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Wednesday, December 09, 2009 10:12 PM

Stimulus Checkup - 100 Ridiculous Projects Funded by the American Recovery Act

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Inquiring minds are interested in projects that Put America To Work. Please consider this Stimulus Checkup courtesy of Senator John McCain and Senator Tom Coburn.

Good jobs for millions of Americans.
Investments in priorities that create sustainable economic growth for the future.
Those were the promises made to uneasy Americans when Congress approved the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or economic stimulus bill, in February.

Nine months later, with over $200 billion of stimulus funding already spent,1 the rolls of the unemployed have grown by millions and, by any measure, more jobs have been lost than created.

Since the stimulus bill was enacted in February, nearly three million Americans have lost their jobs and the percentage of people who are without work has risen to 10 percent. Many who had been looking to the government for help have already lost hope.

As this and the last report, 100 Stimulus Projects: A Second Opinion, suggests billions of dollars of stimulus funding have been wasted, mismanaged, or directed towards silly and shortsighted projects. Many projects may not produce the types of jobs that most Americans had hoped for or expected.

Some of the close to seven billion dollars in projects in Stimulus Checkup create few jobs; benefit private interests over the public good; or make improvements where they are not necessary. Some send money to companies facing fraud charges. Others take millions of dollars to do work local officials and experts admit are not needed or will not help.

Stimulus money has been, or will be, spent on dinner cruises, golf courses, puppet shows and stimulus road signs. Many Americans will question whether investing $787 billion in these projects are the highest national priorities.


In the previous report, one hundred questionable projects were identified that did not appear to hold out promise for helping the economy grow. The Administration was quick to review these projects and to its credit addressed a number of them. In the months that followed, many more questionable stimulus projects costing millions and even billions of dollars were identified. This follow-up, Stimulus Checkup, takes a closer look at 100 more projects that raise questions about how stimulus money has been used so far.

Tom Coburn, M.D.
U.S. Senator

John McCain
U.S. Senator
100 Ridiculous Projects Sample
1. “Almost Empty” Mall Awarded Energy Grant ($5 million)
The Department of Energy has announced an award for up to $5 million6 to install a geothermal energy system capable of heating an ―almost empty‖ mall in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

2. Renovations for Federal Building as Expensive as New Building ($133 million)
Taxpayers in Oregon may be surprised to learn that the largest stimulus project in their state is not a new road or bridge, but a $133 million makeover for the federal building in downtown Portland. The money will go toward ―greening the Edith Green/Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in the hope of making it a model for energy efficient government offices in the Northwest. That said, for $133 million some may wonder why they did not simply tear it down and start over.

Agency officials expect to construct a type of vegetative skin—made of plants—on the exterior of the building, to help with heating and cooling costs.

In 2007, a new federal building was constructed in downtown San Francisco with similar state-of-the-art energy efficiency features for $144 million—nearly the same cost to merely renovate the Portland Federal Building. Both buildings are eighteen stories tall, built with energy efficient technologies, and house federal agency offices. The major difference is that the San Francisco building is much larger, with an additional 100,000 usable square feet in comparison with its counterpart in Portland.

3. DTV Advertising Agency Generates Three Jobs ($5.9 million)
An advertising agency that ultimately reported little job creation received a multi-million dollar contract to help the government overcome a poorly managed transition to digital television, only to report three jobs created.

4. Research to Develop Supersonic Corporate Jets ($4.7 Million)
Lockheed Martin will receive a total of more than $21 million in federal money—with $4.7 million funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to advance research for supersonic jet travel. High ticket costs, fuel-guzzling and the infamous sonic ―boom helped doom commercial supersonic travel in the past; the last Concorde jet flew in 2003.

5. Water Pipeline to a Money-Losing Golf Course ($2.2 million)
A $2.2 million stimulus grant will help pay for new pipes to pump recycled water to the Sharp Park Golf Course in San Francisco, California. Unfortunately, the golf course may not exist for much longer. The City Council is considering closing the public course over concerns for the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake that live in the area.

