General Question

crazyguy's avatar

Is government entitled to waste taxpayer funds?

Asked by crazyguy (2756points) 1 month ago

Governments spend taxpayer funds to achieve what it thinks the taxpayer wants. In the process it sometimes has to reverse or modify policies of the prior administration.

For instance, almost all US attorneys traditionally submit their resignations when a new administration takes over. In such actions the only direct outlay of taxpayer funds happens if the new attorneys require larger outlays than the fired ones.

There are other actions which result in immediate and significant impacts on taxpayer funds. Two recent examples come to mind. One was cancellation of the Keystone pipeline. The immediate loss of jobs for hundreds, if not thousands, of gainfully employed individuals, resulted in an immediate increase in federal outlays for unemployment compensation. And probably a significant impact on federal inflows.

The second example was cancellation of the WALL. This resulted in a much higher direct impact. For instance, see

Direct expenses of cancelling the wall may total over $1 billion. I realize that amount is peanuts in terms of recent covid relief. However, should incoming administrations be held to a normal oversight of contract cancellation just as they are on contract initiation?

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21 Answers

Zaku's avatar

Ideally, the government would not waste money.

Ideally, we’d all agree what was a waste.

In practice, the government tends to overspend greatly on many things.

In practice, the government is used by the ultra-rich to become more ultra-rich, though projects such as… oh, look, Keystone XL and “the wall”.

Those two projects, I’d say, were pretty much a complete waste of money in the first place. Moreover, I’d say their main effects and impacts were outright evil, from my perspective. And I consider evil (such as environmental destruction) even worse than a waste of funds. Read some non-corporate, non-right-wing opinions about whether those projects should ever have been undertaken, or what good they would do versus what evil they would do.

That should answer this “question” pretty thoroughly for you.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Temporary jobs. Anyone who works in construction knows that any job they have is only temporary.

jca2's avatar

What I’d heard about the pipeline is that the jobs would be only temporary for the people building it. Long term, it required only a few dozen people to maintain it.

As far as the wall, what happened to the promise from Trump that Mexico would be paying for the wall?

As for any spending, who gets to determine what is wasteful and what is not? To one person, wasteful may mean leaving parkland open for future generations to enjoy. They want development. Let’s bring in taxes and jobs. Others may disagree. They want the land left for parkland and for future generations to enjoy it. Two different opinions. Two different ways of looking at something.

People elect politicians to represent them, and therefore the politicians get to make these decisions, hopefully representing the needs and wants of their constituents. If the politicians fail in that endeavor, they don’t get re-elected and someone else gets elected to make those decisions.

basstrom188's avatar

One person’s waste is another person’s money well spent

Lightlyseared's avatar

The wall was costing $20 million a mile (for what was basically a fence) and you’re concerned that cancelling it is a waste of money?

Let’s be honest what your really concerned about is those dang foreigners that keep coming and stealing all your womenfolk and are somehow convinced that some chicken wire fence may deter people who are willing to cross major seas on a plank of wood.

jca2's avatar

@Lightlyseared: Don’t you know that Mexicans are rapists and criminals, at least according to Trump?

ragingloli's avatar

What is “waste”?
The wall itself can easily be considered a waste of money, and its cancellation as an act of “cutting your losses”.
The same with that pipeline, that, due to its impact on the environment, and its trampling of the rights of Native Americans, should have never been approved to begin with.
Spending 700 billion a year on the military can be considered a waste of money.
Tax cuts for the rich, that have no effect but to make the rich richer, and reduce tax revenue.
Or how about the F-35 fighter program, that is projected to cost almost 2 trillion overall, and has little to show for it so far?
And do you not think that spending money on overpriced privately run prisons, and keeping non-violent offenders incarcerated, is a waste of money?
Face it, what you are really objecting to, as do we all, is spending money on things that you disagree with politically.

jca2's avatar

Donald Trump: Mexico will pay for the wall 100%:

si3tech's avatar

Entitled or not they are. What you see is what you voted for. Check the pork in
this stimulus bill. This government “entitles itself”. Don’t doubt this.

elbanditoroso's avatar

What does ‘waste’ mean?

In every budget, there are things I disagree with. (Take the entire War in Vietnam. Take Trump’s idiotic wall. Take money to encourage oil drilling near the North Pole). That doesn’t make it waste.

elbanditoroso's avatar

And specifically about the Keystone Pipeline – why was government money in there in the first place? Why wasn’t it all corporate dollars for a corporate activity?

Darth_Algar's avatar


Because capitalism, American style, means privatize the profits, socialize the losses.

LostInParadise's avatar

Long term costs for building the wall are far greater than any short term costs for stopping construction of it.

crazyguy's avatar

@LostInParadise You are right. However, the question is: could the cancellation have been better managed?

crazyguy's avatar

@Darth_Algar @elbanditoroso Sorry to intrude with facts, but both of you may benefit from reading

crazyguy's avatar

@elbanditoroso Waste is defined as “use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.” Therefore, cancelling a contract midstream without any evaluation of alternatives sure seems wasteful.

crazyguy's avatar

@si3tech You are so right. The largest chunk of the $1.9 trillion is the $350 billion aid to states and cities. However, we hear almost nothing about that chunk. What we hear about is the $1,400 checks to most Americans and extension of unemployment benefits.

crazyguy's avatar

@ragingloli I am sure you know what was cancelled was just Phase IV of the project. Phases 1–3 are already operational. Please enlighten us about “trampling of the rights of Native Americans”.

crazyguy's avatar

@Lightlyseared You said: what was basically a fence. You are right, except this fence consisted of 30-ft reinforced steel bollards.

The old-fashioned fence that was first constructed at San Ysidro, California, slowed the immigration wave in one location, making smugglers and migrants find other ways. The quote is taken from

What can the Wall do? After all one can always climb over it or tunnel under it. Well, “With respect to border enforcement outputs, available data indicate that the southwest land border is more difficult to illegally cross today than ever before.” This was the observation of DHS in 2017 before the Wall. Yet in fiscal 2000, the numbers of arrests was 1.7 MILLION! Just before Biden took over, the number of arrests was below 300,000.

Sure the Wall was not the only deterrent to the coyotes. But it sure helped.

crazyguy's avatar

@Zaku Since I do not agree with your statement that these projects were “a complete waste of money in the first place”, I think it would be futile to argue any further.

Darth_Algar's avatar


What section of that article, specifically do you with me to read?

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