Taxpayers Fork Over Millions for Cultural Preservation in Foreign Countries

The US government spent $5.6 million in 2011 to preserve historical sites, artifacts, and traditional arts in foreign countries. Dispensed under the auspices of the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, which was created in 2000, Fund supports a wide range of projects to preserve cultural heritage, such as the restoration of historic buildings, assessment and conservation of museum collections, archaeological site preservation, documentation of vanishing traditional craft techniques, improved storage conditions for archives and manuscripts, and documentation of indigenous languages, according to the State Department.

In total, in the past 11 years, nearly $33 million dollars was dispursed in taxpayer money to over 700 projects in more than 100 foreign countries. Now that is government waste.

The State Department said, Washington’s willingness to send other people’s moolah overseas “shows the depth of our nation’s respect for the cultural heritage of other countries.”

New American

Last year, U.S. ambassadors in more than 80 countries applied for grants from the fund for projects in the countries in which they were stationed. Ultimately, 58 grants were approved at a total cost of $5,635,405.

The largest grant, $750,000, went to conserve the 16th-century Batashewala Mughal Tomb Complex in Delhi, India.

The second largest totaled $700,000 and went to conservation of the ruins of the ninth-century city of Kilwa Kisiwani.

Then Jordan received the third largest grant: $600,000 to conserve the first-century Temple of the Winged Lions at Petra. The State Department describes the project thus:

Prominently located on a slope overlooking the capital of the ancient Nabataean kingdom, and renowned for its large stone sphinxes which served as column capitals, the Temple of the Winged Lions is in a fragile state and poses serious danger to tourists. This project involves major stabilization, consolidation, and site conservation activities to protect the ancient remains and make the area safe and secure for visitors.

New American

Other grants include:

$450,000 for conservation of the 10th-century Temple of Phnom Bakheng in Cambodia;

$119,052 for conservation of the 16th-century Santo Tomás Temple and Convent in Guatemala;

$100,000 for the preservation of a traditional 19th-century log house museum in Russia, part of a collection of old wooden buildings moved to Kizhi Island in Karelia by the Soviet government in the 1950s and 1960s;

$30,000 for the conservation of 17th-to-19th-century red-lacquered wooden devotional objects in a museum in Vietnam;

$22,500 for the preservation of reel-to-reel recordings of chants, dances, and stories in Micronesia.

Some of these might be worthwhile, but under the Constitution the U.S. government is not empowered to spend taxpayer dollars on cultural preservation projects, no matter how worthy, either at home or abroad.

And since most of this money goes abroad, there’s no way of knowing how this money is actually spent. Amazing isn’t it? Lawmakers want to cut government spending, but in this case, haven’t done so?

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