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35 Wildest Things Your Taxes Are Paying For

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new look casting / iStock.com

Ever wonder where all that money taken out of your paycheck goes? You might be surprised to find out where some of your tax dollars are going.

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Some of your taxes are used to fund civic projects, health research and other key investments that benefit mankind. But some of your tax dollars are used for unusual expenses — including housing chimpanzees and buying robotic flowers.

As it turns out, there are both good and extremely bad ways your tax dollars can be spent.

JodiJacobson / iStock.com
JodiJacobson / iStock.com

Proving That Gingerbread Houses Are Earthquake-Proof

A $150,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services funded a workshop called “How Does the Cookie Crumble?” The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry took gingerbread houses designed to be earthquake-resistant and put them to the test on machines that replicated major temblors. Participants got to take their sweet, sugary houses with them. The workshop was part of the OMSI’s annual “Gingerbread Adventures” event.

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Vertigo3d / iStock.com
Vertigo3d / iStock.com

Turning Computers Into Couch Potatoes

Your tax dollars paid for computers to binge-watch hundreds of hours of television during a 2016 study — as if you weren’t already burning through your paycheck on subscription services.

The program — which was funded by a $460,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and other funds from the Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research — was designed to train computers to both understand and predict human behavior. The results were inconclusive. But the good news is that the computers are all caught up on their favorite shows.

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ivanastar / iStock.com
ivanastar / iStock.com

Finding Out If Playing With Barbie Dolls Helps With Facial Recognition

Researchers at the National Eye Institute and National Science Foundation conducted a $300,000 study in 2016 to find out if playing with Barbies — which was more common among the women in the study — enables women to be better at recognizing faces.

Since Barbies are made with different faces, scientists thought that women might have a gender-based advantage when it comes to memorizing how faces look. It turns out that they likely do not. So, that’s money that came out of your paycheck for no reason.

sturti / iStock.com
sturti / iStock.com

Proving That Frat Brothers Like To Party

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism used a $5 million grant to fund a 2016 study at the National Institutes of Health on the reveling habits of college students. The study revealed what anyone who went to college could tell you for free: Members of fraternities and sororities drink more on average than the larger university population. This is especially true on days of big sporting events.

Oh, and members of fraternities and sororities tend to sleep in later, too.

gorodenkoff / iStock.com
gorodenkoff / iStock.com

NASA Research on How Religious Groups Would Respond To Aliens

Your tax dollars helped NASA examine how the world’s religions might react if humans make contact with extraterrestrial lifeforms. The Center of Theological Inquiry used a $1.1 million grant from the NASA Astrobiology Institute in 2016 to study potential reactions by religious leaders and populations to the hypothetical future discovery of life beyond Earth and how it could influence their beliefs about the origins and meaning of life.

Rostislav_Sedlacek / iStock.com
Rostislav_Sedlacek / iStock.com

NASA Research on the Effect of Global Warming on Wine

In 2016, NASA participated in an $88,000 study that examined the effect of global warming on wine in France. Some of the best vintages in history have come out of France in recent years, and scientists believe there is a connection between increased temperatures and more robust, flavorful wines. The study combined modern data gathered by satellite imagery with historical data, like records kept by French monks who controlled vast vineyards near monasteries dating back to 1300.

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Dzelat / Shutterstock.com
Dzelat / Shutterstock.com

Federal Movie Consultants

The FBI’s “Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit” exists solely to ensure that any film, TV show or book featuring the FBI gets the details right. This unit costs taxpayers a staggering $1.5 million annually.

urbancow / Getty Images/iStockphoto
urbancow / Getty Images/iStockphoto

An All-Expenses-Paid Music Research Trip

In 2013, several executives from independent music labels received a government-funded, all-expenses-paid trip to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil. The stated reason? “To compare the record stores, club districts, and facial expressions of locals at the mention of their bands.” Despite the lavish trip, one executive admitted they “didn’t ink any deals.”

South_agency / Getty Images
South_agency / Getty Images

A Study on Couples Arguing

The National Institutes of Health spent over $300,000 on a University of California, Berkeley study that confirmed the rather unsurprising finding that couples are happier when the woman calms down after an argument.

AleksandarGeorgiev / iStock.com
AleksandarGeorgiev / iStock.com

Proving That Fear of Pain Is Why You’re Afraid of the Dentist

A $3.5 million study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 2016 examined why half of Americans report being afraid of the dentist, with as many as 20% reaching the level of a serious phobia. If you guessed that it might have something to do with the use of a drill to bore into bones embedded in your skull, you are correct. The most commonly cited source of dental anxiety is fear of pain.

