Mish has a sampling of some stimulus projects, all of them trying to outdo each other in their uselessness – a schoolbook example of what happens when the government gets to spend billions:
1. “Almost Empty” Mall Awarded Energy Grant ($5 million)
The Department of Energy has announced an award for up to $5 million6 to install a geothermal energy system capable of heating an ―almost empty‖ mall in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
2. Renovations for Federal Building as Expensive as New Building ($133 million)
Taxpayers in Oregon may be surprised to learn that the largest stimulus project in their state is not a new road or bridge, but a $133 million makeover for the federal building in downtown Portland. The money will go toward ―greening the Edith Green/Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in the hope of making it a model for energy efficient government offices in the Northwest. That said, for $133 million some may wonder why they did not simply tear it down and start over.
Agency officials expect to construct a type of vegetative skin—made of plants—on the exterior of the building, to help with heating and cooling costs.
In 2007, a new federal building was constructed in downtown San Francisco with similar state-of-the-art energy efficiency features for $144 million—nearly the same cost to merely renovate the Portland Federal Building. Both buildings are eighteen stories tall, built with energy efficient technologies, and house federal agency offices. The major difference is that the San Francisco building is much larger, with an additional 100,000 usable square feet in comparison with its counterpart in Portland.
3. DTV Advertising Agency Generates Three Jobs ($5.9 million)
An advertising agency that ultimately reported little job creation received a multi-million dollar contract to help the government overcome a poorly managed transition to digital television, only to report three jobs created.
4. Research to Develop Supersonic Corporate Jets ($4.7 Million)
Lockheed Martin will receive a total of more than $21 million in federal money—with $4.7 million funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to advance research for supersonic jet travel. High ticket costs, fuel-guzzling and the infamous sonic ―boom helped doom commercial supersonic travel in the past; the last Concorde jet flew in 2003.
5. Water Pipeline to a Money-Losing Golf Course ($2.2 million)
A $2.2 million stimulus grant will help pay for new pipes to pump recycled water to the Sharp Park Golf Course in San Francisco, California. Unfortunately, the golf course may not exist for much longer. The City Council is considering closing the public course over concerns for the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake that live in the area.
7. Program to Control Home Appliances From a Remote Location ($787,250)
Fifty homes on Martha‘s Vineyard in Massachusetts will participate in a test program to allow an outside party to control their energy use, ―Big Brother style. The initiative will allow participating households to purchase discounted appliances from General Electric (GE) that are capable of communicating with – and being controlled by – an off-site computer system.
20. Repaved Georgia Road . . . Getting Repaved Again ($88,000)
Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) contractors are using stimulus funds to repave a busy street in Atlanta—part of which was repaved just two years ago. Rebecca Serna, a local bicyclist, noted that the existing road is ―pretty much the smoothest ride in town right now, adding about the new project, ―I don‘t know if it‘s necessary, but it‘s nice.
23. Studying the Icelandic Arctic Environment in the Viking Age ($94,902)
The University of Massachusetts-Boston received an almost $95,000 stimulus grant to ―count pollen grains collected from farms in Iceland and allowed researchers to continue studying the role the arctic environment played in the evolution of civic life during the Viking Age.
33. Study on “Hookup” Behavior of Female College Coeds ($219,000)
The National Institute of Health (NIH) is using stimulus funds to pay for a year-long $219,000 study to follow female college students for a year to determine whether young women are more likely to ―hookup — the college equivalent of casual sex — after drinking
35. Study of Wildflowers in a Ghost Town ($448,995)
A few dilapidated buildings are largely what remains in Gothic, Colorado, a ghost town that is also home to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. Over the next five years, however, Gothic will host a $448,995 National Science Foundation study by Dr. David Inouye on the impact of climate change on the town‘s wildflowers.
38. Recovering Crab Pots Lost At Sea ($700,000)
A $700,000 grant will pay for 48 people to help Oregon crabbers recover crab pots they have lost at sea. The two-year project expects to yield 2,000 lost pots a year. Oregon crabbers reportedly lose an estimated 15,000 crab pots a year. The effort will use 10 boats, planes, and a telephone hotline for people to phone in crab pot sightings. If all 4,000 pots are recovered as expected, the grantees will spend an average of $175 per crab pot, though John‘s Sporting Goods in nearby Everett, Washington sells new crab pots online for as little as $19.95.
