Strange Stimulus Projects

  • Money Well Spent

    Earlier this week, the government released their official data about the number of jobs saved or created thanks to the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known simply as the Stimulus package. The grand total: with just over $150 billion spent, 650,000 jobs were created or saved. Some have argued that when you crunch the numbers, the taxpayer ended up paying a steep price for each person who got or remained employed (roughly $150,000 per job.) The White House of course argues that critics are applying bad math here, and that their numbers fail to take into account the larger picture of jobs and businesses helped tangentially from this investment. Similarly, many have begun to dig into the other projects besides jobs that are either currently being funded through the stimulus package or planning to be. It should come as little surprise that given the massive scale of stimulus, there are plenty of projects to nitpick. (In fact, the government has already halted close to 200 dubious projects.) Among those that did make the cut, some are just plain strange while others may seem like a waste of money. Whether you are staunch Obama supporter or a rabid big government hater, it’s useful to see the many industries in which our tax money has been invested. You decide how much of it is money well spent. Photo Credit: meddygarnet
    Spay and Neuter Pets
  • Spay and Neuter Pets

    Some items on this list may read more like a set of family expenses than an inventory of pricey government programs. According to the Wall Street Journal, $55,000 from the stimulus was allotted to spay and neuter pets in Wichita, Kansas. As odd as this project sounds, there is a reasonable explanation for it. The journal reports that “unwanted pets ultimately cost $240 apiece to collect, board and euthanize, the city estimates, so the program covering 800 animals should save taxpayers money in the long run.” Still, some skeptics out there will undoubtedly howl with discontent that their taxpayer money has gone to the dogs. Plus, Bob Barker is bound to be happy with this one. Photo Credit: jilbean3
    Skateboarding Park
  • Skateboarding Park

    Rather than fix up their buildings or invest in the economy, Pawtucket, Rhode Island decided to tap into $550,000 worth of stimulus money in order to fund a new skateboarding park. I don’t want to diss all the skaters out there (mainly out of fear that they will come after us with their big boards or kick us in the shins), but should taxpayer money really be going to skateboard parks? I mean when you think about, it’s one of the few sports where you can really make due with things you find on the street – benches, curbs, hopping over old ladies. Plus, as CBS News reports, Pawtucket has plenty of other problems that need fixing. “Just how bad are things in Pawtucket? Fifty-two city workers have been laid off. The budget is $7.5 million in the red. And unemployment is among the worst in the nation. In short, Pawtucket is on the verge of bankruptcy.” Let’s just hope the skate park doesn’t eventually become a tent city. The real reason for the park is they want to stop skateboarders from using the steps of government buildings and libraries. (After the fact, the town tried to improve its public image by doing some clever accounting, using other funds to pay for the park and switching out the stimulus money to do road work.) Photo Credit: BotheredByBees
    Help An Old Turtle Cross the Street
  • Help An Old Turtle Cross the Street

    It sounds like a bad after school project, but in Tallahassee, Fla., this government-funded effort is costing taxpayers $3.4 million. The money is going to a “turtle tunnel” on one of Florida’s busiest interstates to provide an alternate route for these slow creatures who frequently get killed trying to cross the interstate.  For a more impassioned plea to save these turtles and build the tunnel, check here. Perhaps even more questionable than the project is the joke Senator Tom Coburn made while bashing the project. “Why did the turtle cross the road? To get to the other side of a stimulus project," Coburn said in his report. That joke disserves to get run over on the interstate. Photo Credit: redjar
    Bridge to Connect Two Microsoft Campuses
  • Bridge to Connect Two Microsoft Campuses

    Last time I checked, this company was owned by the sometimes richest person in the world. But this hasn’t stopped the government from providing funds to help bridge two Microsoft campuses at its headquarters that are split by a major highway. The original estimates were that the stimulus bill was paying $11 million for this project, but the government has since come out saying that figure is absolutely ridiculous. It’s only paying about half that. Like many of the projects on this list, though it sounds frivolous, it does nonetheless have the strong support of the local community, who see it as a way to improve traffic and boost their retail sector. Photo Credit: Robert Scoble
    Bathrooms... in A Forest
  • Bathrooms... in A Forest

    Okay, so it’s not just any forest. It’s the Mark Twain National Forest. But how many bathrooms do you really need there? According to the U.S. government, the answer is 22.  “[T]he funds are being used to purchase 22 complete, prefabricated restroom buildings for the National Forest – and include site preparation and installation.  At $21,000 per building installed, this is a reasonable cost and provides construction jobs in this area.” Check out this MainStreet article to read about other bathroom projects funded by the stimulus. Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org
    Funny Accents
  • Funny Accents

    To be fair, this is only part of a package of research projects being funded through stimulus money. That said, taxpayers are paying a portion of $356,000 to research how children understand and perceive foreign accents. The point of the study is to learn more about children with hearing problems. Photo Credit: Alfonso Jimenez
    Dead People
  • Dead People

    There are estimates that as much as $2.5 million in stimulus money went to dead people. Thousands of deceased people received stimulus checks for $250 in the mail. Or to put it more accurately, the loved ones of the deceased received them, baffled. According to one report, "The Social Security Administration, which sent out 52 million checks, says that some of those checks mistakenly went to dead people because the agency had no record of their death. That amounts to between 8,000 and 10,000 checks for millions of dollars." Photo Credit: Barbara L. Hanson
    Your Stimulus Money Spent Here Sign
  • Your Stimulus Money Spent Here Sign

    Americans will probably see road signs put up at construction sites across the country to alert them that the construction project is in fact paid for by stimulus money. Unfortunately, these signs each cost approximately $300. "Transportation Department spokesman Jill Zuckman said each state decides whether to use stimulus money for signs, and the cost would vary in each state," according to CBS News. Perhaps I'm wrong here, but that basically sounds about as smart as opening up a lemonade stand and using the money you make to pay for signs that say, "We have a lemonade stand." Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org
    Hunting for Radioactive Rabbit Droppings
  • Hunting for Radioactive Rabbit Droppings

    I couldn't make this one up if I wanted to. A helicopter has been flying over the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state to look for radioactive rabbit feces so that workers on the ground can later dispose of it safely. The goal is to prevent the radioactive material from seeping into the water supply, and this effort is part of a large scale environmental clean-up. But when it was announced that these helicopter flights cost $300,000 in stimulus money, some questioned whether this was a good use of taxpayer money. Yet, according to the New York Times, to do the same work on foot with just radiation detectors would take months longer and cost more than three times as much money. Photo Credit: Todd Barnard
    Mascot Costumes
  • Mascot Costumes

    This was one of the earlier projects to be funded with stimulus money. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent more than $50,000 on nine costumes for mascots to teach water safety lessons to children. It may sound like a lot of money to spend on costumes (they should have just waited until the day after Halloween when everything goes on sale anyway), but advocates claim it's a down payment on saving many kids' lives. Photo Credit: gojeffrey
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