The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time


Money is tight, and everyone is cutting costs. But it's all about knowing where to cut; the family will skip the vacation, but doesn't try to save on clothes by turning the neighbor's cats into loincloths.

Unfortunately, when large organizations try to cut costs or figure out new sources of revenue, they tend to take the kitty loincloth approach. We're talking about ...

Child Protective Services That Operate Like the Mob

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Everyone is thankful for Child Protective Services, which takes "let's think about the children" as an organizational slogan. But when a senator from Georgia admits that the organization tears families apart to hurriedly adopt children off for huge wads of cash, well, that's when CPS starts to look less like a government agency and more like a human trafficking ring.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Not the worst human trafficking case in Georgia's history. But still.

We want to make it clear that none of this is aimed at the child welfare system or all the caring, wonderful people working for it. The problem seems to lie with laws like the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. According to it, for each child adopted into a foster family, the responsible state receives $4,000 to $6,000, with an additional $20 million bonus if it exceeds the average number of adoptions from previous years, which turns the practice of protecting children into a nationwide pie-eating contest.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

On your mark, get set ... destroy a loving family!

So sure, you want to be known as the state that rescues the highest number of children in America, but the policy also encourages CPS to make an increasingly liberal interpretation of the term "rescue." Consider that, a few years ago, CPS employee Pat Moore was fired for refusing to put a child in a foster home simply because everyone in the foster family had a felony conviction, and the family occasionally hired a convicted sex offender to babysit. But hey, at least none of them had been convicted of genocide yet.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

"Mr. Hitler? We understand you love children and have quite a lot of spare bunker space ..."

The situation is so bizarre that CPS whistleblowers have even reported foster parents putting in orders for other people's children, at which point the organization will reportedly investigate the shit out of that family until they hear someone use a cuss word, and then it's hello, new parents.

If you still don't buy the mob analogy, consider this: When Vanessa Shanks' child was taken away and she fought the decision in court, CPS responded rationally by taking away children of her relatives, and after Shanks finally won in court, they took away her attorney's children. And to think they could have saved themselves so much time by simply offering Shanks "child insurance."

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

"Wait, you mean there's a 'Get out of baby free' card?"

Airlines Cutting Fuel, Fixing Planes With Tape

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

We're constantly reassured that airline travel is perfectly safe, and they do have the stats to back it up. But airlines have been in financial trouble since before the economy went bad (their problems go back to 9/11), and what they don't tell you about while groping your junk for contraband is the ways in which the airlines sometimes gamble your life against their bottom line. They have to find ways to cut costs more and more, and we're not talking about switching in-flight meals from steak to chicken here.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

"Sir, there hasn't been a steak on board an airplane in 20 years."

For instance? How about when they pressure pilots to take on just enough fuel to make their destination, against the pilots' protest? Extra fuel, you see, adds weight to the plane, so it makes the trip more expensive. And what do you need that extra juice for, anyway? Well, in April 2008, an airline captain complained that, after weather conditions slowed his flight to JFK, he asked for more fuel but was denied, and only just made it to the airport without crash-landing.

It wasn't an isolated incident; unions are complaining that pilots are being ranked and stigmatized by their companies according to how much surplus fuel they take on, pressuring them to take maverick risks and try to get across the Atlantic on the fumes from an oil-stained rag.


Unfortunately, everyone on board is Goose.

Then again, we can rest somewhat easier knowing that planes don't stall in midair very often, so we may be overhyping the ris- hang on, is that engine held on with duct tape?

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Wow! Tape really can do anything! Right now, it's making us crap our pants!

What you're seeing here is called speed tape -- a temporary measure used to hold planes together long enough to get them safely back to the repair shop. We stress "temporary," because that's supposed to be the idea. But in 2002, struggling United Airlines used speed tape to patch up large holes in the wings of its Boeing 727s for a total of 193 goddamned flights. So, either United executives are a bunch of cheapskates, or 2002 was really heavy on gremlin attacks.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Steve, he's back! Get the tape!

When the Federal Aviation Administration caught wind of this, United was investigated and fined to the tune of $805,000. So it was apparently the first one.

Hospitals Outsourcing Medical Chart Transcription to India

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Despite what you might have learned on TV, a doctor's job is really about one percent saving lives and 99 percent filling out paperwork. With less time than patience for this kind of grueling bureaucracy, a medical secretary often translates the doctor's scribbled notes into English. Then again, if you're in the U.K., you can just send that shit to India.


Thanks for making laziness possible, India.

By taking the "outsourced tech support" solution to the rising cost of human resources, hospitals decided to save money by laying off a large portion of their nonclinical staff, and with the U.K.'s health care system roughly $800 million in the red, many facilities were all over it. After all, anybody can be trained to write. Outsource that shit!

It seemed like a great idea until a doctor recommended a below-knee amputation, and the patient wound up scheduled for a "baloney amputation." If you're disappointed by that lame joke, it's because that really happened.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

But hey, now he's technically a cyborg.

What they forgot in the race to cut costs was that properly trained medical personnel actually know something about medicine, or at least spent a hell of a lot of time hanging around doctors and sick people. Outsourced foreign secretaries, on the other hand, transcribe from audio files and just try to get it as close as they can to what they heard. Can you confidently tell the difference between hypertension and hypotension when you hear them spoken? You'd better, because if you get that wrong, someone's heart is going to explode.

Likewise, medical personnel have reported mix-ups between words like neurological and urological, and more frightening, medication dosages like "15" can be transcribed as "50."

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Look, buddy, the chart says "50," and that's how many suppositories you are getting.

The hospitals themselves deny that there is any problem with the recordkeeping, but Andrew Lansley, the U.K. secretary of state for health, commented that it's "concerning that life-threatening mistakes are being made in an effort to cut costs." Of course, nobody's going to listen to a guy whose medical chart identifies him as the U.K. secretary of steak for elf.