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shotbydave / iStock.com

Paying For Shady Doctors To Stay in Business

Through the Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP programs, the federal government paid $3 million to medical “professionals” who had been banned from public healthcare programs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Some of these people committed fraud. Others performed unnecessary procedures to pad their invoices. At least 100 doctors were supposed to be removed for reasons relating to criminal charges, but they kept practicing — and collecting your tax dollars.

fotokostic / iStock.com
fotokostic / iStock.com

Subsidizing Massive Agricultural Corporations

Agricultural subsidies were designed to support farmers during a time when vast numbers of Americans worked in agriculture, particularly during and after the Dust Bowl era and Great Depression. Today, however, the number of farmers has dropped significantly. But the agriculture lobby is as big as ever and the federal government doles out tens of millions of tax dollars — the vast majority of which go to the biggest companies — for marketing, insurance, research and simply to overproduce.

andriano_cz / Getty Images/iStockphoto
andriano_cz / Getty Images/iStockphoto

A $99,000 Outhouse

Visitors to Alaska’s Denali National Park can use a very expensive outhouse that cost taxpayers a staggering $99,000. While the rustic restroom itself only cost $10,000, the remaining $89,000 was spent on shipping and other costs after the Interior Department contracted with a local business that ordered it from an Oregon manufacturer, resulting in an outrageously overpriced outhouse.

©Shutterstock.com
©Shutterstock.com

Glow-in-the-Dark Anti-Marijuana Billboard

In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funded a billboard in Denver that featured a 3D, glowing joint at night, aimed at discouraging drivers from getting behind the wheel while high. The cost? A hefty $35,000.

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petejw / iStock.com

Studying Monkey Drool

An experiment conducted at the State University of New York at Buffalo, which was funded by an $817,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, took a close look at primate saliva. The 2016 study compared human drool to that of a wide variety of apes, monkeys and their relatives in hopes of identifying when human saliva evolved into its current form.

darkbird77 / iStock.com
darkbird77 / iStock.com

Researching Truffles and Caviar

You probably can’t afford the truffles and caviar they serve at five-star restaurants — but you’re paying for them anyway. In 2016, the USDA used $34,210 in taxpayer money to conduct “feasibility studies” on producing pricey truffles in the U.S., which has so far been an elusive task. And in 2015, nearly $52,000 was spent on studying the feasibility of “value-added fish products,” including herring caviar.

©Shutterstock.com
©Shutterstock.com

Turning the World Into a Giant Network of US Bases

According to CNBC, the U.S. spends around $156 billion a year to maintain 800 military bases in 80 countries. Many, of course, are necessary and relevant. But many others — like the 174 bases in Germany, 113 in Japan and 83 in South Korea — are post-World War II Cold War relics that cost the U.S. money in a couple of ways: to maintain the bases and to pay the host countries for the privilege of keeping them there. Virtually all military experts agree there’s a huge glut of these bases and, in some cases, the bases hurt American interests more than help them.

Sezeryadigar / iStock.com
Sezeryadigar / iStock.com

Other Mysterious Defense Spending

A gargantuan 25,000-employee Pentagon agency that Politico nicknamed the “Walmart of the military” processes more than 100,000 military orders a day. An outside audit conducted in December 2017 revealed $465 million in misstatements in the agency’s books and insufficient documentation — or none at all — for another $384 million…and that’s just one agency.

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©Shutterstock.com

Finding Out If Dinosaurs Could Sing

The National Science Foundation conducted a $450,000 study in 2016 to determine whether or not dinosaurs could chirp and sing like birds, which are their closest living relatives. The study concluded that, despite what you might have learned from “Barney,” dinosaurs did not have the vocal structure required to sing.

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cogal / iStock.com

Buying Robotic Flowers

The National Institutes of Health spent $1.3 million in 2015 on flobots, which are, as the name implies, robotic flowers. Flobots use a sugar solution that mimics nectar, which is used to entice bees. Researchers use flobots to study the behavior of bees, which they say interact with flobots in a fashion similar to how they interact with real flowers.

Magone / iStock.com
Magone / iStock.com

Inflating Sugar Prices

Like agricultural subsidies, America’s sugar subsidy program is outdated, expensive and often counterproductive. Without it, America could save up to $4 billion a year, according to MarketWatch. The sugar subsidy program is used to set price minimums and artificially inflate sugar prices in the United States.

jiawangkun / Shutterstock.com
jiawangkun / Shutterstock.com

Fancy Hotel Rooms for Secret Service Agents

A February 2019 report from the Government Accountability Office found that President Donald Trump’s trips to his private Mar-a-Lago beach club in Palm Beach, Florida, cost taxpayers about $3.4 million per trip. The report stated that $60,000 was paid to Mar-a-Lago for four separate trips, the majority of which was for rooms at the resort for Secret Service agents.

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©Travis Air Force Base
©Travis Air Force Base

$1,200 Coffee Mugs

You might feel like you overpay every time you drink Starbucks, but those $6 lattes are chump change compared to what the U.S. Air Force has spent on its caffeine fix. The 60th Aerial Port Squadron at Travis Air Force base in California spent $56,000 on dozens of metal coffee cups and their replacements over the course of three years, Fox News reported. The cups — which cost $1,200 each — are able to reheat coffee and tea on air refueling tankers in flight.

