Feds splurge on lobster, pianos, golf carts in race to spend 'use it or lose it' budget - By James Varney (Spending money of other people is fun!)
It turns out September, not April, may be federal taxpayers’
of the government’s fiscal year usually brings an orgy of spending as agencies
look at their budgets, see extra cash lying around, and figure they’d better
use it all up or risk it getting cut in the future.
it or lose it” mentality explains why the Defense Department spent $9,241 on a
Wexford leather chair, $2.3 million on crab and another $2.3 million on lobster
tails in September, according to a study released Thursday by OpenTheBooks.
shelled out $97 billion on contracts in September, including a staggering $53
billion in the final week — seven days that cost more than the entire month of
final month of the fiscal year, federal agencies scramble to spend what’s left
in their annual budget; agencies worry spending less than their budget allows
might prompt Congress to appropriate less money in the next fiscal year,” said
the report from the government-spending watchdog group. “To avoid this, federal
agencies choose to embark on an annual shopping spree rather than admit they
can operate on less.”
be expected, the Defense Department was the biggest
spender, and the most money went to big-ticket necessities such as fixed-wing
were also the lobster tail and crab, $163,636 spent on paint brushes, and $7.6
million on workout equipment — including ski equipment for “adults and junior”
earmarked to Misawa Air Base in Japan.
lobster tail purchases in September were a bit more than 10 percent of what the
federal government spent on the delicacy the entire year, suggesting only a
slightly elevated rate of spending.
than a third of the $721,661 agencies spent on pianos came in September.
And while taxpayers bought $1.6 million worth of golf carts in
fiscal 2018, 42 percent of that was spent in the last four weeks. The same with
the government’s bill for china tableware, OpenTheBooks’ founder and CEO Adam
year-end spending habit is one of the most deceptive budgetary tactics in use
in Washington,” said Curtis Kalin, spokesman for
Citizens Against Government Waste. “It’s deeply ingrained in the culture of
federal bureaucrats, and it perpetuates the myth we can never stop spending.”
data shows the final-month binge is getting worse. Last year’s $97 billion
marks a 16 percent increase from 2017 and a 39 percent increase from 2015.
national debt surpasses $22 trillion, it’s time to end Washington’s use-it-or-lose-it spending
culture,” Mr. Andrzejewski said. “Ending this wasteful phenomenon would go a
long way toward generating big savings and winning the public’s trust.”
of government seemed immune from the urge to binge.
Trump’s executive office blew through $26.8 million, the report found — up from
$24.9 million in 2017.
large Defense Department share of spending
indicates, much of the contract spending was with companies noted for their
expertise in weapons and intelligence technology.
report showed Lockheed Martin was the largest recipient of cash in the final
month, raking in $8.7 billion. It was followed by Boeing with $5.1 billion and
Raytheon at $3.3 billion, while Northrop Grumman was paid $1.7 billion.
the smaller purchases might have raised taxpayers’ eyebrows.
example, federal agencies spent $490.6 million on furniture in the month,
including the Defense Department’s $9,341 Wexford chair.
also splurged on one federal agency’s $11,800 tournament-level foosball table,
the White House’s Office of Management and Budget nor press officers at the
Pentagon responded to phone calls and e-mails about the end-of-fiscal-year
spending and some specific purchases.
analysis also showed how the year-end blowout reflects the extent to
which Washington and a handful of states have
come to absorb so much taxpayer money.
2018 was a very good month for the constellation of service agencies and
contractors tied to the federal government, as the Washington-Virginia-Maryland corridor was
showered with $25 billion, records show.
dwarfed the next largest, geographically, which saw Texas take home $8.9
billion and California $7.14 billion.
there does not appear to be a quick solution to the long-standing problem, Mr.
Kalin noted there is always pending legislation that would reward bonuses to
those agencies that prove an ability to cut their budget.
incentives are all backwards now, and this boils down to baseline spending
accounting,” he said, citing the federal government’s novel practice of
beginning each year with every agency starting at the same amount it received
in the previous budget and increasing from there.
had zero-based budgeting that would help a lot, too,” Mr. Kalin said. “But
there’s no allegiance in Washington to being thrifty, and so the
problem just continues no matter who is president.”