Bridges to Nowhere, Cheese, and Video Games: Coburn’s 2011 Wasteful Government Spending Report

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has released a report outlining 100 projects and items on which he believes the government has wasted taxpayers dollars in 2011.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has released a report outlining 100 projects and items on which he believes the government has wasted taxpayers dollars in 2011.

Dubbed “2011 Wastebook: A Guide to Some of the Most Wasteful and Low Priority Government Spending of 2011,” the document lists things such as snow cone machines, a video game preservation center, dead federal employees receiving benefits checks, and the infamous bridge to nowhere in Alaska.

“Over the past 12 months, Washington politicians argued, debated and lamented about how to reign in the federal government‘s out of control spending. All the while, Washington was on a shopping binge, spending money we do not have on things we do not need, like the $6.9 billion worth of examples provided in this report. The result: Instead of cutting wasteful spending, nearly $2.5 billion was added each day in 2011 to our national debt, which now exceeds $15 trillion,” said Dr. Coburn.

Coburn continued with some rather harsh words for Congress, stating, “This report details 100 of the countless unnecessary, duplicative, or just plain stupid projects spread throughout the federal government and paid for with your tax dollars this year that highlight the out-of-control and shortsighted spending excesses in Washington. So perhaps there was no bigger waste of the taxpayer’s money in 2011 than Congress itself.”

So what are some of the items in the report? Here’s a random sampling:

  • Politicians Partying on the Taxpayer Dime – (Presidential Election Campaign Fund) – $35.38 Million
    Despite a federal budget crisis, taxpayers will be cutting checks this year to both political parties that could help pay for the stages, confetti, balloons, food, and booze‖ for their political conventions. The funds that are used to cover the conventions come from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF).
  • Subsidy Program for Small Airports Fails to Help Most Recipients Achieve Sustainable Air Service – (Federal Aviation Administration) – $6 Million
    A federal airport assistance program spent $6 million to assist small airports in 2011, but has little to show for its efforts in over a decade of assistance.
  • “Pancakes for Yuppies” in D.C. – $765,828
    An International House of Pancakes (IHOP) franchise was built with financial assistance courtesy of Uncle Sam.
  • The Super-Bridge to Nowhere – (AK) – $15.3 Million
    The bridges to nowhere in Alaska may be the most infamous symbols of government excess and waste. Both bridges are stilling going nowhere and may never go anywhere. However, the bigger of the two bridge projects cost taxpayers more than $15 million in 2011, even though it may never be constructed.
  • Dead Federal Employees Continue to Get Benefits Checks – (U.S. Office of Personnel Management) – $120 Million
    The federal government sent an average of $120 million in retirement and disability payments to deceased former federal employees every year for at least the past five years.
  • Video Game Preservation – (NY) – $113,277
    The International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) received over $100,000 in federal funds for video game preservation.
  • Drug-Themed “Mellow Mushroom” Pizza Restaurant – (TX) – $484,000
    A private developer received nearly half a million dollars in federal funds to build Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, a nationwide pizza chain, in Arlington, Texas.
  • Stimulating Online Soap Operas – (Department of Commerce) – $936,818
    The Department of Commerce awarded $28.5 million to One Economy Corp. to generate broadband adoption in under-served communities. One of the projects funded by One Economy Corp was to create a web-based television series, Diary of a Single Mom, which chronicles the lives and challenges of three single mothers and their families trying to get ahead despite obstacles that all single mothers face, such as childcare, healthcare, education,and finances.
  • VA Conference in Arizona – $221,540
    In January 2011, fifty employees from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs attended an eleven day conference at a resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. The final cost exceeded $221,000.
  • Annual Rent for the Storage of Thousands of Pieces of Unused Furniture and Equipment – (Internal Revenue Service) – $862,000
    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) spent nearly a million dollars a year to store unused furniture and equipment.
  • The Government “Cheese Trail” – (OR) – $50,400
    The Oregon Cheese Guild received $50,000 in taxpayer funding to promote the Oregon cheese industry.

Are these good investments with your money? You can read the full report and decide for yourself whether or not the items contained within it constitute wasteful government spending.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.