The Christmas season is on, and shoppers are out in full force. This means nothing for Washington. Here, Santa Claus seems to hand out gifts all year long.

Here are 12 examples of government waste we’ve selected in the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas:

1. NASA spent $237,205 to study how rainfall affects the red crab’s annual migration to Christmas Island. Merry Crab Christmas!


2. Medicare Part B paid $132.9 million for the same medical supplies for cancer treatment that Medicare Part D paid $22 million to receive. How generous to pay six times for the same supplies!


3. The United States Postal Service lost or cannot confirm receiving 37 trailers from a leasing company. The United States Postal Service eventually purchased the titles of the missing trailers, which cost the postal service $287,000 for trailers that remain missing. Did anybody check in the garage?


4. The Defense Department overpaid by $3.3 million for radios for the Afghan army because the Defense Department failed to follow contracting procedures. Roger that.

Military radio control room (1)

5. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency paid an informant working for Amtrak $854,460 over 20 years to disclose passengers’ names. However, the DEA could have received this information for free since the Amtrak Police Department will share this information with other law enforcement agencies.

Union Station, Los Angeles, California, May 2, 2010

6. The National Institutes of Health spent $484,000 to study whether hypnosis can reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal woman and breast cancer survivors. A self-help book entitled “Relief from Hot Flashes” describes a session as “You go to a place in your mind that’s going to cool you off. It’s almost like your body is cooling itself off.”


7. Federal agencies paid nearly $50 million to the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service for information that is mostly available free online. Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla.,  introduced the Let Me Google That For you Act to terminate NTIS.


8. Paralegals at the Patient Trial and Appeal Board were paid $5.1 million over four years as they watched Netflix, shopped online and used social media while on the clock.

Netflix Reports Third Quarter Earnings

9. The Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program provided $400,000 to the liquor lobby, which used part of those funds to transport foreign journalists to different breweries and distilleries in the southeastern United States. Cheers to that!


10. The Department of Agriculture granted $500,000 to provide start-up materials for butterfly farming to Native Americans in Oklahoma, which included butterfly eggs and vehicles to transport them.


11. The National Institutes of Health has granted more than $10 million towards the creation of “Escape from Diab,” which is a video game about five children who must get healthy enough to escape from a town full of obese people and their evil king.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 3.39.31 PM

12. Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency used government credit cards to purchase $79,300 worth of “prohibited, improper and erroneous” goods and services. Included in the purchases were gym memberships for EPA employees and their family members, DVDs and academic memberships.


It is examples like these that show there is plenty of fat in the budget that needs to be trimmed, and Congress has a responsibility to trim it. Federal Spending by the Numbers 2014 includes 51 examples of government waste from which these 12 were selected. The report also reveals key budget trends in charts, tables and key points.

The best gift Congress could give Americans this Christmas season is to address wasteful spending with the right reforms in Congress’ 2015 budget. Uncle Sam’s handouts are not produced by elves at the North Pole but paid for with money taken from hardworking American families.

For more examples of government waste and to learn more about the federal budget, see Heritage’s 2014 edition of Federal Spending by the Numbers.

All photos courtesy of Thinkstock.