18 Outrageous Things Your Taxes Actually Paid For
These ridiculously expensive federal projects prove that government waste comes in all shapes and sizes.
A swanky bus stop
In 2013, Arlington County, Virginia, received federal funding to build a luxury “SuperStop” bus stop complete with Wi-Fi, heated benches and sidewalks, and a steel-frame roof. Too bad said roof doesn’t do much to keep out rain and snow, or provide shade in the summertime. “If it’s pouring rain, I’m going to get wet; if it’s cold, the wind is going to be blowing on me,” a county board member told the Washington Post.
Cost to taxpayers: $1 million
Social media “likes”
State Department officials wanted to increase traffic on the agency’s various Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, so they spent lavishly on in-site advertising. What did they get in return? Not much. Less than 2 percent of visitors to their pages “liked” or “favorited” any of their posts or tweets, according to the December 2013 issue of Wastebook, published by U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. Here are 11 other bizarre things the U.S. government actually spent money on.
Cost to taxpayers: $630,000
Romance novel research
In 2010, the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) funded the Popular Romance Project, establishing a website to “explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and Internet fanfiction.” The government spent almost $1 million on this project which explored topics such as, “The Romance of British Secret Service Agent James Bond” and “Team Edward or Team Jacob,” among others. However, the NEH doesn’t just fund romance-related efforts. The 2018 funded projects range from researching indigenous languages to digitizing old newspaper articles and total $43.1 million in awards.
Cost to taxpayers: $914,000
An all-expenses-paid trip for music researchers
Several executives from various independent music labels received a government-funded, all-expenses-paid trip to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in 2013, per Wastebook. The reason: “to compare the record stores, club districts, and facial expressions of locals at the mention of their bands.” While the execs reportedly enjoyed their trip, one of them said he “didn’t ink any deals.” Check out these 10 secret U.S government operations, revealed.
Cost to taxpayers: $284,300
Dangerous solar panels
A federal grant was used to install solar panels on the parking garage at the Manchester-Boston airport. One problem: The reflective panels were blinding the pilots, so 25 percent of them had to be removed (the panels, not the pilots). But the remaining panels, say airport officials, will generate “$2 million in savings over 25 years,” according to Wastebook.
Cost to taxpayers: $3.5 million
A study on couples
The National Institutes of Health spent more than $300,000 on a University of California, Berkeley, study that proved something no one was questioning—couples are happier when the woman calms down after an argument.
Cost to taxpayers: $325,525
Federal movie consultants
The sole purpose of the FBI’s “Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit” is to answer any questions that writers and filmmakers might have to ensure that any film, TV, or book that features the FBI will get the details right, per Wastebook. Here are 17 more secrets the FBI doesn’t want you to know.
Annual cost to taxpayers: $1.5 million
Research on duck reproductive organs
In 2005, biologists at Yale University were awarded a research grant to study the reproductive anatomy of the duck. Specifically, the researchers studied the unique corkscrew-like shape of the male duck’s genitalia. Lead researcher Patricia Brennan defended her work saying this is basic science. “The headlines reflect outrage that the study was about duck genitals, as if there is something inherently wrong or perverse with this line of research,” she says. “Imagine if medical research drew the line at the belt! Genitalia, dear readers, are where the rubber meets the road, evolutionarily.” Here are 7 secrets the CIA doesn’t want you to know.
Cost to taxpayers: $384,989
Predictable college drinking research
The National Institute of Health funded studies looking at drinking habits of college students for more than a decade. Helping young adults maintain healthy drinking habits is important, but the researchers drew some not-so-shocking conclusions: Greek life-affiliated students drink more than their peers, and college students, in general, drink more on game days.
Cost to taxpayers: $5 million~
In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funded a billboard encouraging Denver drivers not to get behind the wheel while high. The eye-catching display included a 3-D joint that glowed at night to really hit the point home. Don’t miss these 17 ways to get free money from the government.
Cost to taxpayers: $35,000