5 Incredible Wastes of Time and Money By the Rich and Powerful
We’ve all wasted money on useless things. I’ve personally thrown a not insignificant sum into the void due to the false belief that I was going to learn to play piano, or become a Kettlebell Guy. To this day, that kettlebell sits in my apartment staring at me like a disdainful, cast-iron Sauron’s eye. What am I going to do? Throw it away? That would be both an admission of defeat and a distinct physical pain in the ass. I’m not even sure if you’re allowed to put one of those in a regular trash can, in order to protect the spine of local sanitation workers.
One thing that can make me or you feel better, however, is to remember that shelling out hard-earned money for items of no consequence isn’t a unique experience. Not only that, but even at the most elite levels of society there have been such massive sums of money wasted throughout time that it makes spurned medium-expensive workout equipment look like chump change. Apparently, even people considered to be the best and brightest the world has to offer not-infrequently blow big parts of national or personal budgets on, well, useless bullshit.
Here are five of the biggest wastes of time and money by the rich and powerful…
Brazil’s $900 Million Parking Lot
Congratulations! Your country or city has been chosen to host a worldwide event! Light off those fireworks and celebrate your selection tonight, before you wake up tomorrow with a hangover and realize that your infrastructure is woefully inadequate for whatever grand tournament you’ve just been awarded. You’d think that almost unanimous evidence that things like the Olympics or the World Cup do not, in fact, cause reverberating waves of positive economic growth, would be enough to dampen that repeated promise, but no.
Brazil learned this lesson at astronomical cost after they hosted the 2014 World Cup. Buoyed by starry-eyed excitement over being chosen as the hosts, they tore open their coffers like a rat would attack a bag of tortilla chips. When the monetary carnage ended, they had 12 stadiums that were brand new in part or in whole, and a receipt reaching into the area of $3 billion. No worries though, they will simply pay for themselves, thanks to the blessing bestowed by being a past host of the World Cup, right? No. Always no. They didn’t end up with bustling new city centers, they ended up with a nearly billion dollar parking lot.
Interstate H3 Highway
The word “interstate” heavily implies a highway that connects, at a bare minimum, two states. That is not the case for the reportedly stunningly beautiful and vehemently opposed H3 interstate highway in Hawaii. The highway runs from Pu’uloa to the Mokapu Peninsula, and when it comes to many natives of Hawaii, did not and does not need to exist. So why would an interstate be built when the people living there haven’t asked for it, and when it debatably creates an eyesore cutting through one of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth?
When you realize what exactly exists in Pu’uloa and on the Mokapu Peninsula, it becomes clear. Pu’uloa is the location of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, and the Mokapu Peninsula houses the Marine Corps Base. This highway is yet another money pit dug in the name of national defense. When conceived in 1963, it was supposed to cost between $50 million and $70 million and be completed in 1972. When the highway that critics call “a monument to stupidity and waste” finally opened 25 years late in the year 1997, the final cost was $1.23 billion. The length of this billion-plus-dollar freeway? Sixteen miles.
The $26 Million Statue Everybody Hates
If you decide to make an attempt at a new wonder of the world, it’s likely going to end up being in someone’s backyard. When they put up Christ the Redeemer, it didn’t ruin the view from anybody’s apartment window. So when the government of China, not particularly known for their concern for the populace, decided they were going to construct a massive monument to legendary warrior Guan Yu, it was unwelcome news to the people who were going to have to stare at it every day when they woke up.
Nevertheless, the national vault was opened and harvested to the tune of $26 million, and the city of Jingzhou welcomed its newest, unwanted resident, a 190-foot-tall, 1,200 ton bronze statue of Mr. Yu. The attempt at a worldwide tourist attraction, buoyed by the allure of breaking a Guinness World Record in the process, pushed any question of actual interest to the side. In the end, not only did it barely move the tourism needle, bringing in only roughly $2 million, the city of Jingzhou despised the statue so much that they ended up forcing the government to get rid of it. Despite all the money and time invested, they eventually had to spend $24 million, almost the entire original cost of construction, to dismantle and move the statue somewhere that made people hate it less.
Jeff Bezos’ 10,000 Year Clock
Most of the entries here come from full countries’ coffers, just because it’s pretty hard to rival the amount of money that can be wasted by a misguided government. To find someone who can truly, deeply blow it on a similar economic scale requires an individual with a worth that rivals plenty of GDPs worldwide. Someone like Jeff Bezos.
The smiling bald billionaire/demon himself recently put $42 million of his considerable hoard into the construction of, uh, a really weird clock. Specifically, a clock that will run for 10,000 years, ticking once a year and chiming at the conclusion of each millennium. It’s a mixture of art project and desperate clawing against the inevitable sands of time that seems tailor-made to bleed money from billionaires who consider themselves demigods.
Look, I’m not going to argue that, in theory, it’s not a cool idea, but I would like to see an itemized receipt on this construction. If your goal is to spend close to $50 million to etch yourself into the annals of history, maybe at least don’t tuck it into your own mountain so no one can even see it.
Gold Leaf on Food
There might not be a single more despicable flex of unnecessary wealth than the trend of putting an edible gold leaf on food. The ability to process and accept a gilded meal in a world rife with food insecurity is a good sign that the morality gland in your brain has dried to a desiccated pea. It has no flavor, and your body doesn’t digest it. If you’ve ever eaten even a single bedazzled hamburger, you should be thankful the guillotine went out of style. I don’t care if it was your birthday.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.