The 5 Most Absurd Ways Governments Wasted Their Money

The 5 Most Absurd Ways Governments Wasted Their Money

"What should the government spend taxpayer money on?" is a loaded, dinner-destroying subject. More missiles? Education? Smart missiles that teach kids arithmetic? Really, the only way governments can unite people is by spending money on ideas so pointless and absurd that everyone will come together to call them dumb. You know, things like ...

The National Guard Paid Millions To Advertise On NASCAR And Got ... Zero Recruits

NASCAR is where America goes to watch its most beloved brands move at high speeds and occasionally crash into each other and explode (if you look closely, there are race cars involved too). One such brand is the United States National Guard, which spent $88 million between 2011 and 2013 for the honor of putting the words "National Guard" on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car, right next to "Mountain Dew."

Robert Laberge/Getty Images
"DALE EARNHARDT, NATIONAL GUARD sounds like the name of a corny '80s cartoon.

So how many new recruits did the National Guard net for that investment? In 2012, some 24,800 potential recruits claimed they decided to join the Guard after seeing ads in the vicinity of fast-racing cars. Of those, only 20 managed to meet the necessary qualifications to get into the service, which is the opposite of surprising, when you consider that the age of the average NASCAR viewer is 58. And of those 20, exactly zero ended up guarding the nation.

The silliest part is that the Guard could have avoided this if they'd asked the Marine Corps or the Navy, which both also tried NASCAR sponsorships to boost recruitment numbers, and also ended up bailing on the endeavor a few years later.

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U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons
Old Navy sales went up 300% among rednecks during those years, though.

Related: 7 Heroically Dumb Projects The Government Blew Your Taxes On

Venezuela Gave Danny Glover $27 Million For A Movie That Never Went Into Production

Since the early '90s, actor Danny Glover (most famous for having to put up with Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon movies) has been trying to make a film about Toussaint L'Ouverture, the man who led Haiti's slaves in their rebellion against France. In 2007, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stepped up to make it happen.

The Venezuelan government gave Glover $18 million to shoot the movie in Venezuela and kick-start the country's film industry. Of course, Venezuela already had a film industry, and they weren't happy about their president giving enough money to fund "five years of local cinema" to a foreigner. The government responded by giving Glover $9 million more and insisting that they would all benefit once the movie came out.

Glover reportedly convinced Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Chiwetel Eijofor, and Mos Def to appear in the movie, but the final cast was "no one," because it never materialized. Every few years, Glover has said he's still trying to get it made, but he also has other projects, so get off his back already. (Whatever happened to all that money is not-at-all-suspiciously unclear.) We do hope he gets around to it soon. He's getting too old for ... you know.

Related: The 5 Weirdest Schemes Real Countries Use To Pay The Bills

The Obama Administration Spent $5 Million A Year Trying To Troll ISIS

While you were using Twitter for arguing with idiots or posting memes, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication was doing something much more important: arguing with idiots and posting memes for freedom. In 2011, President Obama approved a $5 million yearly budget for the program, which looked for people praising ISIS on social media and tried to smoothly slide into the conversations and convince any jihad sympathizers of the evil of their ways. Unfortunately, it turns out that even $5 million doesn't get you competent tweet writers.

Think Again Tur Away Follow @ThinkAgain_DOS Aboudouabdallah I want to remind you what happens to terrorists who target us #CalamityWillBefallus THNKAA
Or graphic designers who haven't been out of work since the '90s.

Convincing people that terrorists suck doesn't sound like that hard of a job, but it was complicated by the fact that the government's meme game was vastly, vastly inferior to the enemy's. This was ably demonstrated when the CSCC took one of al-Qaeda's depressingly effective propaganda videos and tried to spoof it with awkward dubbing and poor editing. The joke was that al-Qaeda's leader kept slipping and saying stuff like "killer" instead of "jihadist," or "thuggery" instead of "virtue," then hastily correcting himself. Watch and learn, Arrested Development.

The plan was to get ISIS operatives to die by making them cringe too hard.

Tweeting like the "hip" school teacher whom everyone felt sorry for isn't the best way to deal with extremists on the internet. While it's hard to measure the results of the program, a 2012 study pointed out that the two most common reactions to the team's forum posts were "refuting" and "ridiculing." Maybe we should let the Wendy's Twitter account handle this whole situation.

Related: 20 Times Tax Money Was Flushed Down The Toilet

The Pentagon Wasted At Least $26 Million On "Camouflage" That Made Soldiers Stand Out

In 2007, Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak was browsing military uniform patterns online, as one does, when he came across a lush forest camouflage design that was so him. He told the Pentagon about it, and soon the U.S. approved the purchase of 1,364,602 uniforms (plus extra pants) using this design, which was owned by a company called HyperStealth Biotechnology Corporation. And admittedly, these new duds did make the Afghan National Army look pretty fly.

There was but one problem: Afghanistan is about 98% desert. This forest "camouflage" is only effective in 2.1% of the country.

The 5 Most Absurd Ways Governments Wasted Their Money
Alejandro Pena/United States Marine Corps
"Quick, how many of us can we fit behind that single tree over there?"

No testing was done on the design's effectiveness before buying it. It was chosen solely because the minister thought it looked cool. On top of that, the Pentagon already owned a whole bunch of similar patterns that the minister could have used for free. According to a watchdog group, the decision cost the U.S. between $26 million and $28 million. But you know what they say: "I would rather die a meaningful death than live a fashionless life."

Related: 5 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Government Spending

An Indian Minister Spent Millions Of Dollars On Statues (Mostly Of Herself)

Every politician wants to leave a mark on their country, but Kumari Mayawati, former chief minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, wasn't satisfied with that. She wanted several marks, as big as possible, all over the place. To that end, she spent millions upon millions of dollars on parks and memorials full of tributes to India's greatest heroes ... including, of course, dozens of statues of herself.

"I deserve it because of that time I built all those statues. Remember? Good times."

She also ordered the construction of more than 75 stone elephants, the animal that happens to represent her political party. To give you an idea of how big these statues are: In 2012, the government tried to shuffle them out of sight before election day (since they count as political advertising), but it required "truckloads of cloth" and 5,000 feet of plastic sheets to cover them all up, after which the entire state looked like it was haunted by giant ghosts.

Sadly, not everyone appreciated Mayawati's heartfelt tribute to her favorite politician -- including the Indian Supreme Court, which ordered her to halt construction while they investigated whether this counted as corruption (presumably by opening a dictionary). To prevent any harm from coming to this already-important part of India's cultural heritage, Mayawati's government ended up spending a few million more training a special police force solely to protect the monuments. We're guessing the officers were paid in the currency of the time: statues of Mayawati.

For more, check out 4 Shockingly Outdated Policies Of Modern Governments:

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