The report shows earmarks (aka “pork”) are a bipartisan problem that cost taxpayers $583 billion in FY 2016. A breakdown of the 10 congressional districts receiving the most pork shows an even split: 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans. A look at the top 50 grant-receiving districts shows Democrats holding a slight edge over Republicans (27-23).
Earmarked dollars can be targeted for practically any project under the sun. For example, $1.5 million was tapped for sex education for prostitutes in California—despite the fact that prostitution is illegal in the Golden State. The bulk of the dollars ($505 billion) went directly to state governments, followed by higher education institutions ($35 billion) and nonprofit organizations ($19.8 billion).
But corporations get in on the action, too. Matthew Tyrmand, Deputy Director of Open the Books, said Fortune 100 companies received $3.2 billion in grants between FY 2014 and FY 2016.
“Boeing can’t argue it needed $774 million in federal grants while reporting nearly $95 billion in 2016 annual revenue,” Tyrmand said.
Below are some additional examples of how taxpayer funds were spent in FY 2016:
- Virtual Reality Platform to Teach Children in China How to Cross the Street – $183,750 from the Department of Health and Human Services funded a virtual reality platform in China to teach safe pedestrian techniques.
- New Condom Design with More Lubrication – $200,601 in taxpayer money funded a new condom design that lowers the chance of breakage and increases “satisfaction between partners.”
- Cigar Taste Test – $114,375 funded a study to determine whether cigar flavor affected its addictiveness.
- Space Racers: An Animated Children’s Cartoon – $2.5 million in NASA funding supported the production of two seasons of a children’s cartoon series about galactic adventures.
- How can we rein in this insanity? The people must bring the heat, so the politicians see the light on fiscal restraint.
As of Friday, the federal debt stood at $21.2 trillion. Read the entire Open the Books report here.