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Get the latest news, research, commentary and analysis on what is impacting your quality of life. From top scholars to regular citizens, this blog’s contributors make the latest in empirical research on economic freedom accessible and easy to understand, issue by issue.

“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

“ Sure, the examples … 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.”

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.