November 29, 2017
What do Congress and the San Francisco Symphony have in common? They're both pouring money down the tubas! That's just one way spending is reaching a crescendo, Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) points out in his latest waste report. Turns out, taxpayers are getting burned more than the pale people NIH spent $1.1 million studying (p. 51). And while Republicans have managed to rein in some spending, the list of 100 projects is like the $1.4 billion trolley track: a rail piece of work (p. 25).
Although Republicans have managed to rein in some of the runaway spending, plenty of congressmen are still dipping into taxpayers' pockets to deliver gifts to the special interest in their lives. And thanks to Senator Lankford, Congress has 400 billion reasons to do something about it.
They can start by reeling in the Stickleback fish grants, which, at $2.6 million and counting, is hardly scaling back. NSF insists it costs that much to study fish's habitats, but we still give them a failing report cod. At $30,000, the NEA's production of "Doggie Hamlet" seems like a bark-ain, but when the country's $20 trillion in debt, it's hardly mutt ado about nothing (p. 2). If anyone needs to be on a leash, it's Congress! Over at NIH, $52 million isn't chump change, it's chimp change for the National Center for Chimpanzee Care -- a luxurious retirement home for 139 animals formerly used for research. Although the testing is over, the agency is continuing its tradition of sending $2.5 million a year. At an ape-surd $18,700 per animal, Lankford argues it'd be cheaper to enroll them in college!
In Iraq, good things come to those Kuwait. That's where more than $1 billion of the Defense Department's equipment went missing. It's a farewell to small arms in the region, which also lost mortars and Humvees, costing G.I. Joe some major G.I. dough (p. 9). And you can file these under NIH's rapidly expanding list of "we-knew-it-but-we-feel-so-much-better-paying-millions-to-prove-it" studies. Among their groundbreaking research, scientists spent $2.3 million confirming that people who exercise lose weight (p. 45), and dating men prefer younger, thinner women (p. 34). You can follow both studies under their official hashtag, #duh.
Taxpayers are no dummies, but they're paying for plenty of them with NEH's puppet project. At $74,851, there are definitely strings attached (p. 3). Paint misbehavin' at the $20,000 art camp for adults interested in climate change (p. 15) -- and more shock and draw at the EPA, where taxpayers helped "immerse artists in a multi-scale investigation of transportation systems, community, and governance related to the impacts of climate change" (p. 23).
NSF got in on the ground flora with its $475,142 plant-naming program (p. 23), and it's crops and robbers at the Department of Agriculture's specialty farming initiative (p. 14). But the last straw may have been the federal grazing program, which has been milking taxpayers for years. When private ranchers pay to let their cattle roam on federal land, Lankford points out, the government pays $77.1 million more to operate the program than it collects! No wonder Congress has fallen on herd times.
As Senator Tom Coburn used to say, sometimes it feels like the only change Congress cares about is in your pocket! But, as Lankford points out in his Federal Fumbles, there has been forward progress. As many as 16 of the government's money pits have abolished their programs or put them on the path to extinction. Now, with Donald Trump in the White House and a budget bill in the pipeline, let's hope both parties look at this report and make a resolution to cut back in the New Year! If they don't, it'll take a lot more than $742.9 million to improve Congress's image (p. 50).
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.