South_agency / Getty Images
South_agency / Getty Images

Studying Border Town Bars

The National Institutes of Health provided $333,210 in funding for a 2017 study on the drinking behaviors of Mexican-Americans who live in border towns. Part of the study involved “unobtrusive systemic observations” conducted in select bars in U.S. border cities, Valley cities and Mexicali. The researchers hypothesized that bars in Mexicali would have “more patrons, more dancing, louder music, as well as lower-priced alcohol and later closing times compared to venues in the U.S. border towns and Central Valley towns.” So, yes, some lucky scientists got paid with your tax dollars to hang out at bars.

gilaxia / Getty Images
gilaxia / Getty Images

Studying Dance Clubs

The NIH apparently loves to pay researchers to study partying. The government organization granted $180,304 to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in 2014 to study “high-risk behaviors (excessive alcohol use, drug use, physical and/or sexual aggression, and unsafe exit behaviors – e.g., drinking and driving, riding with a drinking driver) of young adults who patronize clubs.”

Sean Pavone / Getty Images
Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Maintaining a Self-Cleaning Toilet

Washington, D.C.’s public transportation system has long been a thorn in the side of many commuters, and the way they have spent some of their funds just adds insult to injury. A 2019 Office of the Inspector General Report on the activities of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority found that the WMATA spent approximately $500,000 maintaining a single self-cleaning toilet located at one of its metro stations. If that’s not bad enough, the toilet doesn’t even work — it has been out of service since 2017.

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©Shutterstock.com

Getting Zebrafish Hooked on Nicotine

The American government provided funds across the pond for an unconventional smoking study. In 2018 and 2019, the NIH gave $708,466 worth of grants to support researchers at the University of London Queen Mary and Westfield College to “exploit zebrafish” by getting them addicted to nicotine. The fishy study aims “to identify genes affecting vulnerability to addiction by screening lines of mutagenized zebrafish for core behaviors associated with addiction: sensitivity to drug reward and impulsivity.”

London News Pictures / Shutterstock.com
London News Pictures / Shutterstock.com

A Statue Made By Bob Dylan

The U.S. State Department spent $84,375 for a 4-foot iron sculpture made by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, Foreign Policy reported. The statue was purchased under the department’s Art in Embassies program, which places American artwork at its embassies around the world to showcase U.S. culture. The statue was purchased to be displayed at the U.S. embassy in Mozambique.

vm / Getty Images
vm / Getty Images

Improving Serbian Cheese

The U.S. Agency for International Development has dedicated $22 million in funding to support the long-term economic and social development of cities and municipalities in Serbia, and part of that funding has gone toward a modern cheese production facility in the rural area of Pester. The area is specifically known for its Sjenica cheese, which is made from raw, unprocessed milk, salt and rennet. At the facility, the USAID trained the staff on how to make cheese that’s up to international standards.

Rawpixel / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Rawpixel / Getty Images/iStockphoto

A Luxurious Bus Stop

In 2013, Arlington, Virginia, rolled out its first “super stop” bus stop that featured a stainless steel design, heated concrete floors and a state-of-the-art computerized bus schedule. The luxurious bus stop cost $1 million, 80% of which was paid for with federal and state transportation funds, The Washington Post reported.

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©Shutterstock.com

Researching Romance Novels

Sometimes love does cost a thing. In 2012, the National Endowment for the Humanities granted $250,000 for the creation of a website dedicated to romance novels. According to the grant, the site — “combining 600 video segments and 150 scholarly essays with games and primary sources — will shape and facilitate a substantive discussion about the writing, production and consumption of popular romance. It will engage a mass audience in [a] thoughtful and provocative exploration of the roles romance narratives play in popular culture and individual lives.”

Jeff Lewis/AP / Shutterstock.com
Jeff Lewis/AP / Shutterstock.com

A Super Bowl Ad

If you want to get the attention of a ton of Americans at once, advertise during the Super Bowl. That’s what the Census Bureau intended to do by paying $2.5 million for a commercial during the 2010 game, CBS News reported. Census officials hoped the ad would convince more people to mail in their form.

Eric Risberg/AP / Shutterstock.com
Eric Risberg/AP / Shutterstock.com

Keeping Grateful Dead Memorabilia Alive

Someone at the federal government’s Institute of Museum and Library Services is clearly a Deadhead. In 2009, UC Santa Cruz received $615,175 in federal funding to help digitize its Grateful Dead archive. The digitization project would allow people around the world to access “materials related to the phenomena of the Deadheads, the band’s extensive social network of devoted fans, and the Grateful Dead’s highly unusual and successful musical business ventures,” the university website stated.

pikselstock / Shutterstock.com
pikselstock / Shutterstock.com

Hipster Anti-Smoking Parties

In an attempt to get young adults to quit smoking, the NIH funded a $5 million campaign targeting “hipsters” — described as “a group focused on the alternative music scene, local artists and designers and eclectic self-expression.” Most of the money went towards anti-smoking art and music events, branded merchandise like koozies and T-shirts and social media outreach.

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TRAVELARIUM / iStock.com
TRAVELARIUM / iStock.com

Paying for Social Media “Likes”

The State Department spent a whopping $630,000 on in-site advertising to increase traffic and engagement on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. However, according to the 2013 “Wastebook” published by Senator Tom Coburn, less than 2% of visitors actually “liked” or “favorited” any of their posts or tweets, making this a super pricy endeavor with little return.

Laura Beck and Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 35 Wildest Things Your Taxes Are Paying For