Your taxes are due in five days. Don’t blame me, I voted against them.
A few years ago I thought I would try to make us all feel a little better about our tax bills by calling attention to some of the wonderful government agencies that our hard-earned dollars go to fund.
So I went to USA.gov (motto: “Because we can, that’s why”), and looked up the A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies. After reading for a while, I realized there was no way I was going to make anyone feel better about paying taxes, so instead I bet myself that I could click on every letter of the alphabet and come up with a ridiculous agency that should never have been started in the first place.
I failed to find an insane waste of money under each letter of the alphabet, but that was only because there were no agencies that started with the letters Q, X, Y or Z. (I’m happy to announce that the government was able to add a K agency since last year.)
I have updated the list of current agencies for you again this year. Here’s the fun places your 2016 tax dollars are headed:
Administration on Aging (motto: Good for wine and cheese, bad for people’s bodies.)
Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (motto: Buyer beware. And seller, too. We’re coming for all of you.)
Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (motto: It goes in the upper right corner, dammit!)
Delaware River Basin Commission (motto: Getting paid to stare at water since 1961.)
Economic Adjustment Office (motto: Please be patient. We’re redistributing your money as fast as we can.)
Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (motto: Just kidding, we have no standards.)
Government Ethics, Office of (motto: We can’t even fit all the irony into one building.)
House Office of the Clerk (Main functions include running the offices of deceased and retired representatives – I am not making that up.)
Interagency Alternative Dispute Resolution Working Group (We’re using your money to figure out how to play nice. It’s not working.)
Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (motto: We will sue you in as many places as possible.)
Kennedy Center (motto: Please stop asking about Marilyn.)
Legal Services Corporation (motto: That might be legal now. There’s been a lot of changes.)
Marine Mammal Commission (We’re investigating the narwhal. He seems like a troublemaker.)
National Technical Information Service (motto: Dumbing everything down for you as fast as we can.)
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (This is not where we hide all the bribes and kickbacks and stuff. We swear.)
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (Just kidding, we spent it all. Here’s a third of what you were promised. We borrowed it from social security. Don’t tell them!)
Rural Business and Cooperative Programs (motto: We don’t trust you rednecks to handle things on your own.)
Surface Transportation Board (We don’t trust those Department of Transportation guys to handle the surface. There’s just too much of it. It covers the whole country, you know?)
Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (We changed our name from “Taxpayer Advocate Service” because too many people thought we would actually help. You’re still screwed.)
U.S. Election Assistance Committee (motto: Helping you get crappy officials for generations to come.)
Veterans Day National Committee (We’re thinking November 11th again this year.)
Washington Headquarters Services (We are here to serve headquarters. In Washington. Don’t ask a lot of questions, OK?)
It bothers me that we don’t have Q, X, Y, or Z agencies. I really don’t think our government is applying itself here. We’re only four more ridiculous money-wasting agencies away from having the whole alphabet covered. Just off the top of my head, I can suggest the Quicksand and other Swamp Dangers Mitigation Exploratory Committee, the Xylophone Standardization Council, the Yo-Yo Injury Prevention Task Force, and the Zeppelin and Lighter-than-Aircraft (Unmanned) Aviation Standards Advisory Board. Get on that, will you Washington?
As far as the current agencies go, keep in mind, folks, I limited myself to only one department per letter of the alphabet. This list of agencies whose only concern is to justify their funding for next year could go on for days.
Even more disturbing than the fact that the lists grow each year, is the fact that not all the agencies are listed under the “Complete A-Z Listing” of government agencies. And here’s what’s really scary – you used to be able to dig a little deeper on USA.gov under the Executive Branch and find the rest of the disheartening lists – a list of Independent Agencies and Government Corporations, a list of Boards, Commissions, and Committees, a list of Federal Advisory Committees, and my personal favorite, a list of Quasi-Official Agencies.
But now all those lists are gone. When you click on the Executive Branch now, you get moved to a Kids.USA.Gov site with an animated Ben Franklin taking us on a Learning Adventure, explaining how government “works” to second-graders.
Umm… Is there an agency that can look into why someone is hiding quasi-official agencies from us using a cartoon? No? OK, never mind then, I guess.
If that isn’t scary enough for you, then I invite you to forget all the agencies, boards, commissions, committees, and departments, quasi-official or not, that we may or may not be allowed to know about and simply ponder this:
According to Congress, it takes around $5.3 billion per year just for them to turn the lights on and run the show. Not all of Washington, D.C., mind you. Just Congress. Not the White House, plus the Supreme Court, plus the Pentagon, plus the army and stuff. Just Congress. Five and a third billion dollars. Billion with a “B.” Five thousand millions.
They “work” about one hundred seventy-five days per year. That means we’re talking $30 million a day.
Even if we generously assume they work twelve hours per day, that’s $2.5 million an hour.
That’s $42,000 per minute.
That’s $700 per second. For Congress to keep the doors open.
(And, let’s keep in mind that it was Congress themselves who told us how much they are spending. So, in reality, it’s probably a much higher number, since they stopped letting us know about all the agencies and stuff and gave us a cartoon instead.)
In the time it will take you to read this sentence, the U.S. Congress will spend $8,500 of your money (or probably more) on nothing more than working hard to dream up even more hidden quasi-official agencies to help spend the rest of it.
But never mind. Just look at the fun animated Ben Franklin and forget about what you were concerned with. Ben has video games for you, too!
The real April Fools’ Day is not April 1st. It’s April 15th.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen
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