“How did it get so late so soon?” wrote the eccentrically silver-penned Seuss.
“It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
Yes, time has gotten away from us again.
We were struck by this fact when we found, hidden deep in the dark confines of our hard drive, Senator Jeff Flake’s Wastebook: The Farce Awakens.
If you haven’t heard of it, it’s 2015’s masterstroke of senseless government squander: “A report on wasteful federal spending,” the cover reads, “starring Monkeys on Treadmills, Parties for Hipsters and Sheep in MicroGravity.”
Upon rediscovering it, we realized it’s already February and we have yet to exercise even a drop of virtual ink directed at its contents.
(Go ahead… throw your tomatoes and shout your shames. We can take it!)
All right. It’s time. Let’s crack this puppy open.
Today, we’re going to inspect three flagrant acts of taxpayer spendthrift by our so-called public servants.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
ONE: The Hipster’s Dilemma: To Smoke or Not to Smoke
Are you a hipster? Do you smoke?
If yes, then today’s your lucky day. Why, the federal dissipaters of dough have shelled out $4,904,466 to throw dance parties. For you!
Researchers at the University of California (where else?), San Francisco were given a nearly $5 million grant by the National Institute of Health to market their anti-tobacco message to the… wait for it… vulnerable hipsters.
“In our prior research,” the grant on the NIH’s website explains, “we identified a high-risk subpopulation of young adults in San Diego, CA: the ‘hipster’ subculture, a group focused on the alternative music scene, local artists and designers, and eclectic self-expression.”
What’s the campaign’s message to lure these poor defenseless hipsters? Take a guess…
“We have rejected big corporations for a long time,” the campaign’s website reads, “like Big Music that hinders creative freedom and Big Fashion that runs sweatshops. Our stand against Big Tobacco is even more important, since the industry contributes to things like world hunger, deforestation and neoconservative policies.”
Odd isn’t it? They are so against everything “Big,” you would think they’d experience a tinge of trepidation with obtaining millions of smackaroos from the neoconservative-peddling BIG Government.
But, wait. Here’s the best part.
While hipsters are given millions of taxpayer dollars to fight Big Tobacco, the government is, on the flipside, subsidizing Big Tobacco.
Flake reports: “the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has spent more than $1.1 billion over the past two years to subsidize and support the tobacco industry. The bulk of this was spent making the final direct income support payments to tobacco growers in 2014.”
That’s $1.1 billion… with a “b,” in case you didn’t catch it.
“[The] USDA expended more than $119 million to support the tobacco industry in 2015. This includes more than $69 million for direct income support payments and $385,000 on administering those payments. Other amounts include: $45 million by the Risk Management Agency for crop insurance, $58,000 by the Agricultural Marketing Service for “market news” reporting… $261,000 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture on research, and $110,000 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service for tobacco crop condition, yield and production data collection.”
TWO: Subsidizing the Lord’s Scumbag Slumlord
Welcome to Global Ministries Foundation (GMF).
“Serving,” its website reads, “the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of low-income families across the U.S. by providing affordable housing and community-enriching services in over 60 locations.”
If only that were true.
Unfortunately, as you’ll see, there’s something about receiving tens of millions of dollars without earning it that turns even the most devout of us into complete scumbags.
In 2014, the GMF received more than $60 million in subsidies from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The money was meant to provide public housing at Goodwill Village and Warren Apartments in Memphis, Tennessee.
“GMF,” Sen. Flake writes, “was founded by Reverend Richard Hamlet, who is the agency’s President and CEO. GMF also owns apartment complexes and rental properties in seven other states through its housing subsidiary, GMF Preservation of Affordability Corp.”
So far so good, right? Yeaaah, not so much.
“Hamlet,” Flake goes on, “is paid a $485,000 salary and 60% of GMF’s spending paid for salaries with less than twenty percent spent on missionary work, according to an analysis by an investigative reporter.”
Sixty million, it seems, fails to go far when you live a little too high on the hog: “The apartments at both Memphis locations were deemed to be in ‘deplorable conditions,’ according to Tennessee Housing Development Agency (TDHA) executive director Ralph Perrey, who said ‘nobody should be living like that, nobody should be living like that in housing especially that the taxpayers have helped to build and are helping to maintain.’”
Moreover, it’s been uncovered that 2010 was the last time HUD sent code inspectors to check the properties. Sickening as it sounds, HUD officials from D.C. actually blocked the state from conducting its own safety inspections.
And while GMF was neglecting the buildings, Reverend Hamlet was siphoning off $9 million to his religious nonprofit.
Finally, after a good slam from media attention, HUD was forced to inspect the buildings. They found both properties rife with roaches, bedbugs and rodents. Broken pipes and exposed electrical sockets were a common sight.
So deplorable were the conditions, the department forced GMF to relocate 40 families into hotels until they fixed the conditions.
Hamlet filed an appeal to contest the failed scores, complaining that he was “put in a very difficult situation” when forced to relocate residents.
Rev. Richard Hamlet, the Lord’s Scumbag Slumlord
THREE: The $1 Billion Radioactive Sinkhole of America
Welcome to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Once ground zero for the Manhattan Project’s nuclear interests, today it’s a 586-square-mile bustling playground for said interest’s radioactive waste.
From 1940 to 1980, says Fleck, “little attention was given to the resulting by-products — large amounts of radioactive and chemically hazardous waste — or how to safely dispose of these by-products.”
Since 1989, says the Government Accountability Office (GAO, pronounced ‘joke’), the feds have “considered and abandoned several approaches to treating and disposing of this waste but, to date, no waste has been treated.”
Oh, wow. Way to hold them accountable.
Meanwhile, more bad news: the tanks holding the waste are beginning to degrade, threatening the groundwater and the nearby Columbia River.
“After more than $19 billion was spent on the project over 25 years without any waste ever being treated,” Flake writes, “the clean-up was suspended three years ago. Yet, the project continues costing about $1 billion a year and the tanks holding the country’s ‘largest collection of radioactive waste’ are deteriorating, making it a growing threat to the environment and taxpayers.”
[Ed. note: Can’t get enough? Not to worry, there’s plenty where that came from. If you’re just as late to the party as we are, you can download the full Wastebook at this link.]
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today
P.S. Have something to say? Say it! Chris@lfb.org.