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What’s Worse: The Government or a Drunken Sailor?

April 30, 2014
What’s Worse: The Government or a Drunken Sailor?
As ex-Navy, I can attest to the fact that many sailors — enlisted personnel and officers — tend to go a little wild during overseas port visits. They drink too much and don’t worry about saving money. Many have saved several paychecks up after two or three months at sea and are looking to enjoy themselves. So the phrase “spend money like a drunken sailor” makes sense to me. But the most recent Wastebook report, a compilation of questionable government spending put out by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), shows the government makes drunken sailors look like temperate misers.

On the high end of government waste, Coburn points to the DoD’s decision not to bring military equipment back from war efforts in the Middle East. Carting it all back home is too expensive, and leaving it there is too dangerous. So the DoD is destroying more than $7 billion worth of equipment. Military suppliers must think this is a dandy idea.

The Green Crusade has opened another sinkhole for government waste. At the Boston-Manchester airport in New Hampshire, for instance, officials were excited about a $3.5 million project to install solar panels on the roof of a parking garage. After the panels were installed, air-traffic controllers complained that the glare coming off the panels obscured their view of the airport’s runways for 45 minutes each day. So now about a quarter of the panels are covered by a tarp. Obviously that increases the airport’s (and taxpayers’) price per kilowatt for all that “free energy.”

Another example of questionable government spending: $1 million bus stops. Arlington County in Virginia built one, dubbed a Super Stop, and hopes to build 23 more, believe it or not. The steel-and-glass shelters have heated seats and sidewalks, and Wi-Fi for computer-savvy bus riders. One problem: The shelter doesn’t shelter. It leaves waiting passengers in the wind and doesn’t keep the rain off. The county still has $6.5 million ready to invest in more high-end bus shelters, but an investigation is trying to determine if that would be money well spent. I hope they’re not spending more than $6.5 million to make that determination.

One of the more-depressing programs highlighted by the Wastebook earmarks $3 million for teaching NASA how Congress works, which should let NASA lobby more effectively. How Congress functions is not rocket science, is it? And do we really need to teach government bureaucrats how to improve their begging?

It’s easy to build a case that the government has it hands-down over drunken sailors when it comes to wastrel spending. And while the sailors wake up the next day with headaches and blurry memories of a good time, at least their children and heirs don’t get stuck with the tab.

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