7. Program to Control Home Appliances From a Remote Location ($787,250)
Fifty homes on Martha‘s Vineyard in Massachusetts will participate in a test program to allow an outside party to control their energy use, ―Big Brother style. The initiative will allow participating households to purchase discounted appliances from General Electric (GE) that are capable of communicating with – and being controlled by – an off-site computer system.

20. Repaved Georgia Road . . . Getting Repaved Again ($88,000)
Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) contractors are using stimulus funds to repave a busy street in Atlanta—part of which was repaved just two years ago. Rebecca Serna, a local bicyclist, noted that the existing road is ―pretty much the smoothest ride in town right now, adding about the new project, ―I don‘t know if it‘s necessary, but it‘s nice.

23. Studying the Icelandic Arctic Environment in the Viking Age ($94,902)
The University of Massachusetts-Boston received an almost $95,000 stimulus grant to ―count pollen grains collected from farms in Iceland and allowed researchers to continue studying the role the arctic environment played in the evolution of civic life during the Viking Age.

33. Study on "Hookup" Behavior of Female College Coeds ($219,000)
The National Institute of Health (NIH) is using stimulus funds to pay for a year-long $219,000 study to follow female college students for a year to determine whether young women are more likely to ―hookup — the college equivalent of casual sex — after drinking

35. Study of Wildflowers in a Ghost Town ($448,995)
A few dilapidated buildings are largely what remains in Gothic, Colorado, a ghost town that is also home to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. Over the next five years, however, Gothic will host a $448,995 National Science Foundation study by Dr. David Inouye on the impact of climate change on the town‘s wildflowers.

38. Recovering Crab Pots Lost At Sea ($700,000)
A $700,000 grant will pay for 48 people to help Oregon crabbers recover crab pots they have lost at sea. The two-year project expects to yield 2,000 lost pots a year. Oregon crabbers reportedly lose an estimated 15,000 crab pots a year. The effort will use 10 boats, planes, and a telephone hotline for people to phone in crab pot sightings. If all 4,000 pots are recovered as expected, the grantees will spend an average of $175 per crab pot, though John‘s Sporting Goods in nearby Everett, Washington sells new crab pots online for as little as $19.95.

50. Arizona Ants Work While Some Arizonans Remain Unemployed ($950,000)
Two major universities in the state are receiving a combined $950,000 to examine the division of labor in ant colonies. Arizona State University was awarded $500,000 in stimulus funding by the National Science Foundation, while the University of Arizona will receive $450,000.

51. Study On Why Young Men Do Not Like Condoms ($221,355)
Indiana University professors received $221,355 in economic stimulus funds to study why young men do not like to wear condoms.

56. Homeland Security Funds Assist Boat Tours of Alcatraz ($50,783)
A ferry service that once contracted for the federal government will receive over $50,000 in stimulus homeland security grants, despite no longer doing any work for the government.

60. Town of 838 to Renovate Old Hotel into a Welcome Center ($300,000)
Tourism may not be booming in Crofton, Kentucky (population 838),267 but the town has received $300,000 in stimulus funds to convert an abandoned downtown hotel into a visitors‘ center.

79. Money for Lighthouse Repairs on Uninhabited Island (Nearly $1.5 million)
Located on a barrier island accessible only by water, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is an area that has been empty for decades. However, the Department of the Interior will spend nearly $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds to fix the lighthouse and other facilities on the Refuge. The project will restore the lighthouse, living quarters and an oil shed.
This is totally outrageous but not unexpected. Every bit of this is pure waste. It is exactly what happens when government gives out free money.

Supposedly this waste adds to GDP. Government spending, no matter how absurd or destructive adds to GDP by definition. And with all this money sloshing around, the only bump we got out of this was a 2.8% rise in GDP, no doubt most of it wasted.

And if that's not bad enough, Geithner is extending TARP and will use up to $550 billion as a petty cash slush fund for purposes other than intended by Congress. See TARP Extended, Now a "Petty Cash Drawer for Politically Favored Interests" for details.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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