Published On: Tue, Aug 16th, 2011

I Just Made You Punch Your Computer Monitor

Most have heard the saying that no one takes care of a rental car like they take care of their own. Why not floor the gas pedal or track sand into the car  if you’ll never see it again after this week, the reasoning goes ? In many ways, this is a perfect analogy to government waste. No matter which party is in power, spending other people’s money rarely compels one to be as prudent as if they were spending their own. Combine this with the typical politician’s time horizon (the next election) and it’s easy to see why so many government projects and initiatives have been swallowed by waste over the years. Here are 6 of the most outrageous examples.

The Big Dig: No project is more synonymous with waste and fraud than the “Big Dig”, the not-so-affectionate nickname given to the rerouting of Interstate 93 into a 3.5 mile tunnel beneath the city. Originally estimated to cost $2.5 billion in 1985, the project devolved into the most expensive highway project in U.S. history, costing some $14.6 billion in state and federal tax dollars by 2006.

The Superconducting Super Collider:  Foreseen as a way to simulate the conditions of the Big Bang and thereby “allow scientists to gain new insights into the very nature of matter”, the ambitious project was unable to get out of its own way, skyrocketing in allotted budget from $5 billion to over $12 billion on the basis of little more than speculation on what other uses (cancer and HIV cures among them) it might serve once it was actually built.

The Vanishing $25 Billion: Many assume the government has extremely strict procedures for tracking the money entrusted to it by taxpayers. Believers in this view received a rude awakening in 2003, however, when it was reported that nearly $25 billion in government spending was totally unaccounted for.

Railhead: Like so many grand and visionary government projects, “Railhead” – an online terrorist database meant to disseminate information to counter terrorism analysts – was done in by cost overruns and mismanagement.

The $725,000 Pizza Machine: One all too common consequence of spending other people’s money is failure to think ahead. A telling example can be found in San Jose, whose unified school district approved the purchase of a $725,000 pizza machine it claimed would “churn out 800 pizzas a day to sell on various campuses in the district.” In reality, the machine reportedly produced only 2,000 pizzas in two years due to frequent breakdowns.

Pentagon Credit Card Abuse: No recollection of outrageous government waste would be complete without mention of the U.S. Defense Department’s embarrassing credit card abuse. According to Fox News, some 36,000 DOD employees “had defaulted on $623 million in official travel expenses charged to the government cards” as of November 2001, and bad debts which had to be written off by banks were reported to have been “growing at the rate of $1 million per month.”

About the Author

- "We all make choices. But in the end, our choices make us." Andrew comes to us after an eventful 26 years in Upstate New York. After being raised by wolves, he graduated College with a BA in Political Science, and eventually graduated law school.