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Remind me to take Uncle Sam on my next shopping spree because it seems like he’s up for purchasing anything! Here are more glorious examples him wasting taxpayer money courtesy billshrink.com.
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, which works out to roughly $360 per pizza. (Caltax jokes that they hope the kids “got extra cheese and generous toppings.) What’s worse, the San Jose school district eventually took pizza off its menus completely when it realized there weren’t enough trucks to deliver pizza to different campuses, all of which had the same rigidly enforced lunch time. The machine is mostly retired at present, trotted out only on Fridays at various elementary schools for “pizza day.”
$100 Million in Unused Flight Tickets
Some government waste stories are more excusable than others, but this one is tough to make many excuses for. In 2004, the St. Petersburg Times reported that the U.S. Department of Defense “spent an estimated $100-million in six years for airline tickets that were not used and failed to seek refunds”—even though the tickets they had purchased were completely refundable! Adding insult to injury the Pentagon then happily reimbursed at least $8 million employees who claimed to have purchased these unused tickets. Unsurprisingly, the reason that the unused ticket scandal (which spanned 1997–2003) took so long to be discovered is that the Defense Department relied on its employees to report unused tickets, which, of course, they did not.
Medicare Buys Shoes For Amputees & Walkers For Paraplegics
Arguably the most inefficient and wasteful of all government initiatives is Medicare. Despite strong support from citizens across the spectrum of political opinion, the program has come under fire for several damning instances of waste and fraud. Perhaps the most outrageous surfaced in a 2008 MSNBC report, alleging “billions in questionable claims” including, amazingly, special diabetic shoes for amputees! Other claims included wheelchairs for sprained wrist victims and walkers for known paraplegics. Lest these be seen as merely anamolous incident, MSNBC goes on to explain that such waste (totalling over a billion dollars) was likely the result of Medicare paying out claims with “invalid diagnosis codes” such as “?”, “zzzzz.” One source was quoted as saying that “even smiley-face icons could have been accepted.”
I genuinely hope that some of these claims are severe exaggerations or misinformation.