With trillions of dollars in debt, the U.S. government, like a runaway shopaholic, still manages to find ridiculous things to throw its dollar bills at. Just remember though, that relative to how much is spent annually on defense and social security, even the costliest of these expenses would make barely a dent in the national budget. So, from pancakes to prostitutes, monkey poop to video games, here are the 25 craziest things the U.S. government spends money on. (non-video version below)
$3 million to study World of Warcraft
Since 2008 the federal government has allocated almost $3 million towards researching how gamers engage in “creative collaboration online”. How do they do this? By paying people to play video games. Who needs college anyway?
$442,340 studying male prostitutes in Vietnam
Over the past several years the government, through the University of Puerto Rico, has spent almost half a million dollars annually to study and document the social habits and behaviors of male prostitutes in Vietnam.
$765,828 for pancakes
In 2011, nearly $800,000 of taxpayer money went towards subsidizing an IHOP restaurant in an allegedly under-served neighborhood of Washinton DC. Apparently Colombia Heights falls into that category, but hey, rich people need pancakes too.
$2.2 million on wasted energy
Every year, the Department of energy of all places, manages to waste over $2 million simply by failing to turn off the lights. Thats enough to power 3200 homes for an entire year.
$2.6 million worth of budget oversight training for legislators in Eastern Europe
As good as the United States is at handling its own budget, in 2011 roughly $2.6 million went towards “parliamentary strengthening” in Eastern Europe. In other words, we taught them to balance their checkbooks.
$862,000 on unused furniture
Every year the IRS spends nearly $1 million to store unused furniture, and the last time we checked they had over 20,000 items in their inventory. If they could learn to save money the same way they save desk chairs, we’d be getting somewhere.
$5 million for an FAA party
in 2009 the Federal Aviation Administration spent $5 million to send 3600 employees to a 3 week long conference in Atlanta. Supposedly it was necessary in order to promote harmony in the workplace.
$997,766 on poetry in zoos
Roses are red, violets are blue, I’ll spend your money on rhymes at the zoo. That’s right. Last year the government spent just under $1 million posting snippets of poetry in zoos around the country.
$930 million on unnecessary printing costs
Each year government agencies rack up close to a billion dollars in unnecessary printing expenses. Who reads those documents anyway?
$900,000 for settling sex scandals
Last year the Philadelphia Housing Authority, an office funded almost completely by the federal government, used about $1 million of its budget to pay off four female plaintiffs who filed suits against its director for sexual harassment.
$90,000 promoting onions
Some of these will literally make you cry. In 2010 taxpayers forked over $90,000 to help promote the Vidalia Onion Brand in conjunction with the new Shrek movie.
$216,000 to study why politicians make vague statements
Last year year the National Science Foundation spent a quarter of a million dollars studying the reasons why political candidates make vague statements. Maybe next year they can spend some more money studying why our government spends so much money on such vague research.
$1.8 million neon sign museum
Have you ever wondered what happens to all those neon signs when they flicker their last? Well wonder no more. In 2010 almost $2 million were allocated towards building a neon sign graveyard just outside Las Vegas.
$96,000 to buy iPads for kindergardeners
While America’s youth fall behind the rest of the world in terms of education, the government has a solution…advanced technology. Last year almost $100,000 went towards purchasing iPads for kindergardeners in Maine.
$700,000 to study cow burps
In 2011 upwards of $700,000 was spent studying the greenhouse gas emissions of dairy farms. The conclusion? Cow burps produce a lot of methane.
David is the editor-in-chief of List25. He has a Masters degree in International Business from University of Florida. He loves to break dance, do flips, play guitar, and everything else that is fun. Follow him on Twitter @iamdpegg