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Waste of the Day: Throwback Thursday: Federal Program To Teach Teens To Make Shirts Made Zero Shirts

In 1982, Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wisc.) highlighted a federal program to teach teens to make shirts – that made not one shirt.

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In June 1982, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Commerce gave $700,000 — over $2.2 million in 2023 dollars — to a non-profit that was supposed to teach minority students how to make T-shirts. But not a single shirt ever got made.

For this wasteful spending, Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, gave the two departments a Golden Fleece Award. He gave awards to wasteful and nonsensical spending, eventually handing out 168 Golden Fleece Awards between 1975 and 1988.

Waste of the Day: Throwback Thursday: Federal Program To Teach Teens To Make Shirts Made Not a Single Shirt
Waste of the Day 11.30.23 by Open the Books

“Department auditors warned Commerce officials that the project was doomed to fail and fail it did,” Proxmire said then. “Not one T-shirt was produced for sale, not one minority youth found a job, but the taxpayer lost his shirt.”

The project was supposed to spur youth-owned and operated manufacturing enterprises.

But it failed. There were 76 trainees enrolled but none received useful training, the senator said. Of the 13 people who were supposed to have graduated, a majority didn’t realize they finished the program, most had been in the program for less than two months, and nine months after “graduation” none had found jobs related to their training.

Program administrators wasted taxpayer money by hiring the nephew of a Commerce Department official as a plant coordinator even though that position wasn’t in the grant proposal, and they hired other staff for plants at which no training or production took place.


They also paid for travel costs and phone bills of employees conducting private business, and paid more than $350 to buy T-shirts as presents for the board of directors and Commerce officials.

“This is an especially painful fleece since the goals of the program — to reduce teen unemployment and provide skill training — were so laudatory,” Proxmire said.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at

This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.

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Adam Andrzejewski (say: Angie-eff-ski) is the CEO/founder of Before dedicating his life to public service, Adam co-founded HomePages Directories, a $20 million publishing company (1997-2007). His works have been featured on the BBC, Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, C-SPAN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, FOX News, CNN, National Public Radio (NPR), Forbes, Newsweek, and many other national media.

Today, is the largest private repository of U.S. public-sector spending. Mission: post "every dime, online, in real time." In 2022, captured nearly all public expenditures in the country, including nearly all disclosed federal government spending; 50 of 50 state checkbooks; and 25 million public employee salary and pension records from 50,000 public bodies across America.

The group's aggressive transparency and forensic auditing of government spending has led to the assembly of grand juries, indictments, and successful prosecutions; congressional briefings, hearings, and subpoenas; Government Accountability Office (GAO) audits; Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports; federal legislation; and much more.

Our Honorary Chairman - In Memoriam is U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, MD.

Andrzejewski's federal oversight work was included in the President's Budget To Congress FY2021. The budget cited his organization by name, bullet-pointed their findings, and footnoted/hyperlinked to their report.

Posted on YouTube, Andrzejewski's presentation, The Depth of the Swamp, at the Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar 2020 in Naples, Florida received 3.8 million views.

Andrzejewski has spoken at the Columbia School of Journalism, Harvard Law School and the law schools at Georgetown and George Washington regarding big data journalism. As a senior policy contributor at Forbes, Adam had nearly 20 million pageviews on 206 published investigations. In 2022, investigative fact-finding on Dr. Fauci's finances led to his cancellation at Forbes.

In 2022, Andrzejewski did 473 live television and radio interviews across broadcast, major cable platforms, and radio shows. Andrzejewski is the author of The Waste of the Day column at Real Clear Policy. The column is syndicated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, owners of nearly 200 ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates across USA.

Andrzejewski lives in Hinsdale, Illinois with his wife Kerry and three daughters. He is a lector at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church and has finished the Chicago Marathon eight times (PR 3:58.49 in 2022).

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