Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Wastebook: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Photo source: Office of Tom Coburn
Yesterday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) released his annual Wastebook, highlighting “more than $18 billion in examples of some of the most egregious ways your taxpayer dollars were wasted in 2012.” Of the 100 examples cited, here are my personal favorites:

#6 The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Advanced Food Technology Project…has already developed a recipe for pizza and about 100 other foods that could be served some day on Mars. Of course, NASA no longer has a manned spaced fleet and no current mission plans for human space flight to Mars. $947,000.

#7 Researchers at San Diego State University and the University of California (Davis) spent a portion of a $325,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to construct a robotic squirrel named “RoboSquirrel”

#8 The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spent $300,000 this year to promote caviar.

#14 Relive prom week with National Science Foundation video game – $516,000

#20 With just a quick glance of a face, many people can accurately guess someone’s sexual orientation, according to researchers at the University of Washington and Cornell University, in a study supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

#25 Government-funded study finds golfers need to envision a bigger hole – $350,000

#26 Fighting obesity with giant graffiti carrots – $13,000

#29 Free bus rides for Super Bowl attendees – $142,419

#32 In an effort to prevent drunk driving, the Michigan State Police used $10,000 in federal funds to purchase 400 talking urinal cakes.

#35 Science research dollars go to musical about biodiversity and climate change – $697,177…Characters in the first act stand around awkwardly in a train station, and sometimes head into the “jungle,” complete with flying monkey poop.

#49 Pentagon raids weapons program to buy jerky – $700,000

#54 Circus classes – $20,000

#55 Watching television reruns gives people an energizing chance to reconnect with pseudo-friends, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study published this year. Researchers used part of $666,905 in NIH grants to look at the phenomenon.

#61 How not to flip a house: renovate with federal funds and sell far below market value – $18,410

#70 Male fruit flies are attracted to young females more than to older ones, according to academics funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). $939,771

#73 A New Hampshire brewery, Smuttynose, will use $750,970 in federal funds to construct a new brewery and restaurant on farmland outside of Portsmouth.

#74 Using taxpayer dollars, an academic team developed a dancing robot named Shimi to serve as a disc jockey for smartphones. $547,430

#86 The 2012 Alabama Watermelon Queen Tour – $25,000

#92 Thirty-thousand Legos to build an 18-foot long model street – $3,700

#95 With part of $548,731 in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one group of researchers discovered adults in their thirties who drink heavily also feel immature.

#97 Red Velvet, snickerdoodle, and cinnamon buttercream are cupcake flavors that are attractive not only to the paying consumer, but also to Uncle Sam. The Small Business Administration in 2012 arranged over $2.0 million in loan guarantees for ten cupcake shops across the country.

#100 D’oh! Postal Service overprints Simpsons and other commemorative stamps – $2 million

For additional details, and the rest of the entries, see www.coburn.senate.gov.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on Amazon.com.

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