Salsa Subsidy Highlights Worst Queso Scenario
Why go to the mall when you can do your shopping on the floor of Congress? Over the past 12 months, plenty of members have dipped into taxpayers' pockets to deliver gifts to the special interests in their lives. And, thanks to Senator Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) annual "Wastebook," Americans are learning just how generous they were forced to be. As always, this year's top 100 projects will have you laughing at someone's expense -- yours! With the theme "Waste more, want more!" it's obvious that the USDA's prune junket (p. 106) isn't the only thing keeping spending regular.
Under the Obama administration, expenses have ballooned more than the Army's unused mega-blimp (p.20). The 2013 Wastebook edition outlines a chunk of the abuse -- from your garden variety landscaping projects ($704,198) to $17.5 million taxpayers left on the nightstand of the Nevada brothel industry. And the prostitution business isn't the only one Congress is in bed with. The National Endowment for the Humanities thought it was a novel idea to study romance books. Thanks to it, taxpayers have lost that lovin' feeling -- along with a million of their hard-earned dollars (p.7).
For $10,000, they could have seen real pole dancing -- from Texas utility workers. Last year, Austin Energy went off the grid with a special "performance group" that choreographs a 90-minute dance up utility poles "with bucket trucks, cranes, field trucks, and a set of 20 utility poles" (p. 31). With live wires, sticker shock is probably the least of their worries. While NASA's $124,955 pizza printer studies the earth's crust, its red crab research ($237,205) is a lost claws (p. 83). In Michigan, members were saps for the maple syrup association, while the bonus bucks for specialty coffee producers put Congress on dangerous grounds (p. 38).
Nothing crystallizes the debate more than the $171 million sugar subsidies, but the NIH study on marriage therapy might come close. As part of the research, the government observed 82 couples in heated marital conflict. Three hundred twenty-five thousand dollars later (p. 27), they came to this conclusion: wives should calm down. Later, psychologists admitted the study "had limitations" (unrelated to the ones they were about to experience at home). While those researchers were busy running for their wives, Congress played the villain in the $125,000 super heroes documentary (p. 34) that made Thor losers out of taxpayers.
Like a lot of people, Senator Coburn wants to know watts up with the $1.5 billion light bill for federal buildings that aren't even used (p. 58). Speaking of energy, Americans are suffering from serious gas in Afghanistan, where USAID is spending $500 a gallon on fuel. At the Defense Department, the philosophy on spending is just "gopher it!" -- largely because of the $5.25 million it spent studying the burrowing rodents (p. 95). While the country becomes more vulnerable, Obama's pet projects do not. The USDA's bovine project is one of the biggest cash cows yet (p. 93). For $19.5 million, taxpayers are stuck between a rock and a herd place. Of course, the fish industry helps tip the scales -- to the tuna $30 million (p. 116) for "coastal conservation."
As far as Senator Coburn is concerned, the message of this year's Wastebook is as crystal clear as the State Department's new wine glasses (p. 74). "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. 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."
USDA salsa subsidies are queso in point (p. 100). A nation more than $17 trillion in debt can't afford to keep throwing money away. I know that NASA is searching for signs of intelligence in Congress (p. 43), but if the trend continues, I think we can save them the trouble.
Santa Gets the Heave Ho Ho Ho
Christmas in Connecticut was a work of fiction -- and now, so is the concept! At Fairfield's Ludlowe High School, students are getting a lesson in political correctness now that the headmaster is banning Christmas themes on classroom doors. The controversy started when the school announced a holiday door-decorating contest and one student suggested a Santa-inspired look. Unfortunately, the kids didn't get very far before the teacher slammed the door in their face. According to her, the school can't allow any references -- including secular ones -- to Christmas. When Fox News's Todd Starnes called the headmaster, he was told, "It is the policy of the Board of Education that no religious belief or nonbelief will be promoted by the district or its employees and none will be disparaged."
Apparently, even Santa is a victim of seasonal censorship. It's ironic. Christians used to complain that St. Nick was too secular for Christmas -- and this school is complaining that he's not secular enough! "The difficulty," explained principal Greg Hatzis, "is that we want everyone to feel a part of the school community. Anytime there is a preponderance of any particular holiday, you don't want people to feel excluded. It's really a lesson in respect." If that's the case, then what about respecting Christians -- who happen to make up the country's largest religious demographic? True tolerance is for everyone -- not just the minority. "We don't want somebody to be offended," Hatzis claimed (while simultaneously offending Fairfield's entire Christian population).
Hopefully, parents and students at the school will reach out to our legal defense friends and nip this bah-humbug in the bud. If Connecticut wants to keep its Constitution State nickname, it will have to do a better job of upholding it.
Religious Liberty under Fire
Like Congress, state legislatures, and local communities across America, the town of Greece, New York, opens its town board meetings with prayer. Any town resident can pray, regardless of their faith. Although the Supreme Court explicitly upheld this practice of legislative prayer in the 1983 case Marsh v. Chambers, militant secularists are attempting to banish this practice nationwide as it has existed for over 200 years. The arguments presented on both sides before the Supreme Court in Galloway could impact every aspect of faith in public life and the public square, as this is Ground Zero for the war on Americans of traditional faith -- especially observant Christians -- and the increasing attacks on Christmas and other longstanding celebrations of faith. Galloway could become the most important Establishment Clause case decided by the Supreme Court in decades.
Don't miss the inside track on the case, as FRC's Ken Klukowski hosts a lecture tomorrow, December 19, about the lawsuit and its implications for believers everywhere. A national-bestselling author and constitutional lawyer, Klukowski is on faculty at Liberty University School of Law and senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. A frequent commentator for national media outlets, his scholarly works and legal briefs have been cited by top federal courts and law journals nationwide. To register for "Religious Liberty under Fire," click here.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.