Here's a question you probably won't want to spend your entire day on:
If Shakespeare is performed without the bard’s immortal words, is it really Shakespeare?
But the National Education Association spent $10,000 of taxpayer money to delve into that question.
This is one of the intriguing items on Oklahoma Senator James Lankford's annual Wastebook of questionable things for which our lawmakers used our hard-earned money. Lankford is carrying on a tradition begun by former Oklahoma senator Tom Cockburn. He's renamed the project Federal Fumbles.
The Shakespeare grant, by the way, went to Synetic Theatre here in Washington, which does dazzling wordless productions of Shakespeare and other classics. But why should we pay to find out a question that could only be of interest to the theatre?
Maybe Synetic needs to resolve this matter to obtain a government grant for Shakespearean projects? Who knows? But, if so, it is taking too long to find the answer. Synetic got an identical grant last year.
Lankford had no trouble finding waste:
* How about a $2 million NIH grant to discover what influences a child's perception of food (do they care about the race or accent of the server, and does it make a difference whether somebody has been seen sneezing on the food?)?
* Surely, a study of whether religion and politics influenced how people were buried in 12th century Iceland is a worthy endeavor, but should the taxpayer have been on the hook for $500,000?
* Yes, of course, most of us wildly in favor of studying five hundred year old bones in fish in Tanzania to determine how social status and diet are connected, but we become less enthusiastic when we learn that we forked over $200,000 to the NFS to do the study.
* You might have heard that there are some drawbacks to tanning beds, but did you want to give NIH $1 million to tell mothers to tell their teenage daughters about the risks?
You can find all sorts of wasteful projects Lankford has uncovered here.
Lankford favors enactment of the Grant Reform and New Transparency (GRANT) Act, which would provide more information about the grant process, which swallowed up $617 billion in federal spending in 2015.
Sounds like a good first step, but what we really need is an adjusted attitude about federal spending.
We need to come to a realization that worthy as many projects may be, it is not our collective responsibility to pay for them. Raise your own money, or don't do the project.
We should also be really mad.