In the midst of a mind-boggling $22 trillion national debt the U.S. government wastes large sums of taxpayer money on questionable programs like a mariachi apprenticeship and a California professor’s study on Soviet wines. Multi-million-dollar projects to help military veterans have also failed miserably and the funds have mysteriously vanished. The pervasive government waste is documented in a new report (Federal Fumbles) issued this week by a U.S. Senator from Oklahoma who has published similar documents in the last three years. “This year’s volume focuses heavily on government inefficiency and wastes of time as well as federal tax dollars,” the senator, James Lankford, says in a statement. “The federal government should work for the taxpayers and spend your tax dollars wisely.”
Blowing north of $700,000 on a Mariachi Master Apprentice program clearly does not meet that criteria. Created in 2000, the mariachi program is based in the southern California city of San Fernando with the help of a famous mariachi leader named Señor Natividad Cano. According to the city’s website the mariachi master apprentice project unites young students with musicians to study the popular and traditional Mexican art form. “Through the study of culturally-relevant musical traditions, young people are discovering a sense of pride in the heritage of their families and developing positive self-identities,” the website states. “As young folk artists, they contribute to the underserved communities they live in by preserving and disseminating the traditional arts. The results are important because our youth are provided the skill-sets and real-life experiences needed for success as future leaders and also allows them to develop a better understanding and respect for all people within our culturally diverse society.”
American taxpayers also doled out $50,400 for a California professor’s study of Soviet wine. The cash flowed through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to a teacher at Sonoma State University who examined how Russia used its wine industry to befriend Europe. Perhaps this crucial study should have been funded by the booming wine industry and not U.S. taxpayers. The global wine market was valued at an astounding $302 billion in 2017, according to a research firm, and is expected to generate revenue of about $424 billion by the end of 2023. The thriving industry certainly doesn’t need public funds to conduct a study.
Lankford’s report also includes a section on the federal hiring process and a costly special retirement supplement and automatic pay increase. Federal agencies take an average of 106 days to hire new employees, a lengthy process that often scares off new talent. A special retirement supplement for federal workers that retire before they’re eligible for Social Security benefits costs around $18.7 billion over 10 years and the senator would like to get rid of it. He would also like to change the current automatic pay and step increase for federal employees to a merit-based system similar to the private sector.
The waste documented in Federal Fumbles in nothing new and includes a tiny snippet of the bigger picture. Over the years Judicial Watch has written about similar congressional reports documenting the government’s manic spending spree. In 2015 Lankford’s report was nearly twice as long and listed all sorts of outrageous government allocations for things like studying bugs’ reactions to artificial light, a weight-loss program for truck drivers and a federal agency’s multi-million-dollar social media account. A similar document titled “Wastebook,” listed nearly $30 billion in senseless projects, including a $390,000 global warming cartoon series, $379 million to promote Obamacare and $65 million in Hurricane Sandy “emergency” funds on television ads. Years earlier, the “Wastebook” listed about $6.5 billion in controversial projects like a $10 million remake of a popular American kids show for Pakistan, $35 million for political party conventions and a $550,000 documentary about how rock music contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union.