The Department of the Treasury lost $70 million this year on the production of pennies. It now costs more to produce the one-cent coin than it is worth because of the rising cost of zinc and copper. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has suggested Congress pass a law to allow the penny to be made of cheaper metals, but no action has been taken.
"Perhaps the most common consumers of pennies are couch cushions and sewer grates," the report states.
Reduced cell phones
If you have a cell phone and you pay your bill every month, you have helped 16.5 million poor Americans access their own phone. Every year, through the "Federal Universal Service Charge," a small fee on a cell phone bill goes to supplement a $1.5 billion program called "Lifeline." While the program has been plagued by inefficiencies, the cell phone program grew 43 percent last year.
The $1 million book club
The National Endowment for the Arts is handing over $1 million for book groups to "read, discuss and celebrate one of the 31 selections from U.S. and world literature." One library used $10,000 of the funding to take high school kids to see Mark Twain's house, host a picket fence decorating contest and pay for a Mark Twain interpreter to do a live reading.
The State University of New Jersey spent $15,000 to stage a live production of "Bless Me, Ultima" and used the rest of the money to hand out free copies of the book. And a group in Ohio studied the works of Edgar Allen Poe by taking participants on a graveyard tour.
The "culture" of greek yogurt spending
While PepsiCo might have made a name for itself by producing fizzy sodas, the company is looking to market itself to a healthier generation of consumers.
The Department of Commerce and the USDA have spent a combined $1.3 million to assist Pepsi in building a Greek yogurt factory in New York. The government agencies have helped Pepsi by constructing and modernizing a water supply system and building a road to the factory. Coburn says the spending is a waste as Pepsi is the "world's largest snack food maker" and takes in $66 billion a year.
Government funds study to make golfers more competitive
The government funds a lot of scientific studies, but one recent one was used to help golfers realize their full potential. The National Science Foundation gave Purdue University researchers a $350,000 grant to study how golfers use their imaginations. Using 36 golfers, scientists found that players who visualize bigger holes improved their putting score on the green.
The second bridge to nowhere
In Dayton, Ohio, the federal government spent roughly $500,000 to keep an unused bridge, which is not even connected to a road, in tip-top shape. In fact, on one side of the bridge, a no trespassing sign hangs. The bridge has not been used since a modern one replaced it in 2003. Meanwhile, there are more than 184 "deficient bridges in Ohio and 22,000 across the country that need make overs.
Schools get more vending machines
Junk food in schools has been a major topic of discussion since First Lady Michelle Obama implemented her "Let's Move" campaign, but a new solution costs taxpayers more than a half a million dollars. In order to get kids interested in eating healthy snacks, celebrity chefs helped design a new type of vending machine. The machines are stocked full of healthy wraps, yogurt, sandwiches and fruit, but cost nearly $11,000 a piece. So far, Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida used federal funds to buy 56 of the high-tech machines at a cost of $612,000. That is a fraction of the $3 million grant that will be used to start up a district-wide healthy food curriculum.
Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.