What Hath Congress Wrought?

That’s what Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) asks each year via publication of his annual Wastebook, which outlines some of the more egregious and outrageous things our profligate government considers necessary to spend money on.  Quoth Coburn in this year’s edition, “Only someone with too much of someone else’s money and not enough accountability for how it was being spent could come up with some of the zany projects the government paid for this year……..”

A few nuggets from this year’s Wastebook:

  • The Tree Frog Farm, and other Vermont communes from the 70s are clearly worthy, don’t ya’ think, of a $117,521 grant (via the Vermont Historical Society) who wants to study 1970s counterculture and its lasting influence on Vermont, to include the conduct of oral interviews and collection of artifacts from the era.  With the Federal dough, the Vermont Historical Society will undertake a project to research and document the political, social, and cultural changes of the 1970s in Vermont to create a body of primary resources for this period in Vermont’s state history.  More than worthy of a 39.6% tax rate – clearly.
  • And from the Alpaca dung department comes word of a $50,000 Value-Added Producer Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to process, package, and market Alpaca manure as plant fertilizer.  Quoth Coburn, “Of course, buying and selling Alpaca manure as fertilizer is not new.  It is widely available from retailers online and from those who may have pet alpacas.  It has become a popular fertilizer, in part, because it doesn’t smell as bad as other types of waste, unlike the foul odor of misspent tax dollars.”
  • Seeking to address its chores of “greatest need,” the Department of Homeland Security has found it necessary to purchase 236 memberships to a “state of the art” gym and spa in downtown Washington, D.C. for some of the headquarters employees of its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department.  Why, what else would they need that $450,000 for?
  • And how about that International Space Station (ISS), whose original price tag was $17.4 billion, though on which NASA has spent nearly $75 billion by the end of 2013.  Specifically, one of our favorite experiments currently being conducted aboard ISS “could eventually lead to the design and creation of better golf clubs.”  Working in conjunction with Cobra Puma (private enterprise), the experiment aboard ISS “will examine a variety of coating and metals used in golf products…..which will prove beneficial in three areas:  function, durability and aesthetics,” says  Cobra Puma.  How much more benefit could one ask for than the new record for the longest golf drive in history set by a Russian cosmonaut tethered to ISS, when he bashed a golf ball in 2006 estimated to have travelled a million miles around the earth?!  Only one of many important hurdles achieved by NASA via its expenditures totaling $3 billion this year, and expected to total another $20.6 billion before 2020!

CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISOR – This article contains general information about various tax matters.  You should consult your CPA regarding the implications to your own particular situation.

Jeff Quinn, the author of this article, is a shareholder in Ashley Quinn, CPAs and Consultants, Ltd., with offices in Incline Village and Reno.  He can be reached at 831-7288, welcomes comments at jquinn@ashleyquinncpas.com, and invites readers to consider his other commentary at http://blog.nolo.com/taxes.

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