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“Essential” Government Spending? Tell Us What You Think

Airplane taking offLast year, the U.S. government spent $3.7 trillion—a whopping $1.3 trillion of which it had to borrow, bringing our national debt to more than $16 trillion.

That’s a lot of money to pay back, for us and for future generations. Yet, rather than look for ways to decrease the amount we owe, our leaders are seeking to raise the “debt ceiling” in order to pay for spending they consider essential.

But just how essential is that spending? Take a look at these government programs and use the comments section to let us know what you think.

Lost in Translation: USAID’s Morocco Economic Competitiveness Project

This U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project to boost Morocco’s economy includes a $111,000 program to teach Moroccans to make pottery that can be sold both domestically and internationally. However, the program appointed a U.S. instructor who spoke little Arabic, hired a translator who wasn’t fluent in English, and called for clays and dyes that aren’t available in Morocco. Little wonder that two-thirds of the participants felt the program was “ineffective.”

Taken for a Ride: Uncle Sam’s Free Buses in Indianapolis

The U.S. Department of Transportation gave the city of Indianapolis a $142,419 grant to provide free bus rides on routes frequented by tourists in town for Super Bowl 2012. But shouldn’t anyone who can afford a ticket to the Super Bowl be able to come up with the fare to ride the bus? Average cost of a Super Bowl 2012 ticket: about $3,000. Cost of an Indianapolis city bus ticket: $1.75.

A Program That Just Won’t Fly: Oklahoma’s Lake Murray State Park Airport

Oklahoma receives $150,000 from the federal government every year to keep open an airport that sees only a handful of flights a month and serves a state park within easy access of two other nearby airports. But despite calls to close the Lake Murray State Park Airport, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission refuses. Why? Because the $150,000 that rolls into its coffers can be spent at other facilities in the state. Over the last five years, less than 1 percent of the allocated federal money has been spent on the airport.

No Laughing Matter: The State Department’s Comedy Tour of India

In January 2012, the Department of State dispatched three American comedians of Indian heritage to seven cities across the subcontinent as part of its global cultural exchange program. Their mission: to promote U.S. values and religious tolerance to Indian audiences. “It may seem frivolous to spend tax dollars sending comedians to India,” says one of the trio. “But our show is about spreading goodwill.” The cost of their “Make Chai, Not War” tour? $100,000.

So what’s your opinion about such “essential” spending? Sure, the examples above amount to only a small fraction of our overall budget—but they do illustrate some of the types of purchases our government makes with your money.

Are you OK with footing the bill for unused airports, comedy tours of India, and who knows what else? (You can find multiple examples of the “what else” here and here.) Let us know by posting a comment below.


  1. Michael says:

    Essential government spending:
    - Defence spending
    - Internal order spending (but can be privatized to a certain extent)
    - Correction of externalities

  2. shrgngatlas says:

    Essential spending – that would be defense and other Constitutionally permitted items. But what is needed even more is going back to the original meaning of the commerce clause. Oh, I know, they say we can’t do that now because too many people depend on those patently unconstitutional programs and the upheaval would be too immense. But we didn’t get here overnight. We have to start toward these goals soon or the resulting collapse will cause the upheaval for us.

  3. barry1817 says:

    how about listening to Grace report and implementing those suggestions.

    And that would be just a start.

  4. Don Alrick says:

    Hold it! There’s a difference between the debt ceiling and deficit spending! Deficit spending is what congress does, spending money it doesn’t have. Raising the debt ceiling is what the nation must do to avoid defaulting on the debt we’ve already incurred. You’re asking the wrong question!

    • fcoliver says:

      Yes, there’s a difference between deficit spending and the debt ceiling, but the two are certainly related. The nation can pay its debts without raising the debt ceiling… for now at least. There is more than enough tax revenue coming in to pay the interest on our debts, despite the fact that we’re borrowing about 42 cents of every dollar spent. If the debt ceiling is not raised, expenditures will have to be cut back sharply in many areas, but that does not mean that we cannot pay the interest on our debts.

      On the other hand, an increase in the debt ceiling will only result in continued borrowing, further increasing the amount of interest that must be paid. That interest can only come from 1) Higher taxes; 2) More borrowed money; or 3) Money diverted from other government expenditures.

