence, by banning Russian current events types of shows. Not to mention this is giving money to a foreign industry that is in direct competition with our news media.

The State Department spent up to $2 million to promote democracy in Tunisia. Paul notes that nation-building doesn’t work, citing Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. It also spent up to $100,000 to expand Pakistan’s film industry. This despite the fact the department admits the industry is “growing dramatically.”

The State Department spent $15,825,000 on free college for foreign students — despite the fact that many Americans struggle to come up with college tuition.

Another project by the agency spent $15,825,000 on free college for foreign students — despite the fact that many Americans struggle to come up with college tuition.

The agency also spent up to $150,000 to teach English and IT to students at Muslim schools in Iraq. In Afghanistan, the agency is spending up to $300,000 on debate and Model United Nations competitions for youth. Another $84,375 went to buy a statue from Bob Dylan for the embassy in Mozambique.


There’s waste. But then there’s fraud. New York City fraudulently took $2.3 million in federal hurricane disaster relief to repair vehicles it claimed were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Only after a whistleblower revealed that many of the vehicles were already broken before the hurricane was the fraud caught. The city is now required to pay it back.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid paid out $48 billion in improper payments. Only after the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General stepped in and investigated was the fraud caught.

Bizarre Climate Change Research

Grants worth over $51 million coming from several agencies were used to do Google Scholar searches in Hawaii about the effects of climate hazards.

The Army Corps of Engineers paid $325,485 for to get property back that was confiscated by the Afghan military.

The government is expected to spend $143 million on the Metro in Washington, D.C. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has a terrible reputation for service outages, delays and mismanagement of funds. In recent years, the authority spent half a million dollars maintaining a single self-cleaning toilet.

Paul has a solution, his Two Pennies Plan budget. It would balance the budget within five years without touching Social Security or Medicare. It requires Congress to find two pennies to cut from every on-budget dollar. The cuts can be made from any agency. This would make great strides into solving the problem.

Unfortunately, his budget has not made it out of Congress yet. So the pork continues.


Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC. Follow The Stream at streamdotorg. Send tips to [email protected].

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