Well kidlings, it's time for another round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction. This time around we're focusing on spending money and getting little in return. When we play this game we usually we begin with an item from Big Rob's stomping grounds of Flint. Unfortunately, the water woes for the citizens of Flint just keep flowing. 


It's bad enough that Flint citizens are forced to pay one of the highest water rates in the country for what is basically liquid poison, but now we find out that one reason the rates are so high is that they are paying for water that never gets to them. 

“The city is losing bout 50-60 percent of the water pumped from Detroit by way of the Great Lakes Water Authority. The wasted water is a driving factor as to why water bills are so high.” Water is lost due to inaccurate readings from out-of-date water meters, water theft by people actually bypassing water meters, and leaks in the pipes and water mains. (


So here's the deal. “Marc Edwards, a professor at Virginia Tech who has been testing Flint water, says treatment could have corrected much of the problem early on — for as little as $100 a day.” So the State of Michigan through it's emergency managers saved you (the state's taxpayers) about $9000 and when all is said and done the final tab will be in the billions of taxpayer dollars, whether or not the water even makes it to Flint's citizens. (


Paying for something but not getting anything in return seems to be in vogue in Michigan. With the Major League Baseball season underway, you might be interested to know that the Detroit Tigers had the largest operating loss in the league last season, $36.4 million. Things probably won't get much better this year because the Tigers are paying $37.5 million to three players who are not even on the team (Mike Pelfrey - $8 million, Mark Lowe - $5.5 million, and Prince Fielder - $24 million). That total is more than the entire team salary for the San Diego Padres ($34.5 million). By the way, in the time Brad Ausmus has been Detroit's manager, the team has spent around three-fourths of a billion dollars on players but has no post season wins to show for it. (


All this no return spending pales, however, when compared to the U.S. Navy's Zumwalt-Class Destroyer. Originally, 32 of these were to be built at a cost of $1.34 billion each. Now the cost is up to $7 billion each and only three will be built. But wait!

“To make matters worse, this cost is still rising — the Navy actually took delivery of, and commissioned, a ship that is far from complete and years away from being ready for combat. The GAO reports that only three of eleven critical technologies the Zumwalt relies upon were considered mature.” But wait! The guns on the ship cannot be used because each round costs $800,000 and they are too expensive to fire. The National Review summed up the project: “The Zumwalt is an unmitigated disaster.” (


Spending on a national scale is front and center right now as Congress tries to come up with a budget, thereby avoiding a government shutdown. With one of the main budget considerations being the President's proposed tax plan and how it might affect the national debt, it's interesting to see by what percentage each president has added to the that debt. According the, here's how recent presidents fared: Barack Obama (68 percent increase), George W. Bush (101 percent), Bill Clinton (32 percent), George H.W. Bush (54 percent), Ronald Reagan (186 percent), Jimmy Carter (43 percent). How to reduce the national debt apparently isn't something either party has figured out. (


While big issues dominate the return-for-your-dollar stage, sometimes little things merit attention too. For example, if you are planning to visit North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia and Maryland, you might want to steer clear of spending your hard earned dollars on hash browns. “McCain Foods USA, Inc. announced today it is voluntarily recalling retail, frozen hash brown products that may be contaminated with extraneous golf ball materials...that may have been inadvertently harvested with potatoes used to make this product.”


How could this be, you ask? Well, I note that most of the states covered by the recall are those in which a lot of golf is played. If the potato farms border golf courses then it's not a stretch to think that a fair number of errant drives may have resulted in golf balls coming to rest in those fields. A mechanical harvesting machine probably picks those up the same as any other spud. So, if you order hash browns with your eggs in these states, just remember to yell “fore” before consuming them. 



Finally, if you want to get down and dirty while wasting your money, I have something right up your alley. “Nordstrom is selling men’s jeans covered with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating. The Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans, made in Portugal, are priced at $425.” 


Apparently, Portuguese mud is somehow better than mud produced elsewhere. I'm sure if you tried to smear your Lee jeans with mud from your back yard, the fashion police could see through your deception and arrest you on the spot. (


I don't know about you, but when I was a kid and came home with mud all over my jeans for no good reason, I'd get yelled at and sent immediately to the basement laundry room. It turns out I was ahead of my time and on the cutting edge of fashion. Who knew? 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and