Feds Wasted $52 Billion on Slot Machine-Playing Pigeons, COVID Aid, Afghanistan, and More

Oregon’s Reed College hopes to discover the economics behind gambling addiction in people by showing pigeons how they can play slots.

Federal taxpayers pay for it.

The National Institutes of Health granted $465,000 to the researchers to help them teach pigeons how to spend, earn, gamble, and accumulate money in a self-contained environment. Despite admitting that the research was primarily focused on lab models, the NIH chose to spend taxpayer funds on this birdbrained experiment.

That’s one of the more eye-popping examples of federal waste included in the annual “Festivus Report”—a nod to the Seinfeld holiday that coincides with Christmas and includes an “airing of grievances”—published Wednesday by Sen. Rand Paul’s (R–Ky.) office. It’s unfortunately also the most expensive item on the list of dozens worth $52 billion.

The COVID-19 epidemic is at the top. Paul notes the estimated $36 billion in misallocated unemployment payments—though some experts say the final tally could be as high as $400 billion. Another $4.3Billion in COVID relief funds were lost through the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to maintain employees’ payrolls during COVID-related shut downs. Again, the amount of fraud that’s been uncovered so far—including high-profile incidents like the Florida man who bought a Lamborghini sports car with PPP funds—is probably only the “tip of the iceberg,” according to Paul’s report.

Paul’s report doesn’t include another shocking statistic. This week the Secret Service announced that more than $100 Billion of COVID Relief Funds had been stolen from different programs by fraudsters and organised criminal groups.

America’s long-running (and finally ended) war in Afghanistan was filled with terrible spending decisions. Paul reported that $3.8 Billion was spent on wasted funds in 2012. This included $549 MILLION for aircraft that didn’t fly, $88 Million for barely used farm irrigation systems, and $2.4 BILLION for buildings left abandoned or unused.

This last item comes from an SIGAR investigation that found “only 4.4 percent” of U.S.-funded building projects being maintained and used in good condition. SIGAR analysis showed that 61% (of U.S. built structures) had suffered “exterior structural damages” since 2001. 56 percent were suffering from interior structural problems, and 55% of those with electrical issues. How can a country be built?

Paul’s report demonstrates that America doesn’t need to invade other nations to spend public money.

The most outrageous item is a $2.4million National Science Foundation (NSF), grant to finance movies that “inspire” children’s interest in dinosaurs. As though dinosaurs were not already extremely popular, Hollywood spent many, much more money on films involving dinosaurs.

The NSF spent another $2.8 million, according to Paul’s report, on a three-hour television program about the season of spring—something most Americans could experience for themselves by simply going outside, or by tuning in to any of the many nature documentaries that are readily available already.

It doesn’t matter if the money was misappropriated because Congress allowed grant programs without oversight, or because fraudsters created false accounts to obtain illegal bailouts. Every misappropriated dollar should alarm those who view higher taxes as the solution for America’s problems. You won’t be happy with Elon Musk’s spending of his money. Just wait to see the $11 billion in tax bills used by Washington bureaucrats and politicians.

You might be sad that all of this negative information about public spending makes you unhappy. The National Institute on Aging recently conducted a $1.3 million study to determine how emotions are affected by good and bad news. You paid for it.