      • Don Alrick says:

        The nation was led into two wars that fueled our debt, with no tax increase to pay for them. The surplus that existed was exhausted. To get out of debt, we simply need to stop having wars without putting them on the books and paying for them, and since we didn’t do that, to raise the taxes enough to get rid of the debt and keep things running. Our taxes are very low compared to the rest of the industrialized world. And, yes…. those who can pay more should pay more.

        • fcoliver says:

          The calls to go to war were bipartisan, and I recall many Democrats loudly supporting that decision. Perhaps THAT would have been a good time to raise taxes, since so many were shouting that we should “do something” about terrorism.

          If you look at the numbers you’ll see there never was an actual surplus, although that is commonly stated (and apparently believed by many.) There was, for a short time, a projected surplus, which never materialized.

          Taxes went up this year for 98% of Americans, and there are more than 20 new taxes in Obamacare. Tax revenues flowing into the federal government for 2013 are projected to be the highest EVER, yet spending will still exceed revenues by $600,000,000,000 (or more.)

          Those who can pay more ALREADY pay more… by a huge and disproportionate amount. I assume there are people who won’t be satisfied until the top 5% are carrying the ENTIRE federal income tax burden for the remaining 95%, but that surely won’t do much to incentivize productivity and industry.

          Finally, your post is a non sequitur and non-responsive to my comments about the debt ceiling. Raising the debt ceiling will only allow (encourage?) further unrestrained spending by irresponsible politicians eager to curry favor, buy votes, promote a burgeoning bureaucracy, and expand dependency upon an ever-enlarging government.

          At least drunken sailors stop spending when they run out of money.

    • fcoliver says:

      To make matters worse, the economy will eventually recover, in spite of the policies of this administration. When that happens interest rates (which have been artificially held to impossibly low levels by the reckless printing of dollars) will return to historically normal levels (~4-5%) and quadruple the amount of interest due each year, diverting huge amounts of money away from necessary federal spending (or requiring huge increases in taxes or borrowing.)
      Since our government has repeatedly shown an inability to recognize or accept this economic reality, there’s no doubt that a higher debt ceiling can only lead to higher government spending and increased debt.
      We are on a clearly unsustainable path. Raising the debt ceiling only delays (and worsens) the inevitable reckoning.

  5. Al Barnes says:

    Our government spends way too much of our money for stupid things. The federal government is supposed to be dealing with interstate commerce and mutual defense. That’s what the Costitution says are the resposiblities of the Federal government. But they do much more than they should be doing.

  6. cimiron says:

    our government has been out of control for many years, we need to get rid of the lobbyists and idiots that think up these stupid expenses. I think the way to do that is the fair tax and get rid of all the corruptors in our government. Stop people on welfare from voting, they have no rights as they are collecting from the government, and would naturally vote for the party giving them the free handouts ( not including legit people on social security or vets) and of coarse the free cell phones this past year.

  7. Lucky3511 says:

    I doubt Obama ever managed a household budget. He knew he could always go to the Gummint if he was short. However, we are now borrowing sums we cannot repay from the country which would love to see us completely bankrupt and at their mercy for a take over. They do not need the people, they have plenty. The need the land and infrastructure.

  8. Mars says:

    And then we have no money for tours of the White House, or cops (which are paid by the State, aren’t they?) Or airport controllers,which they did find some money to end that part of the sequestion. Such liars to make us think we need BIG Gov. or we will feel great pain! Good grief!!

  9. “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”
    Thomas Jefferson – Declaration of Independence
    It’s getting close.

  10. Lou says:

    Everyone e-mail your senators and congress and hold them accountable to stop this waste and contempt of tax payers money. We must vote these politicians out and get responsible government of the people by the peope and for the people back in office

  11. Tipper Top says:

    Personally, I’ve long thought that USAID was a sham spending of our tax dollars. After all, take a look at what the globe thinks of America and our citizens. Obviously, this type of spending simply isn’t working. I think it would be much better if others wondered about us more than our intruding into their culture. Often the idea of something is much better than the reality. It’s high time we saved the cash and let other countries fend for themselves, especially in ‘cultural’ matters. Our culture is ours and we have no need to tell others that ours is better than theirs. Who is so high handed to even think that way?

