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Obamaphones, and Gaydar: How the Government Wasted Your Money

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Published on: October 16, 2012

Senator Tom Coburn released the Wastebook 2012today detailing the 100 most egregious wastes of taxpayer money. The two hundred page report details waste in all manner of federal spending – from multi-billion dollar programs all the way down to a $300 grant to a small-town library for a Star Wars-themed event. It’s emblematic of the waste found everywhere in the federal budget.

Coburn details a $27 million U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program for pottery classes in Morocco. The program, which has a questionable premise in the first place, was doomed due to incompetence and mismanagement. Translators with a questionable grasp of English were hired and used materials unavailable to Moroccans. The Inspector General concluded that the program was “ineffective and poorly implemented.”

No sacred cow is spared in the report. Coburn notes that producing pennies has become too expensive for the government to justify. “The cost to produce a penny in 2012 is more than two times its actual value.” Noting that other developed countries have discontinued their smallest forms of currency, he writes, “the United States should follow suit and stop producing it.”

While the viral video of an Obama supporter claiming to have received a free phone may stretch credibility, the truth is more real than you think. There is in fact a federal program aimed at providing “free or reduced-price cell phone service,” as detailed in Wastebook. The federal government is empowered to provide universal telecommunications service to Americans, and have started using cell phones rather than landlines as a means of accomplishing that.

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