Amputating Because It's Cheaper Than Treatment

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Even if you can't find Greece on a map and learned everything you know about it from 300, chances are you might have at least heard about the country's disastrous debt problems. So it's perfectly understandable that the Greek government would want to make a few necessary cuts here and there. Unfortunately, what it wants to cut off is your legs.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Greece, circa 2010.

In a letter issued to the Pan-Hellenic Federation of People with Diabetes, the benefits division of the Greek Social Security Institute, or IKA, informed the organization that it would no longer pay for special diabetic footwear because amputations are just cheaper. No word on what was its proposed alternative to erectile dysfunction meds.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

"Saws! Saws for EVERYTHING!"

The argument goes that diabetics with foot complications don't always get to keep their legs forever, even when they get the shoes, so they may as well just skip the middleman. It seems that due to the budget crisis, the IKA also had to let go of its company shrink, because intuitively, it would be cheaper still just to push diabetics down the stairs, but that's hardly the point.

The federation, as you would imagine, disputed the logic behind this decision to replace a pair of fucking shoes with complex surgery. Then again, maybe the IKA simply failed to mention that the "amputations" would take place in the company parking lot with a bottle of ouzo, an ax and an ex-inmate named Stavros.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Which is way more dangerous than an overworked surgeon who's been popping bars for 35 hours.

Charging for Suicide Hotline Calls

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

It's comforting to know that when you're going through some kind of crisis, there are an assortment of free services just a phone call away to help you get the help you need. If you live in Australia, though, you should probably set some money aside for those unforeseen suicidal meltdowns, because Australian phone companies charge users for calls to crisis and suicide hotlines.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

"If you can't afford the call, maybe you really don't have much to live for."

To be fair, Australian crisis organizations such as Lifeline and Kids Helpline are and always have been free to call ... from a landline. But this is the age of the cell phone, where ever-increasing numbers of people are opting for pay-as-you-use prepaid cells over those obsolete tied-to-the-wall things you can't even use to bother people at the movies.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

The plus side is that more people have personal access to a phone no matter where they are, but if you're calling Lifeline on a cell from a trash bin with rags for blankets, prepare to be slugged a dollar per minute. Shit, for that price you might as well call a phone sex operator. At least they're actually prepared to do anything to make you happy.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Oh yeah, baby, nothing turns me on more than guys who decide to not kill themselves and discuss their problems with trained professionals.

Considering that the number of calls placed to crisis hotlines is expected to rise 50 percent by this time next year, and a typical session can last anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes, the phone sex option may even be a cheaper bet. Predictably, this policy often causes people to be disconnected mid-call, because (surprise) folks who spend their off-time swimming in money and cocaine don't usually call suicide hotlines.

Locking Up the Mentally Handicapped for Cash

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

One thing can be said for New York state -- it really looks after its mentally disabled citizens. With Medicaid pumping several times more money into services for the disabled than the national average, the state might even look after you forever.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Sometimes nature makes our political cartoons for us.

At a reimbursement of $4,500 per person per day, compared with an average of $700 for other states, Medicaid brings about $1.2 billion into the New York economy, well exceeding the cost of caring for the people for whom it's generously provided. So it's always in the state's interest to have as many patients in its care as possible, even if it means never letting some of them out, basically turning state facilities into prisons.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

And without McMurphy to liven up the place.

Now, obviously some of the people committed to New York's mental treatment centers desperately need to be there. But when just a single occupied bed is worth more than $1.6 million a year to the state, you can see how there would be room to outrageously abuse the system. Sure enough, one newspaper did a study and found that New York locks up as many as 700 percent more people for brain disorders than other states, regardless of population.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Crazy may be New York's greatest natural resource.

And mental health care isn't the same as going to prison, where you're at least given a clear sentence and know how long you'll be there, just as long as you don't stab anyone on the inside. A doctor only has to say "You're not ready to go back yet," and bam, another year of keeping you locked up from the world until you finally smash out a window with a water fountain.

Letting a House Burn Down Because the Owners Didn't Pay

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

On Sept. 29, 2010, Gene Cranick's rural house in Obion County, Tenn., caught on fire. Without wasting a second, Gene called the nearest fire department, located in South Fulton, and begged them to hurry and save his home. The FD refused, and the building, together with all the family's possessions -- including four pets -- burned to the ground. Why? He hadn't paid his fire protection money.

That is, he forgot to pay the annual $75 fee that nearby South Fulton demands for emergency services coverage. Whoops!

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Hey, water doesn't grow on trees, OK?!

Because Obion County doesn't have its own fire department, most of its residents rely on South Fulton services, which we'll assume are advertised with the slogan, "That's a nice house you've got there. Shame if anything were to happen to it."

When Gene heard that the firemen were not coming, he even offered to pay up-front on the spot. But the department responded that, if people were allowed to pay up-front, then everyone would withhold payment until their houses were on fire. Basically, the South Fulton Fire Department made an example of him, stopping just short of coming after his knees with a baseball bat.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

Citizens of Obion County! You have been warned!

The kicker on this whole ordeal is that the firefighters actually did show up, but only when the fire spread to the home of Cranick's neighbors, who had paid the fee. We imagine they also employed giant fans to blow the water away from Cranick's burning house, because allowing the firemen to inadvertently put out the fire would be irresponsible.

The 7 Most Horrifying Cost Cutting Measures of All Time

"Hell no, we don't take checks."

Even then, when Cranick's son got pissed off and attacked the fire chief for watching his home burn, the South Fulton PD sent out officers to arrest him for aggravated assault. Because apparently, you can still get emergency services out there if you annoy the local government.

Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance online journalist and Japanese-English-Polish translator. Contact him at

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