Professor reveals list of worst government spenders

By Neal McNamara | May 17, 2014
solyndra obama

Hillsdale College professor Burt Folsom is out with a wildly entertaining, and at points depressing, book detailing the long history of government spending gone awry.

In “Uncle Sam Can’t Count: A History of Failed Government Investing, From Beaver Pelts to Green Energy,” Folsom shows a clear, linear history of how for hundreds of years, government has been getting involved in private industry – and failing miserably.

In a recent interview with KTTH host David Boze, Folsom ran down a list of the top worst offending presidents responsible for government spending that wasted taxpayer dollars, and caused the subsidized companies to go bankrupt.

Amazingly, Folsom said, bad government subsidies reach back to the Founding Fathers. George Washington was the first to subsidize industry, pouring money into the fur trade in the northern Midwest in an attempt to secure the border with Canada and prevent British encroachment.

But the subsidy failed miserably; the company the government hired used taxpayer dollars to buy things like harmonicas and plows instead of tools needed to hunt for fur pelts.

LISTEN: BURT FOLSOM TALKS ABOUT BAD GOVERNMENT SPENDING

Here’s Folsom’s list of U.S. presidents who were most wasteful with government spending from worst to slightly less bad.

-Franklin D. Roosevelt: Roosevelt’s New Deal used taxpayer money to hire unemployed Americans in an attempt to stimulate the economy. The program ended up being a giant waste of money, and it was ultimately World War II that ended the Great Depression. The only thing the country got out of the New Deal is a bunch of weathered murals.

-Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter (tie): Both disgraced presidents, both terrible stewards of the public dollar. Carter and Nixon thought that America would run out of oil, so they decided to pour millions – and now billions – into ethanol. All their money got us was an inefficient fuel that requires more oil to produce than it saves.

-George W. Bush: Uncharacteristically for a conservative, Bush saw fit to pour billions into green energy research and ethanol, which leads to our next worst president …

-Barack Obama: You might think he’s No. 1 due to his failed economic stimulus and investments in failed companies like Tesla and Solyndra, but not yet. Wait for it – Obama has a couple of years to pass the others on the list.

Boze wondered whether Folsom found any government subsidies that actually produced a return on investment.

“Road building, you might get back what you pay for,” Folsom said. “I would say the atom bomb and the space program – but they’re in the realm of national defense. When the government deals in national defense, it at least has a chance of getting it right.”

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