In 2013, federal spending approached $3.5 trillion. Now that’s hard to wrap your brain around. It’s about $27,700 for every American household.

All across America, families balance their budgets, rein in spending, and pay down their debts. If Americans can do it, why can’t the federal government?

Instead, they’re wasting your taxpayer dollars on programs like the ones below. We’ve compiled just 15 examples of the ridiculous spending that is driving America toward a $17 trillion national debt.


1. GATHERING DUST: The Transportation Security Administration let 5,700 pieces of unused security equipment worth $184 million sit in storage in a Dallas, Texas, warehouse, which costs $3.5 million annually to lease and manage. Taxpayers lost another $23 million in depreciation costs, because most of the 472 carry-on baggage screening machines had been housed there for nine months or more. That’s a lot of money!



2. DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY: The National Science Foundation used part of a half-million dollar grant to develop a video game that simulates a high school prom.



3. BIRD IS THE WORD: The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research spent $300,000 on a study that concluded the first bird on Earth probably had black feathers.



4. CAFÉ CAR: Taxpayer-funded Amtrak recovered only 44 cents of every dollar of its food and beverage costs on long-distance routes, which already annually lose money.



5. SO MUCH FOR ROBOT NANNIES: The Office of Naval Research spent $450,000 on a study that determined unintelligent robots do not have the ability to maintain a baby’s attention.



6. RENOVATIONS ON A PRESIDENTIAL SCALE: The Oval Office is getting a facelift. While it’s out of commission, the President will need a pseudo-Oval Office, right? As part of a $376 million White House renovation, a second office will be constructed for the President to use during the renovation.



7. FELLAS, GET YOUR GUNS: Do you think this guy appears taller, stronger, and manlier? The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research spent $681,387 on a study to confirm that he does—when he’s carrying a firearm.



8. THAT’S ILLOGICAL, CAPTAIN: The Internal Revenue Service spent $4.1 million on a lavish conference in 2010 for 2,609 of its employees in Anaheim, California. Expenses included $50,000 for line-dancing and “Star Trek” parody videos, $135,350 for outside speakers, $64,000 in conference “swag” for the employees, plus free meals, cocktails, and hotel suite upgrades.


double dipping Social Security

9. DOUBLE DIPPERS: In 2010, 117,000 people who double-dipped into Social Security’s disability insurance program and the federal unemployment insurance program received $850 million in cash benefits.



10. GET IN THE HOLE! Did you know that golfers who imagine that the hole is bigger boost their confidence and accuracy? Thanks to the National Science Foundation, Purdue University, and $350,000 in taxpayer money, now you do.



11. MORE THAN POTATOES: In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture spent $300,000 on activities promoting caviar produced in Idaho.



12. IT’S THE UNLIMITED ICE CREAM: The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a $149,992 grant to researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey who are trying to eliminate the infamous “freshman 15” by studying college students’ on-campus dining selections.



13. GIRL POWER? A $100,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts funded a video game that depicts a female superhero sent to save planet Earth from climate changes allegedly caused by social issues that affect women.



14. SO THAT’S WHAT “TRANSPARENCY” MEANS: Have you ever visited It’s a website dedicated to unveiling government spending. The Department of Health and Human Services failed to report $800 billion in spending on time. So much for “government transparency.”



15. WELL, THEY CAN’T WORK…: 1,000 prisoners like these in Pennsylvania collected weekly unemployment benefits over a four-month period, costing taxpayers $7 million. Thank you, poor oversight!

If you’re as mad as we were after reading this list, forward along to your friends. Make sure they know where their tax dollars are really going.

>>>Read about more ridiculous spending here.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misstated the cost of the Oval Office renovation. The total for a planned White House renovation is $376 million.

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