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It’s been a minor holiday tradition for those of us who still care about government waste to peruse Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul’s list of government waste, either for the year or just for autumn.
And these days, much like just about every year since Calvin Coolidge was hanging out in 1600 Pennsylvania, the government has taken a lot of your money and spent it in absurd ways.
This is assuming, of course, you don’t have a vested interest in bringing Serbian cheese up to global standards, or spending half a million on a self-cleaning toilet in a single D.C. Metro station.
Here’s a basic primer on Paul’s waste reports for those of you who don’t necessarily grok the purpose: Every so often, the libertarian-leaning Kentuckian highlights a few examples of the most absurd forms of government largesse.
Last year, he noted your money got spent on studying the mating habits of quails when they were high on cocaine (so wish that were a joke, but I’m not that funny), promoting Egyptian tourism and sending foreign aid to China — a country which we’re currently borrowing heavily from to pay this debt, as you might be aware of.
In Paul’s fall 2019 report, he singled out the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority as the biggest offender.
The agency is expected to suck up $153 million in taxpayer dollars for the 2020 fiscal year despite the fact that “Metro’s routine service outages, delays, incomprehensible policy choices, and mismanagement of funds has led to, as WAMU reported earlier this year, the lowest ridership in almost 20 years.”
Paul’s report cited a Washington Examiner article titled “Let’s face it: Washington, DC’s Metro is the worst in the world.”
“The Washington subway system has been so bad that it derives a benefit from low expectations. Riders are let down so often that higher fares for worse service is what they have come to expect,” Jason Russell wrote.
“They’ve become world-famous. At the International Transport Forum this month in Germany, Washington’s system was used as a cautionary tale.”
“One transit expert said it is ‘a hell of a problem,’ while another said it suffered from ‘poor governance and poor attention to long-term investment.’ A third expert called Metro leaders ‘cowards’ for not raising more revenue with fare increases or tax hikes, the Washington Post reported.”
Two specific incidents of waste stood out in Paul’s report. In one, instead of fixing the problem, WMATA spent $400,000 on a PR offensive called “Back2Good,” which did little to get the Metro system back to good but raised significant questions among media and ridership.
Quoth The Washington Post: “some were surprised at Metro’s decision to spend six-figures on a PR campaign during a budget crisis, when the agency [was] considering raising fares and reducing service to offset a $290 million shortfall. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on repairs and infrastructure, they asked?”
Well, maybe they could have offset it if they hadn’t spent even more on maintaining a self-cleaning toilet they no longer know the location of.
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