John Andrist: Looking for Ways to Waste Money


One of the silliest things for which we are taxed here in North Dakota is horse racing. We all have things we like and things we dislike, but this one tops my list for indefensible spending.

Horses are magnificent animals. In earlier times they were used for every imaginable purpose, like gathering food and fighting wars and delivering goods and supplies.

They were the primary means of conveyance before the era of mechanization.

Today almost all those useful purposes have disappeared. Their commercial value basically is for pleasure riding and gambling.

Mind you, I would be happy to see all gambling disappear, except friendly raffles for charitable purposes.

But I think horse racing is the only form of gambling we actually subsidize.

The best way to honor the historical importance of these beautiful animals is recreational — riding and playing games with them.


Superfluous is one of the worst words in our language. I never can spell it and I can’t think of a good synonym. (That’s another word I don’t particularly like.)

Superfluous means something we really don’t need, and probably could get along quite well without.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Corporate welfare? Hey, I’m all for lowering corporate tax rates. But subsidizing corporations that are not competitive seems like a joke.[/mks_pullquote]

Like horse racing. Actually I got into this treatise when I started thinking about things that are as useless as an appendix, just sitting there and waiting for something to go wrong.

College fraternities is one of them. They are primarily play pens for older boys. There must be dozens of clubs and organizations on our campuses that have much more holy purposes.

Some colleges are completely shutting down their fraternities. Good idea.

Ethanol is a little bit tougher. It seemed like a great idea, so we rushed to subsidize it by just about every farm state legislature. Yet we continue to subsidize it, even though we now seem to know making ethanol produces more carbon than we save by burning it.

Corporate welfare? Hey, I’m all for lowering corporate tax rates. But subsidizing corporations that are not competitive seems like a joke.

A few years ago we used public money to bail out our largest banks.

I love my bank enough to keep it, even though it is inconveniently 400 miles from where I now live.

But I think part of the reason I love my bank is because I’m not taxed to keep it going.

We also spent a lot of tax money to save our domestic auto industry a few years ago.

I know those automotive jobs are valuable, but does anybody really believe America can’t compete on its own? Or that the auto manufacturers would go bankrupt and not be replaced unless we bailed them out?

Perhaps we need them for bargaining chips when we buy our Toyotas.

If I were king I think I could save you a whole lot of money, at least until I was deposed or executed.

Legalized thievery?

I am a softee.

I actually was feeling a bit sad the other day as I read the story of the retirement of Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the guy Nancy Pelosi called an icon one day, then decided he was a liability and an embarrassment the next day, and that he had to go

Then I read further into the story about his retirement.

He qualifies for an annual  pension of $139,000 PLUS Social Security, PLUS 72 percent of his health care insurance cost.

I don’t begrudge congressmen paying themselves handsome salaries.

But the opulent pensions and other retirement benefits with which they reward themselves is downright obscene.

It is simply, essentially,  greed. It should not be offered. It should not be accepted. It is the nearest thing I know to legal thievery.

North Dakota’s public employee pension system covers elected state officials, but not legislators.

That’s one more reason I like this place.