December 18 2013
Patrice J. Lee
The federal government spent what, on what?
Did you know the government spent $17.5 million in tax breaks to feed and pay prostitutes at Nevada brothels? Or that NASA is spending $360,000 to pay people to be in bed for 70 days and $125,000 to construct a 3-D printer that could create pizzas for astronauts in space?
Don’t feel bad. Neither did I until yesterday when Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn released his annual “Wastebook.” Charlotte dipped into the Wastebook yesterday, but I can’t resist the temptation to delve into it just a bit more.
It highlights approximately 100 “questionable and lower-priority” programs that the government spent $28 billion on in 2013. This year’s comic book cover is reminiscent of the first Superman comic book. Don’t be fooled, government spending is no hero.
Coburn notes in a statement:
“While politicians in Washington spent much of 2013 complaining about sequestration’s impact on domestic programs and our national defense, we still managed to provide benefits to the Fort Hood shooter, study romance novels, help the State Department buy Facebook fans and even help NASA study Congress,” said Dr. Coburn.
“Had Congress, in particular, been focused on doing its job of setting priorities and cutting the kind of wasteful spending outlined in this report, we could have avoided both a government shutdown and a flawed budget deal that was designed to avert a shutdown,” Coburn said in a statement. “The nearly $30 billion in questionable and lower-priority spending in Wastebook 2013 is a small fraction of the more than $200 billion we throw away every year through fraud, waste, duplication and mismanagement. There is more than enough stupidity and incompetence in government to allow us to live well below the budget caps. What’s lacking is the common sense and courage in Washington to make those choices — and passage of fiscally-responsible spending bills — possible.”
Here are a few stories from the Wastebook that range from silly to egregious:
Written in a sassy, tongue-in-cheek tone, the Wastebook lets Americans in on the joke that so much of the important, necessary, critical spending that Members of Congress fight for in budget battles and debt ceiling debates is actually stupid, incompetent and careless.
What you’ll notice is that most of the spending occurs at the agency level. Any half-baked idea seems to have a chance before the right NEH, NIH or NEA agent. Yet, those agencies whine about losing programs that help the poor and enrich our nation whenever anyone takes a scalpel to their budget.
This Wastebook makes for good reading. It’s too bad the comic material comes at the expense of the taxpayer. What if we returned that $30 billion to taxpayers in the form of lower taxes or –as sign of austerity-tossed it at the national debt? It would certainly get swallowed up, but at least this might signal that our government is a serious steward of its resources.