    /sarcasm on/ Ummm – Hillary? /sarcasm off/

  12. allin says:

    Term limits, campaign dollar limits. If we don’t rid the lifers, we are headed for bankruptcy.

  13. Lee says:

    If the tax paying public does not wake up and hold their elected officials accountable, we have no reason to complain. Either get involved and let your Congress and Senators know what you expect, or be quite, I belive we have been quite too long.

  14. John Mitros says:

    Does the “global cultural exchange program” promote the U.S. values of abortion on demand, and the religious tolerance contained in Obamacare, that which denies Christians their religious beliefs by requiring their insurances to pay for abortions? This is nothing more than a load of liberal garbage costing the taxpayers and our posterity literally hundreds of thousands of dollars individually. Cut it out NOW.

  15. Ray A says:

    Someone has suggested Term limits on congress to get rid of them that keep passing bills that force deficit spending. There is a better, and cheaper way to do the same — just take away their congressional pensions and outlaw double and triple dipping for those that now have more than one federal pension. They won’t stay in congress long if all they get is Social Security for their retirement.
    If you want to make lobbying a lot more difficult then repeal the 17th amendment. Then the lobbyists will have to lobby all 50 state legislatures to get the Senate to do their bidding.

  16. Greg99 says:

    Barack and Michelle Obama have displayed a complete disconnect to the effects of a bad economy on those of us who suffer from his pathetic failures with the American economy. It is my understanding that she has twenty four personal aides to wait on her every need. We witnessed the most egregious display of arrogance during the inauguration when there more than half a dozen galas, inauguration balls, wasting millions of dollars, when the democrats have done nothing but tell us how bad a job that George Bush did with the economy for the past eight years. Vacations, golf, basketball games…these two people are wasting money at an incredible rate. His message doesn’t match his actions, or hers!
    The stimulus was a mammoth waste of money. Solyndra, and many “investments like it, were a huge burden on our economy. Our government was pouring money into Solyndra, even as it was known to them that Solyndra was doomed! Under this administration, the burden of debt increased exponentially! The majority of people in this country helped reelect a president with the highest unemployment rate ever at election time. And what does he do? Signs legislation to help illegal immigrants stay in the United States when we can’t supply jobs to Americans! None of this makes ANY sense!
    During an economy that he claims he merely inherited from his predecessor, perhaps it’s time to get the hell out of the economy’s way? No, they force Obamacare on us, which causes employers to slow down or halt hiring. Close the borders, learn what the term, “illegal immigrant ” means, and stop all foreign aid, especially to countries like Egypt that are run, in part, by our enemies like the Muslim Brotherhood, until we revive the economy!

  17. Lori T Cramer says:

    It is time for us, The American people, to tell our government what they can and cannot do with our money. These and so many other “essential” programs are ludicrous and despicable as to not even need discussion before being deleted. Why is it that whenever they want to threaten us they hit us with cuts to Medicare, Social Security and veterans? why do they not include Social Security Disability Benefits which are being paid to millions of young healthy adults throughout this country? Why don’t they threaten cuts to Food Stamps, Welfare and Free Cell Phones? Those of us who have worked all of our lives do not need to be threatened by our government. They need to start threatening those who give nothing and take all. I believe in a flat tax. This is all you get. Make the most of it. I do. We do.

  18. popham says:

    Only a fraction of government expenditures to be sure, but also absurd
    and obviously wasteful.

  19. A F McSwain says:

    There is absolutely too much waste in every area of government, many duplicate and unnecessary programs which should be completely eradicated. There are too many government workers that have found a cushy job of doing nothing for years and raping the American people’s pocketbooks. It’s evidenced by all of the so-called seminars, etc. that these useless employees take all over the world at taxpayer expense. These people are no better than those who have found deceptive ways to receive disability and welfare even though they are really able to work at a productive job. There’s tons of abuse about which absolutely nothing is being done. The lies, mishandling of responsibility, lack of judgment, and unaccountability of high-level government employees is at an all-time high. America is a laughing-stock to the rest of the world because of the ineptness in our government.

  20. Beja says:

    It is time we stopped the giveaway billions of dollars to countries that do not like us, do not support us and take the billons eagerly. We should stop all of it and then start over. Think of what we could do with the dollars here in this country.

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