50. Arizona Ants Work While Some Arizonans Remain Unemployed ($950,000)
Two major universities in the state are receiving a combined $950,000 to examine the division of labor in ant colonies. Arizona State University was awarded $500,000 in stimulus funding by the National Science Foundation, while the University of Arizona will receive $450,000.
51. Study On Why Young Men Do Not Like Condoms ($221,355)
Indiana University professors received $221,355 in economic stimulus funds to study why young men do not like to wear condoms.
56. Homeland Security Funds Assist Boat Tours of Alcatraz ($50,783)
A ferry service that once contracted for the federal government will receive over $50,000 in stimulus homeland security grants, despite no longer doing any work for the government.
60. Town of 838 to Renovate Old Hotel into a Welcome Center ($300,000)
Tourism may not be booming in Crofton, Kentucky (population 838),267 but the town has received $300,000 in stimulus funds to convert an abandoned downtown hotel into a visitors‘ center.
79. Money for Lighthouse Repairs on Uninhabited Island (Nearly $1.5 million)
Located on a barrier island accessible only by water, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is an area that has been empty for decades. However, the Department of the Interior will spend nearly $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds to fix the lighthouse and other facilities on the Refuge. The project will restore the lighthouse, living quarters and an oil shed.
I would like to submit one more. The irony couldn’t be more rampant. Right after the $787 billion spending bill was passed, the administration launched www.recovery.gov. “Recovery.gov is the U.S. government’s official website providing easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse.” After a few months the administration decided to redesign this site … and awarded an $18 million contract to SmartTronix, a company that supported House Majority Leader Hoyer’s campaign:
ABC reports this morning that the Maryland firm Smartronix has won what seems like an enormous $18 million contract to re-design the Recovery.gov website. Approximately $9.5 million would be spent by January in order to make “Recovery 2.0” out of the site that is supposed to track the spending of federal stimulus funds in detail.
Smartronix, a medium-sized Maryland-based firm (over 500 employees) founded in 1995, boasts a large number of government clients, mostly military. The company appears to have just one important political connection: according to FEC records, Smartronix president, Mohammed Javaid, vice president Alan Parris, and partner John Parris have together given $19,000 to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D) since 1999. There is no record of a Smartronix employee contributing to any other federal politician.
UPDATE: Smartronix got $260 million in other federal contracts
Smartronix has received more than $260 million in federal contracts since the year 2000, with the top awarding agencies being the U.S. Navy, Federal Technology Service, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Minerals Management Service, and the Office of Policy, Management and Budget (not clear which department or agency issued this contract), according to USASpending.gov.
Nearly $180 million of the contracts awarded to Smartronix during the period 2000-2009 were awarded on less-than-competitive basis, including $21 million for non-competitive awards. Another $33 million was awarded in competitive processes in which Smartronix was the sole bidder.
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has more details on Smartronix government contract awards. — Update by Mark Tapscott.
Want a comparison?
UPDATE III: USASPENDING.GOV much cheaper
Although the short timeline of the Recovery 2.0 project may render the comparison unfair, the site will be vastly more expensive than USASpending.gov, whose purpose is similar. The USA Spending site, which came about as a result of transparency legislation written by then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., tracks federal contract spending by state, zip code, and Congressional District, as well as by contractor and type of award. It also gives details down to the transaction level for contracts made in every year since 2000.
The software package for USASpending.gov was purchased from a non-profit budget watchdog group, OMB Watch, for just $600,000.
I am from this business, so I can tell you that $18 million for redesigning one website to track something like this is a complete and utter outrage. Heck, I know of venture funded businesses that were happy about an $18 million investment that could carry them over a few years.
But all of this is of course completely expectable and the people are at fault for applauding Obama for pushing this rip off at the time it was being discussed. Back then I wrote:
Obama is gambling with the future of his administration. If he doesn’t deliver true change, things will get worse and worse. If he shoves this bill down the throats of the American people, it will be him and Democrats in Congress who will have to share the blame. This bill was never his bill. It was the Congressional Democrats’ bill, led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Now Obama has made it his bill. All the scandals, wasteful projects and corruption that will be uncovered under the projects funded by it will be associated with him.
… I hope people are paying attention …
Barack Obama’s presidential job approval rating is 47% in the latest Gallup Poll Daily tracking update, a new low for his administration to date. His approval rating has been below 50% for much of the time since mid-November, but briefly rose to 52% last week after he announced his new Afghanistan policy.
… maybe they are :)