When you want something done well, on time, and within budget, don’t look to the government to make it happen. Government-owned networks (GONs) epitomize the flaws and pitfalls associated with most of government “enterprise” ventures. The Coalition for the New Economy took a closer look at one of these GONs, Burlington Telecom in Vermont. In his recent paper, Dr. Joseph P. Fuhr, Jr. explained some of the problems Burlington Telecom has experienced. As Dr. Fuhr notes “many of the problems typical with GONs: a construction plan that is behind schedule (the network is only 85 percent built); high levels of debt ($51 million to be exact); and unmet subscribership goals (despite promises of universal service, the network only serves 4,000 residents).” Although these examples are very troubling, they don’t hold a candle to the $17 million in government subsidies the system, Burlington Telecom, “borrowed” from the city’s taxpayers. Unfortunately for Burlington’s taxpayers, the nightmare of this system doesn’t end here. No different than a bad dream that can’t end fast enough, the shortcomings inherent in GONs continue to plague the localities that misguidedly implemented the network in the first place.
The Corn Palace is one of South Dakota's most famous tourist attractions, and easily the corniest waste of tax dollars anywhere in America. Located just off I-90 in the town of Mitchell, the Corn Palace is a 43,000-square-foot exhibition hall that houses concerts, proms, basketball games, rodeos, craft shows, graduations and a polka festival. What draws tourists to the Corn Palace, however, is the massive corn mural covering the building that is decorated annually with 275,000 ears of corn and tons of other colorful grains. The mural is unveiled at an annual Corn Palace Festival. This year's festival wrapped up its five-day run on Aug. 26. Despite the Corn Palace's kitsch appeal, the city-owned facility never turns a profit. As a result, approximately a third of the Corn Palace's $1.7 million operating budget comes from the pockets of taxpayers every year -- whether they visit the facility or not. This year, taxpayers will chip in roughly half a million dollars just to underwrite the financial flop. Over the past five years, Mitchell shucked $3 million in taxpayer money from residents and visitors to subsidize the operation of the 90-year-old corn-covered convention hall.
(Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance) Local governments across America own and operate a ridiculous array of recreational venues at the expense of taxpayers. Golf courses, waterparks, concert venues, museums and movie theaters are frequently purchased or built on the taxpayers’ dime and run (poorly) by government bureaucrats, resulting in billions of wasted tax dollars every year. But only one local government – Westchester County, New York – is careless enough with taxpayers’ hard-earned money to waste it on a failing amusement park. Playland, located in the Westchester County shorefront community of Rye, is scheduled to open for its 2012 season this Saturday, May 12. The 84-year-old amusement park, as it turns out, is not very amusing to the county taxpayers who have to shell out seven-figure subsidies every year to keep the park in business. In 2011 alone, bailing out the insolvent park cost county taxpayers $3.4 million.
(Drew Johnson is a senior fellow with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance) This week is National Park Week, an utterly arbitrary annual celebration concocted by federal bureaucrats as an excuse to waive entrance fees at national parks and historic sites. The idea of free admission to America’s national parks may induce a case of the warm fuzzies at first blush, but the cold reality is that taxpayers who don’t visit parks during National Park Week will be left footing the bill for those who do. Worse, National Park Week masks a harsher truth about the National Park Service (NPS): Taxpayers are paying $2.9 billion to subsidize scores of unimpressive parks and trivial historic sites that have no business being managed by the federal government. The first indication that taxpayers should hold on to their wallets is the fact that National Park “Week” lasts from April 21 to 29. Allowing a group of people who apparently believe a week contains nine days to manage an agency whose budget is literally larger than the gross domestic products of Belize and the Cayman Islands combined has trouble written all over it.
(Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance) Most people who find themselves in Canton, Ohio, first wonder why they’re in Canton, then make a quick stop at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and finally get out of the wilting rustbelt town as quickly as possible. Few of the town’s visitors are aware that Canton is home to a dubious federally-funded tourist trap. They’re in good company. Many Canton residents don’t even know that the National Park Service-managed First Ladies National Historic Site sits right in the middle of the city’s downtown. Just because most Americans have never heard of the First Ladies National Historic Site doesn’t mean they’re not paying for it. Congress makes a habit of showering the failing museum with over $1 million in federal tax money every year. Since it opened in 2000, the museum has managed to burn through more than $10 million in taxpayers’ money while attracting fewer visitors than an Apple Store in Amish Country.
On February 14, 2012 (the 83rd anniversary of the St. Valentines Day Massacre), the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement -- better known as "The Mob Museum" -- opened its doors in Las Vegas. The museum will function as a shrine to two of the most shameful blemishes on America: organized crime and government waste. The museum's focus on the mafia and law enforcement agencies that brought them down is obvious. What isn't evident at the glitzy new museum is the fact that hard-working taxpayers were shaken down to fund the tourist trap. In total, politicians devoured $42 million in local, state and federal tax money to build The Mob Museum. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) held a press conference with the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) at 11:00 am PT to question the more than $40 million in taxpayer funds used to create the Museum (see full press release here).
Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) released a report on the "Top Five Most Ridiculous Taxpayer Tourist Traps" in America. The report highlights five museums across the nation that are paid for with dollars taken from taxpayers' pockets. The report was written by TPA senior fellow Drew Johnson. The tourist traps highlighted in the report include the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada which has cost taxpayers $16.2 million but has yet to open, as well as the First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio, which receives $1 million annually from taxpayers. Click here to read the whole report and see a video that takes a lighthearted look at the destinations.