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Your Federal Taxes Spent on , , , , Nothing?

According to a front-page story in the Washington Post last week (HT Citizens Against Government Waste), the federal government spent "at least $890,000 on fees for empty accounts," or as reporter David Fahrenthold wrote, for "nothing." Here is Fahrenthold's lede:

"It is one of the oddest spending habits in Washington: This year, the government will spend at least $890,000 on service fees for bank accounts that are empty. At last count, Uncle Sam has 13,712 such accounts with a balance of zero.

"They are supposed to be closed. But nobody has done the paperwork yet.

"So even as the sequester budget cuts have begun idling workers and frustrating travelers, the government is required to pay $65 per year, per account to keep them on the books.

"In this time of austerity, the accounts are a reminder of something that makes austerity hard: expensive habits, built into the bureaucracy in times of plenty. The Obama administration has spent the past year trying to close these accounts, with only some success.

“If anyone had kept open a bank account with no money, and was getting a charge every month, they would do everything they could to close it,” said Thomas A. Schatz of the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. But, he said, the government hasn’t shown the same kind of urgency with taxpayers’ money."

Even Fahrenthold couldn't hold back his cynicism, writing, "The Pentagon once paid $435 for a hammer, after all. But at least in that case it got a hammer." As we growled on March 29, 2013, at least Arlington County taxpayers got a so-called 'Super Stop' bus stop when the five innumerates on the Arlington County Board wasted $1 million.

Kudos, Mr. Fahrenthold.


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