Category Archive 'Government Waste'

01 May 2014

It’s Only Tax Dollars!

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Ammunition1

USAToday:

The Pentagon plans to destroy more than $1 billion worth of ammunition although some of those bullets and missiles could still be used by troops, according to the Pentagon and congressional sources.

It’s impossible to know what portion of the arsenal slated for destruction — valued at $1.2 billion by the Pentagon — remains viable because the Defense Department’s inventory systems can’t share data effectively, according to a Government Accountability Office report obtained by USA TODAY.

The result: potential waste of unknown value.

“There is a huge opportunity to save millions, if not billions of dollars if the (Pentagon) can make some common-sense improvements to how it manages ammunition,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Despite years of effort, the Army, Navy and Air Force still don’t have an efficient process for doing something as basic as sharing excess bullets. This Government Accountability Office (GAO) report clearly shows that our military’s antiquated systems lead to millions of dollars in wasteful ammunition purchases.”

The Army and Pentagon, in a statement, acknowledged “the need to automate the process” and will make it a priority in future budgets. In all, the Pentagon manages a stockpile of conventional ammunition worth $70 billion.

I don’t know about missiles, but I seriously doubt that any ammunition manufactured from the Vietnam era onward is not going to fire. I have myself inherited or purchased old rounds produced long before WWII, and all of them fired just fine with the single exception of a box of 9mm rimfire solids (which probably dated back to before WWI).

Why not just offer the cartridges, with a disclaimer, at bargain prices to the American public via the Civilian Marksmanship Program?

05 Sep 2010

Pyramid-building in Los Angeles

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Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools Complex

Los Angeles may be broke and its public school system may only graduate from high school (as of 2008) 45.3% of its students, but those minor considerations are not stopping the opening of the most expensive school ever constructed in the country’s history.


Allysia Finley
, in the Wall Street Journal, comments on the Neronian insolence of it all.

At $578 million—or about $140,000 per student—the 24-acre Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in mid-Wiltshire is the most expensive school ever constructed in U.S. history. To put the price in context, this city’s Staples sports and entertainment center cost $375 million. To put it in a more important context, the school district is currently running a $640 million deficit and has had to lay off 3,000 teachers in the last two years. It also has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country and some of the worst test scores.

The K-12 complex isn’t merely an overwrought paean to the nation’s most celebrated liberal political family. It’s a jarring reminder that money doesn’t guarantee success—though it certainly beautifies failure.

The cluster of schools is situated on the premises of the old Ambassador Hotel where the New York senator and presidential candidate was shot in 1968. The school district insists that it chose the site not merely for sentimental reasons, but because it was the only space available in the area and the property was dirt cheap.

That was the only cheap thing about the project. In order to build on the site, the school district had to resolve protracted legal battles with Donald Trump—who wanted to build the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi there—and with historical conservationists who demanded that certain features be restored or recreated.

Set to open Sept. 13, the school boasts an auditorium whose starry ceiling and garish entrance are modeled after the old Cocoanut Grove nightclub and a library whose round, vaulted ceilings and cavernous center resemble the ballroom where Kennedy made his last speech. It also includes the original Cocoanut Grove canopy around which the rest of the school was built. “It wasn’t cheap, but it was saved,” says Thomas Rubin, a consultant for the district’s bond oversight committee, which oversees the $20 billion of bonds that taxpayers approved for school construction in recent years.
View a slide-show of the school.

I asked Mr. Rubin whether some of the school’s grandiose features—like florid murals of Robert F. Kennedy—were worth the cost. “Did we have to do that? Hell no. But there’s no accounting for taste,” he responded.

Talking benches—$54,000—play a three-hour audio of the site’s history. Murals and other public art cost $1.3 million. A minipark facing a bustling Wilshire Boulevard? $4.9 million.

The Kennedy complex is Exhibit A in the district’s profligate 131-school building binge. Exhibit B is the district’s Visual and Performing Arts High School, which was originally budgeted at $70 million but was later upgraded into a sci-fi architectural masterpiece that cost $232 million.

Even more striking is Exhibit C, the Edward Roybal Learning Center in the Westlake area, which was budgeted at $110 million until costs skyrocketed midway through construction when contractors discovered underground methane gas and a fault line. Eventual cost: $377 million.

Mr. Rubin admits that the Roybal Center project was “a tremendous screw-up” that “should have been studied closer beforehand.” The project was abandoned for several years, only to be recommenced when community activists demanded that the school be built at whatever cost necessary in order to show respect for the neighborhood’s Latino children, many of whom were attending an overcrowded Belmont High School.

The Roybal center now ranks in the bottom third of schools with similar demographics on state tests, while Belmont High ranks in the top third. But even though many Roybal kids can’t read or do math, at least they have a dance studio with cushioned maple floors and a kitchen with a restaurant-quality pizza oven.

Expect more such over-the-top and inefficient building projects in the future. Los Angeles voters have approved over $20 billion of bonds since 1997 and state voters have chipped in another $4.4 billion of matching funds. Roughly a third of the cost of the Kennedy complex will be shouldered by state taxpayers.

1:55 ABC “>video

20 Aug 2009

Man Trades in Maserati Clunker on a Subaru

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1985 Maserati Biturbo

It sounds amazing. In Golden, Colorado, the owner of a 1985 Maserati Biturbo actually traded in his exotic Italian grand touring sedan, with an odometer reading of only 18,480 miles, for $3500 from Barack Obama as down payment on a new Subaru.

The Maserati is doomed. Its engine’s crankcase will be filled with sodium silicate in a government stimulus program resembling those of the Great Depression in which farmers were paid to shoot pigs or plow under wheat, then the whole car will be crushed into a cube of metal.

In this case, maybe Obama should just save a few quarts of good sodium silicate. That Maserati already wouldn’t run.

Weekly Driver:

A man in Colorado was so frustrated with his car breaking down, he decided to capitalize on the “Cash For Clunkers” program. That’s nothing unusual — except his car was a rare Maserati.

The 1985 Maserati BiTurbo has 18,480 miles on the odometer and its interior is nearly new. Yet the owner said he couldn’t drive the car more than 10 minutes without having to call his mechanic.

The Maserati, like all “Cash for Clunker” trade-ins, will soon be crushed. The man said the engine frequently had problems and he’s been trying to the Maserati for months. By trading it in, the owner got $3,500 of government money, roughly the same as he was trying to sell the car for privately.

CNN 1:40 video

That Colorado owner’s experience was apparently pretty typical. The Maserati Biturbo made Time Magazine’s 50 Worst Cars of All Time:

“Biturbo” is, of course, Italian for “expensive junk.” At least, it is now, after Maserati tried to pass off this bitter heartbreak-on-wheels as a proper grand touring sedan. The Biturbo was the product of a desperate, under-funded company circling the drain of bankruptcy, and it shows. Everything that could leak, burn, snap or rupture did so with the regularity of the Anvil Chorus. The collected service advisories would look like the Gutenberg Bible.

Your tax dollars at work. Nobody would buy this dog, but Barack Obama did, using your money to do it.


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