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‘Wastebook’ highlights lows of Congress

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From page A10 | December 22, 2013 | 4 Comments

We’re just a few days away from Christmas and it seems everyone is in the spirit of giving. That’s usually a good thing, but when it’s Congress giving money away at taxpayer expense, that’s not necessarily what I deem the holiday spirit.

This past week, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, released his annual report, called “Wastebook,” which highlights some of the most egregious examples of government waste during the current 113th Congress. The report made its way onto the Internet and onto the pages of The Fiscal Times, an online publication that looks at business, politics and the economy.

Coburn identified nearly $30 billion in government waste, a third of what sequester cuts cost the American taxpayer when essential programs and military spending were slashed this past summer. These wasteful programs were left untouched while things like Head Start, valuable research programs and food assistance programs affecting 47 million Americans were hit hard, according to the Fiscal Times report.

Here are some samples of Coburn’s findings:

  • Yale University received a grant of $400,000 to study the oddity of the duck penis. I’m sure the Robertson family of A&E’s popular Duck Dynasty cable television show would have given a similar report for nothing.
  • A group of indie rock executives were handed $200,000 to travel the world to “discover” new music.
  • Some very wealthy people were recipients of $500 million awarded by the Department of Agriculture so people could buy homes in rural areas. Among those receiving money were more than 100 well-heeled individuals and families who received loan guarantees to buy beach property in Hawaii. The government protected banks in case these property owners defaulted on the loans. According the Times’ report, nearly $500 million was paid by the government in lost claims last year alone.
  • The Army failed in an attempt to build a monster-sized blimp after a three-year, $300 million project. The blimp was supposed to handle continuous surveillance over Afghanistan, but cost overruns and mistakes eventually scuttled the program.
  • Even though NASA has no manned-spaceflight program currently in place, it spent $360,000 so that 20 people could lie around for 70 days while scientists studied how these “simulated” astronauts’ bodies would change in space flight. This all went on without interruption during the sequester.
  • Here’s a whopper. Because NASA’s space program has pretty much been leveled, it is now looking for intelligent life on Earth. It chose to study the inner workings of Congress. The cost: $3 million. Isn’t that an oxymoron – intelligent life in Congress?
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities received $914,000 to help fund The Popular Romance Project, which aims to explore the “fascinating, often contradictory origins of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs and Internet fan fiction.” This project includes a documentary on super heroes, promotion of a Green Ninja character to teach children about climate change and a video game with a zombie theme.

There are others, like $321 million on duplicate IT systems for Homeland Security, $500 million to spruce up a one-block area of a Kansas town, Rossville, population 1,150 people, and $4 million in refund money for a botched print job on new $100 bills.

One of the most disturbing outlays of cash was the $65 million the government spent on promoting tourism in the New York and New Jersey areas after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area. Instead of getting more money to those hammered by the storm, media outlets and ad agencies pocketed millions of dollars with the hope people would still make trips to the coastal communities, to see the devastation, I guess.

I read somewhere recently that Congress has its lowest approval rating of all time and is looked upon less favorably than root canals, cockroaches and commuter traffic.

With such a dismal record by this Congress that Coburn exposes in his annual report, it is no wonder. I suggest each lawmaker receive a lump of coal in his or her stocking this Christmas. And maybe a one-way ticket home at election time.

Bill James is a former editor and publisher of the Daily Republic, now living in Meridian, Idaho, a suburb of Boise.

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Discussion | 4 comments

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  • PatriotDecember 22, 2013 - 5:48 am

    Waste? I believe it is criminal and the folks that brought this forward and the ones that voted on it should be prosecuted. Ducks penis? We have morons in all levels of government. Special interest groups wine and dine them and get big bucks. (Our tax dollars) as we head to 20 trillion in debt. Vote all out in 2014 and 2016.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Taxed Enough AlreadyDecember 22, 2013 - 6:32 am

    But, but.....Jack Batson and his fellow Tax and Spenders want to tax us more and more so we can spend more and more on this kind of waste. Unless and until government spending is under control, one should fight back on any proposals to increase taxes. We are Taxed Enough Already!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. PracticalDecember 22, 2013 - 8:31 am

    Yep. It's a spending problem not a revenue problem.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Bill JamesDecember 22, 2013 - 7:42 am

    My bad. The amount awarded Rossville, the small Kansas town, was $500,000 -- a half million. Still, a considerable amount of money that should have come from local funds, not people as far away as Maine or Hawaii.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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